Most surfers wait patiently for the great waves to come in. The really talented ones, however, make their own waves to ride. It looks like Ocean City’s latest surfing entrepreneur, Wyatt Harrison, falls into the latter category with “Plak That,” a new product that puts a fun spin on photography.
“I was visiting my brother in California last year, when I saw a sign in a restaurant that had advertised a particular beer,” said Harrison, a surfing instructor and manager at Malibu's Surf Shop in Ocean City. “It was simply ink lettering on a piece of wood, but I’d thought how cool it would be if you could put a photographic image on the wood instead. So, I called the manufacturer, who said they were able to do that.
“We started with a picture of a wave for Malibu's Surf Shop and began selling those,” he continued, “along with pictures of sunrises, the Ocean City pier and other iconic scenes from around town. One day, a customer handed me his card and said, ‘Let me know when you can put a picture of my family on one of those.’”
That’s the moment when Wyatt knew he was on to something. Far from the stereotypical ultra-laidback surfer dude, this anthropology major from the University of San Diego got busy. Really busy. After extensive research and finding a local printer who had this highly specialized equipment, Harrison began hand-selecting pieces of wood — mostly FSC-certified pine, for its character and clarity — and cutting them down to size, running them through a router, then sanding and assembling them before mounting supports on the backs and shipping them off to the printer.
With nothing more than some Internet advertising and word-of-mouth from the surf shop, orders began pouring in, from both private and commercial interests (including the town of Ocean City, which commissioned Harrison to make the local awards for this year’s Mountain Dew tour). The demand was so great, in fact, that within a year of when he’d seen that first beer sign in California, he had the means necessary to bring all the production in-house — complete with a brand-new, state-of-the-art printer that can make his Plak Thats and much, much more.
Meanwhile, if you’re worried that your point-and-shoot pics from back in the day aren’t adequate for the process, don’t bother; Harrison can work with any digital-image format on the market. You can even upload an image to his Website, add some text and see a realistic mockup of how that, the colors and woodgrain would look together.
Film fans shouldn’t fear either, since Harrison can scan even decades-old film photography to make an all-but-forgotten scrapbook photo come to life once again.
Prices for Plak Thats are very reasonable, starting under $100. For more ambitious types, however, Harrison says he’s happy to take on custom jobs for individuals and businesses who really want to make an unforgettable statement.
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