Former lifeguards angle into surf industry


Two ex-Bethany Beach lifeguards and lifelong friends, Russell Evans and Cliff Hardwick, weren’t satisfied with a brand and a pending line of WaveKing gear and clothing for the ocean-going crowd.
Special to the Coastal Point • SUBMITTED: WaveKing founders Russell Evans and Cliff Hardwick promote their wares at a surf expo.Special to the Coastal Point • SUBMITTED:
WaveKing founders Russell Evans and Cliff Hardwick promote their wares at a surf expo.

They decided to go with something else entirely, something completely different, and toward that end procured patents on a relatively unexplored bodyboard variant —the WaveKing “Blade.”

The blade has been floating around in Great Britain for a few years, under the name of “Bodygun,” but Evans and Hardwick ditched the old name for sales in the U.S.

In essence, it’s a small bodyboard with a comfortable, padded and quick-release system of straps. These straps hold the slick-bottom surface snug to the body, to mimic a traditional prone bodyboarder’s forward position.

But Evans and Hardwick don’t look at it from a bodyboarder’s perspective — they still carry lifeguarding in their blood.

WaveKing boards are not for waders who feel out of their depth in nose-deep waters — “these are meant for people who are competent in the ocean,” Hardwick pointed out.

Imagine bodysurfing in big waves and deep water — same situation. The blade has “near-neutral buoyancy” — keep swimming or start treading water, in other words — and both men noted a good pair of swim fins as absolutely requisite companion gear.

As with traditional bodysurfing, there’s freedom in upper-body paddling and nothing to hang onto, unless you want to. Looking at it from that angle, Evans and Hardwick said the only tradeoff was good bodysurfing in exchange for better bodysurfing.

And when it comes to basic water skills, they know what they’re talking about. “Lot of years on the beach, lot of years in big surf,” Hardwick reflected. “And we’re all friends, 35 years later.”

Both men left the beach and went their separate ways — but not too separate. Hardwick married Evans’ sister, as chance would have it. And they never stopped bantering over who was top water rat, and held the stronger claim to the title of “Wave King.”

Hardwick became an attorney in Maryland and Evans started a printing company in New Jersey, and decades passed, but they kept coming back to Bethany for vacations, frequently coordinating visits with fellow guards from the old days, and feuding over who was in fact the true Wave King.

“About five years ago, I started saying, ‘You know, I’m going to start a company called WaveKing,’” Evans recalled. “And my brother-in-law says, ‘If you do it, I’m in.’”

So that was it — they didn’t give up their steady paychecks, but they tapped into that old affection for the ocean and based their joint venture on “surf-inspired elements.”

Blades aside, they hinted at a line of unique gear — rash guards, board shorts, dry tops and other surf sports-related WaveKing merchandise — slated for release early next year.

Gossamer Hawk in Rehoboth Beach ((302) 227-1227) carries the boards, and also WaveKing surf wax, in an innovative dial-up container with a lid (think deodorant).

Locally, the downtown Bethany Surf Shop (539-6400) offers the boards for demo, although you have to ask for them.

For product information or video clips online, visit www.waveking.net, or reach WaveKing at (908) 447-2472.