GAINING GROUND

A mountain-boarding business founded by two alums is taking off

By TERESA KILLIAN TATE

Matt Barker ’00 (left) and Matt McClain ’98 (right) are founders
of Ground Industries, an all-terrain boards and products
company that also spawned High Ground mountain bike and
mountain-boarding park (below).

Matt Barker ’00 and Matt McClain ’98, along with two friends, transformed their love of extreme sports in 2003 into a business that designs and produces a range of all-terrain boards that look like a monster truck version of a skateboard. Based in Greenville, S.C., Ground Industries manufactures products for mountain-boarding, dirt-boarding, kite land-boarding and longboarding – products with names like Bomber and Terraintula Hubs.

The first year for Barker and McClain revolved around reinventing the wheel, so to speak, and the result was a now-patented mechanism called a “Bionic truck.” A steering device, it helped set Ground Industries apart from the competition, and its founders kept on developing new designs to achieve specific, performance-oriented goals, said McClain, who majored in business management and is president of the company. Barker, who majored in parks and recreation, works in research and development for the company. “We looked at every component of the board and found ways to improve them,” said McClain. “We are known for our technologies from tire tread design to deck construction.”

The sport of all-terrain boarding is growing, and Ground Industries, which distributes in 30 countries, is growing with it. “I love the pioneering aspect of our business and being able to create something that allows people to recreate and have fun,” said McClain. “I also love not being limited to when I can ride. As a snowboarder, I am lucky to ride five times a year, but as a mountain-boarder I can ride every day if I choose.”

Last year, Ground Industries built High Ground mountain bike and mountain-boarding park at Beech Mountain Resort in Western North Carolina to give enthusiasts another place to play. The park features elements ranging from a 30-foot vertical wall to 20- to 30-foot tabletop jumps as well as multiple jib and skill features. Riders slide down the rails of what McClain calls the battleship bridge.

The park’s success inspired McClain to help develop a new business called Ride Garden that specializes in building sustainable trails for mountain biking and mountain-boarding. “We take an extremely green approach,” said McClain, who also works with Ride Garden. “We try to recycle and reuse resources from the site and have certified specialists on our team with expertise in storm water and erosion control. We want to really harness the natural resources and have a gardenlike atmosphere and aesthetic. We want to build more places people can snowboard in winter and mountain-board in summer.”

Visit groundindustries.com and ridegardens.com for more information.