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Behind the Design: The BOTE Experience

Behind the Design: The BOTE Experience

If you’re familiar with BOTE and our product line up, you know design is an important part of what we do. In fact, it’s everything we do. Corey and Magda didn’t look at the paddle board industry back in 2009 and say “this industry could really use another utilitarian, white paddle board with a logo plastered across the top and bottom.” To be honest, we don’t know exactly what was said in that initial discussion, but we know it led us to where we are today.

Over the past decade, BOTE has defined a new space within the outdoor industry for hardgoods products that offer innovative technology and eye-catching design. Not just one or the other, and certainly not neither (we won’t name names here).

Our mission statement says it all:

BOTE Stands Apart through industry shaping innovation, fresh ideas and simplicity to create a product that defines a lifestyle.

BOTE entered the market as a stand up paddle board company over a decade ago, and in the same amount of time has rapidly grown into a full suite of hardgoods and softgoods to support the outdoor lifestyle. Though throughout this evolution the mission stays the same.

We sat down with BOTE Creative Director, Rob McAbee, to take a look at the BOTE brand and why design is such an influential force within the company.

We Make Things For Us

It’s been nearly a decade since Rob McAbee joined the BOTE team as our Creative Director and authority on fly fishing. You might recognize the name, he’s the founder of Bug Slinger™ Fly Gear and has made several cameos on the Beneath the Surface Podcast. Rob is Corey’s right hand when it comes to creative collaboration throughout product development and design process.

After meeting Corey at a trade show in 2012 the two stayed connected. They would bounce around ideas, think up creative ways for BOTE and Bug Slinger™ to collaborate, and inevitably, Rob made things official and joined the BOTE team in 2013.

“I’ve always loved apparel and was injected into the outdoor industry early on in my career. I grew up surfing and eventually got into fly fishing. What was so cool about surfing back in the ’80s was the apparel brands; the clothes created a vibe that was a reflection of my personality and personal style. But when I pivoted into another hobby, fly fishing, there wasn’t anything for people like me--a little bit rock ‘n roll, part-time surf bum―so I created Bug Slinger™.

The thing is, people are dynamic. They have many hobbies and interests. And they want to see their personality and lifestyle reflected in what they buy. It’s no different in the paddle board industry. ” ― Rob McAbee / Creative Director

Corey saw the same opportunity when he decided to launch BOTE back in 2008. Early on, the paddle board industry consisted of a handful of brands that modified a traditional surfboard to make it more stable, then paired with a paddle. They were large and mostly white--and they certainly serve a purpose. But there weren’t a lot of choices for people who like to do more than one thing, who appreciate design and technology. The options were limited for people who like to go far and fast, to scout out honey holes, and to rock a badass design across 40+ feet of surface space in the process.

“We joke about this a lot but it’s true; we make things for us. We make things that we feel are badass. And inevitably, we’ve been lucky that it translates to the general consumer as well.” ― Rob McAbee / Creative Director

Stand Apart With Design

It all goes back to the BOTE mission statement. Innovation. Simplicity. Lifestyle. Corey is unique in that he’s a whip-smart engineer who not only possesses a keen business mind but also an artistic sensibility that sets him apart from other CEO’s. On top of that, he’s an entrepreneur. He likes to disrupt. He builds brands, products, and content that stands apart.

In 2012 and 2013, nearly five years after the launch of the first BOTE paddle board, Rob and Corey were on a mission to shake up the industry… again. First, innovate through technology. Then, propel the line up forward with unique, innovative design. After a test run of a couple of limited release paddle boards with Bug Slinger™ artwork, they knew they had something. There were a lot of brands in the space creating clean, attractive boards, but no one was putting patterns on their boards. No one was using paddle boards (and now, docks, kayaks, and micro skiffs) as a blank canvas for an art project. So Corey and Rob thought, why the hell not?

“BOTE as a brand is an art project, first and foremost. It extends itself first through the product development process and ultimately onto the product, through unique colorways, patterns, and textural combinations. At its core, it’s an art project. There are really no boundaries. Art is an ethereal thing so we can push it any way we want at any point. We can say, hey this is what’s inspiring us now, so let’s pivot and go in a new direction. If we ever feel like we’re getting too far off in a direction that strays from our mission, we pivot again.” ― Rob McAbee / Creative Director

“BOTE as a brand is an art project, first and foremost. It extends itself first through the product development process and ultimately onto the product, through unique colorways, patterns, and textural combinations.”

― Rob McAbee / Creative Director

Show Your Personality

The parallels are many when looking at the trajectory of BOTE and Bug Slinger™, but the most common thread lies in reaching a younger, more active demographic with multiple hobbies and interests through design.

In our experience, ski bums, guides, and lift operators don’t stop being active when the seasons change. They turn to mild-weather activities like fly fishing and adventure camping throughout the milder months, and maybe even relocate to their favorite pocket of coastline for long-distance paddling and paddle surfing in the summer. They, we, look for reasons to get outside, no matter the season. As a team full of outdoor enthusiasts, we can attest; there’s an incredible amount of cross-pollination across hobbies. After all, we all get bored doing the same thing over and over. The styles offered within our product line are a reflection of our customer’s diverse mix of interests and hobbies.

“Knowing our customers like to get out and enjoy the elements while showing their personal style, designing for BOTE offers a unique opportunity to take what I love about the surf brands of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and combine it with cultural influences from our photoshoots and video shoots around the world. The end result is something that’s inarguably unique.” ― Rob McAbee / Creative Director

While our design style continues to evolve as the team becomes motivated and inspired by new influences, we hang our hats on our core color palette and a few essential design verticals as a common thread. So if you’re still rocking a legacy board from the early BOTE days, you can easily find attachments and accessories that look like they were made to work with that board, because they were.

“A highly visible purchase like a SUP is an extension of the buyer’s personal aesthetic, so we want to constantly offer up options that speak to every individual BOTE customer. We pride ourselves on not being too masculine or feminine with our designs. I am a man that loves a tropical floral pattern, so I’ll punch up a traditional floral pattern by adding pineapples, skulls, and sharks teeth to the design to not only make it uniquely BOTE but give it the edge our customers have grown to expect from a BOTE purchase.” ― Rob McAbee / Creative Director

Looking for a paddle board design style that speaks to you? Our core stand up paddle board styles can be interpreted in a few overarching design categories.

  • Classic - think wood inlays, minimal color combinations, and retro stripes; simple, clean, timeless.
  • Native - a little louder with layers and textures, typically our edgiest compositions.
  • Bug Slinger™ - for the fly fishing enthusiast, artistic interpretations inspired by the fly fishing experience.
  • Full Trax - Simple and sleek, with full-length deck pads for maximum traction.
  • Verge Camo - a pixelated, modern spin on the classic camouflage design.

Beyond Paddle Boards

Our evolution over the past decade has taken us to new places, physically, creatively, and in terms of what we produce. You may have listened to the Beneath the Surface Podcast, where Corey and Sean take us behind some of the BOTE team’s most epic and influential adventures, or watched a BOTE Presents Film and learned more about a tiny fishing town in Louisiana than you could ever find trolling the internet.

At BOTE, we stand apart through industry-shaping innovation and fresh ideas. We create products that shake up the outdoor experience; designs that are edgy and unique; and content that’s honest, real, and irreverent. We bring innovation and flavor to everything we do. BOTE can’t be categorized as just a stand up paddle board company, because it’s so much more. It’s an experience, it’s art.

BOTE can’t be categorized as just a stand up paddle board company, because it’s so much more. It’s an experience, it’s art.