Performance Optimization Methodology
By Dylan Smith

Make Your Voice Count

At Smith Board Co, your feedback drives innovation. We're dedicated to crafting the perfect wakesurf board, and we need your insights to make it happen. Our quick, 2-minute Performance Optimization Methodology survey is your chance to share what matters most to you on the water. Your input helps us fine-tune our designs and push the boundaries of wakesurfing excellence.

Take The Survey Now

At Smith Board Co, we’ve set out to design and create the highest performing wakesurf boards to give every surfer the most out of every ride. We’ve discovered ways to make boards faster, lighter, and easier to spin. We’ve simulated new designs and worked with different materials. We’ve even defined what wakesurfing performance means, but we’re new. We’re a small team. There are thousands of riders in the US alone, no two of which ride the same way or want the same thing. So how do we align our goals with the goals of each and every person who rides one of our boards?

Lucky for us, other leading industries and companies have faced these same challenges and have developed many methods to integrate user preference and feedback into design. They’ve come up with approaches like Decision Based Design, Quality Function Deployment, Design for Six Sigma and many others. To tie our engineering approach to what riders actually want and need, we’ve taken aspects from each of these methods and incorporated them into our Performance Optimization Methodology (POM). POM translates the voice of the wakesurfing community into detailed engineering specifications that shape every board we design. POM ensures that we don’t just build boards that perform, but that we build boards that perform in the myriad of ways the community wants and hopes for. Fundamental to this process is an iterative approach, so as the sport grows and more things become possible, we can continually improve and grow alongside it. 

What is POM?

At the heart of POM is the idea that engineering and development should be driven by the end user, so the first step in the process is done with your help. Through surveys and interviews, we gather the community's needs, preferences and expectations to define the overall voice of the community. Where it’s at, what’s lacking, and where it hopes to go. The surveys are designed with questions that help us understand what aspects of performance are most important and most lacking. 

From there, our engineers build a list of all the design features that could have an impact on a board's performance. Things like board length, width, and thickness. Or material properties and surface finishes. We started Smith Board Co because no one had focused on these individual attributes or developed a well-defined understanding of how each of these influences board performance. As we mentioned in a previous article, Why does it matter that we define performance?, you can’t optimize something that you don’t define and understand. By creating this list of the possible features to iterate on, we aim to develop the deepest industry knowledge of how boards work and how they can be optimized for a better ride. 

The Insight Matrix

Now the list we came up with was long, so the next step of the POM process guides which attributes to investigate that will have the most impact on what the community wants and what they find most lacking in current boards. To find these connections, we build what’s called the Insight Matrix, pictured below. The Insight Matrix translates the communities needs into performance metrics, relates those metrics to the list of design features, defines secondary effects and interactions between design features, and prioritizes each design feature to ensure that those which will most affect the communities desired performance measures have the highest priority in our engineering process.

A simplified matrix is shown below. It gives the performance metrics along with the End User Importance Rating from survey data on one axis, and the design features (the individual aspects of a board we can optimize) on the other. The relationship matrix in the middle is used to define how each engineering attribute positively or negatively affects each performance measure, and is filled out by our engineering team with research into the physics implications of each design feature. This is the heart of the Insight Matrix, as it shows which aspects of the board we can design in order to focus most on the performance measures the community cares most about (End User Importance Rating). The current rating portion on the right of the figure is where we can determine the current state of each performance measure in the industry so we can make decisions on board design that have the most impact. The correlation matrix at the top identifies and illustrates the relationships or interactions between the different design requirements. For example, increasing the thickness of a board will likely also increase its durability. On the other hand, increasing thickness will also increase the boards weight. By mapping these relationships, we can understand the tradeoffs that come with changing the design of any engineering attribute. 


By taking a weighted combination of all of these factors (Impact at the bottom of the figure), the Insight Matrix ensures that the voice of the community is clearly understood and used to drive the design of engineering characteristics. Once the Insight Matrix has been constructed and actionable design features have been identified, those features then progress through further steps in the POM process to address further aspects of the engineering and manufacturing process such as determining the appropriate manufacturing technologies and materials, and ensuring that quality standards are upheld throughout the manufacturing process.

Wakesurf performance

Our goal at Smith Board Co is to drive wakesurf performance forward to open up new possibilities to the whole community. Whether you're a pro or just starting out, we want to make sure those opportunities are opened up for the whole of the community. By using the POM process, we are developing and sharing the deepest engineering and data-driven knowledge base for every feature and performance measure that matters to you. Your feedback and the feedback from as many wakesurfers as possible ensures that every gain we make helps everyone who rides. 

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