O’Brien was another company that went after Hydroslide’s huge market share., leading the way with their foam-filled board called the Bullfrog. But the lackluster design was antiquated, and the graphics were something a kid might go for: an all green board with a giant bullfrog sitting on the nose.


230 AWSKB81 BUllfrog ad color

O’Brien’s Entry into the Kneeboarding Market Finally Meant That Kneeboarding was Big Business for All of Water Skiing, 1981


Kneeboarding was appealing to the hearts and minds of teenagers and young adult males who wanted to do high-flying tricks; it wasn’t just kid stuff anymore. O’Brien needed a new design that looked cool and rode great. They hired me in 1984 as a consultant for a 100 bucks a day, plus free equipment. It was my first paid job from a manufacturer.

I was among a small group of skiers that spent a weekend on a private man made lake in Barstow, CA. We rode several prototype boards, and answered detailed questionnaires after each run. The prototypes worked well, and everyone was excited. The name of the board was top secret. The other mystery was why the company kept pushing for some sort of fin system. None of the riders wanted it. We all went our separate ways, and I waited with bated breath to ride the new trick board that I had a small part in.

I only had to wait a few short months until O’Brien released their new board. The Black Magic created quite a buzz. The graphics were amazing, and the board had great performance features, despite the retractable fins. The fins were a perfect example of bells and whistles that do nothing to improve the ride, but get customers to make a purchase. Most people thought the fins helped the board turn, but he actually made the board track straight. In the years that followed most of the other manufacturers also released boards that included some sort of fins.


240 AWSKB85 Klarich Black Magic Ad

The Black Magic’s Sleek Graphics and Solid Design Made it Tremendously Popular, 1985


O’Brien helped promote the Black Magic with a boat show film showing all their products. I appeared as the kneeboarder and hot dog skier, while Camille Duvall and Andy Mapple lead an all-star group who also included Karin Roberge, Joel and Judy McClintock, Geoff Carrington, and Harold Cole. Endless loops of the finished video rang out across the country at boat shows and pro shops. It was easy to get hooked on the catchy tune and title: “First For Good Reason.”


O’Brien First For Good Reason, Kneeboarding Highlights



>Next Chapter: 9.Mail It In

>Table of Contents

>Adventures in Water Skiing: SERIES LINKS



Images (used with permission)

“Adventures in Water Skiing: Part 2, Kneeboarding,” photo Rick Doyle, 1994.

“O’Brien Bullfrog Ad,” photo-skier Dennis Cooper, Spray’s WaterSki, Winter, 1981, 47.

“O’Brien Black Magic Ad – Klarich,” WaterSki, June, 1985, 71.


Some Rights Reserved. The TEXT ONLY of this publication MAY be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission. All use MUST be accompanied with the attribution: “From Adventures in Water Skiing: Part 2, Kneeboarding. Used with permission by http://tonyklarich.com”. TEXT ONLY is licensed under creative commons agreement (CC BY 3.0). The images (photos) MAY NOT be used, uploaded, reposted, or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission.




O’Brien First For Good Reason: Full Video, Part 1


O’Brien First For Good Reason: Full Video, Part 2