The relationship between Cj Nelson and Yu Sumitomo go back to their childhoods. Yu was an aspiring pro surfer living with family friends in Santa Cruz in the early 90’s. Cj was a young grom with similar goals. Their paths first crossed while surfing the Hook at the end of 41st Ave. Cj remarked on the radness of Yu’s beautiful Japanese wetsuit. Although they couldn’t really communicate because of the language barrier, a friendship was sparked.
Yu kicked around Santa Cruz for a number of years becoming friends with all the Pleasure point crew. Cj and Yu ended up sharing tons of sessions developing a great respect for one another. Professional surfing in Santa Cruz is an uphill battle so Yu ended up relocating back to Japan and his family’s board building business.
At the time Yu’s father Stomatsu Sumitomo was building some of the most cutting edge sail boards in the world. He was also working on a new technology that would cut down the chatter at high speeds. Working on flex and control using a plethora of materials. Yu emursed himself in his father’s business learning everything he could about board building and his fathers new technology. Yu has worked in surfboard factories before and knew his way around a shaping room. He quickly started working on applying his fathers sailboard technology to his personal surfboards. This was the start of what we know today as thunderbolt technology.
Yu was working with some of his friends on Maui like Matt Meola and Albee Layer trying to get his new technology right on short boards. Yu was passing around a few prototypes to Rob Machado, Flynn Novack and a few other Hawaiian chargers. Everyone was blown away by the responsiveness of Yu’s new direction on board building. Word got back to the good folks at Channel Islands and a contract was put in place. Yu was working with the best short board shaper in the world building Channel Islands in his technology.
Yu didn’t stop there, he saught out all his heroes to show them what he was doing. Carl ekstrom, Neil purches, Neil perchase jr, Sean ogness just to mention a few. Yu set projects in place building his boards for all of them. This wasn’t a new way to build an indestructible epoxy production board but a way of building a high performance flex machine that felt like nothing before it. A labor of love that took 50 more steps in the building process than a normal poly surfboard. 100% by hand, one at a time.
Yu’s family buzzing thinking about how this technology could be applied to other types of surfboards. Yu remembered his old friend and now professional longboard surfer CJ and hit him up. At the time Cj was regrouping from the loss of his father and freshly sober. Yu packed up and flew to Santa Cruz for a long overdue reunion. CJ was already into alternative technology making carbon boards with his buddy John at Aviso Surfboards. His mind was open and the timing was perfect. Yu brought one of Matt meolas Boards to show CJ. Yu twisted is and jumped on it showing its uncanny flex characteristics. CJ was all in.
To get going, Yu ended up building CJ 12 boards with 12 different flex patterns. Yu built them all white numbering them one through 12 (pic) Cj flew to Japan to do a 2 week tour to test them out. CJ has ridden traditional Volan/poly builds for the majority of his life so he had no idea what Yu’s technology would feel like in a noserider.
I couldn’t believe it. After pushing through my first bottom turn on the 10 I was hooked. It felt like The feeling I always hoped I could get out of a flex fin but magnified by a thousand. The thing just motered out of turns. I knew at that second that I had a new direction in my surfing. ~ Cj
After two weeks of surfing and experimentation CJ ended up choosing board numbers two as his favorite. This boards had a carbon T stringer and an A & V beam that bisected between his turning stance. It felt like a rocket ship. Cj and Yu quickly put a business plan in place. This was a complete restart for CJ. This wasn’t just a new way to build boards, these were the best performing longboards that had ever been made. Now their goal was sharing this with the world. The path was clear.
Sharing this new technology with the world is no easy task. We have worked with multiple distributors globally and 100’s of shops. Our defining moment was meeting Mark Nelson with Carve sports. Mark had run many companies and was an avid surfer. He quickly saw the genius in Yu’s technology and quickly jumped on board. Without his business acumen and his work ethic this probably wouldn’t have happened ~ Cj. Carve sports grew with the thunderbolt brands and they made a good push in the marketplace. The problem was they just didn’t have the man power to put this all on the platform it deserved.
Yu was now working with Cj, Ben Skinner, Harley Ingleby and Kai Sallas. The crew met in Hawaii to strategize their next move. After a few days of brainstorming lots of ideas were put on the floor. They kept coming back to FireWire. Unarguably the top sales force in hardgoods period. We decided to reach out on return to the mainland and were warmly welcomed. After a solid year of discussion we came to an agreement making FireWire the global distributor for Thunderbolt Technologies.
Our goal has always been to make the best riding surfboards in the world which we feel like we have achieved. Now our focus is to get them in the hands of people to enjoy them. With our new direction and our new distribution family at FireWire, the sky is the limit.