Vice Presidentof Product Development, Winter Sports, K2
With all due respect to the Beach Boys, there are no good vibrations, says K2's Anthony DeRocco, who has devoted much of his 12-year career designing skis to squelching the bad vibes that turn glide into grind. DeRocco has been a skier all his life-not a "real racer," he says, "but an avid, northwest-type, backcountry skier who pretty much grew up at Alpental." He's also a passionate soccer player-at 41 he still plays at the elite club level and coaches his two kids' teams-and was a top student, the valedictorian of his Seattle high school class and a magna cum laude engineering graduate of Gonzaga University. DeRocco went on to the University of Washington for a master's and found a mentor there in Bard Glenne, a professor who conducted bench tests on new skis. Together, they persuaded K2 to fund DeRocco's master's thesis, which involved designing a machine called a PDI, a Pressure Distribution Instrument, which measures how a particular ski distributes a skier's weight onto a rigid foundation. After graduation and stints at Boeing, where he helped develop materials for the flooring of 767s, and Robbins, a construction firm that drilled much of the Chunnel, DeRocco landed back in the ski world at K2.
There are a number of ways to fight vibrations. For a while, K2's approach was to use piezoelectric material. "Basically, it converts strain or mechanical stress into electrical energy, which you can use as a form of damping," says DeRocca. The electrical energy was capable of reducing vibrations at specific frequencies. K2 used piezos in its skis for five years before deciding the technology was too expensive. In the late '90s, DeRocca and his colleagues seized on the idea of using mass to kill vibrations, an approach they call Monic damping. "We looked at vibrations along the full length of the ski to find where the main node of vibration occurred, and then we played with putting a specific mass at those locations," says DeRocca, adding that it certainly doesn't hurt that Boeing and its multimillion-dollar lab are 10 miles away and available to them. "We want to concentrate mass-25 grams for men and 15 for women-in strategic locations to reduce vibrations. We believe that with shorter and shorter skis, mass distribution technology will be one of the keys to controlling how stable a ski feels."