Kickstarting: A Skateboard Engineered For Surfing Stairs

Re-introducing the Stair-Rover, an eight-wheeled board that scuttles over urban obstacles with ease.

[This project is an entrant in our Innovation By Design Awards. Stay tuned for the announcement of winners on October 10.]


A year ago, we wrote about the Stair-Rover, a novel skateboard in the early stages of development that grinds on rails like a dream and sails down stairs. Now, one year and six prototypes later, the board is live on Kickstarter.

The Stair-Rover–a board with flexible V-frames on its wheels, so riders can glide down sets of stairs–is at its core the same product we saw previously. But PoChih Lai, its creator, has incorporated several crucial upgrades that bring him closer to solving his hypothesis: “Can people utilize the energy hidden in the city just like surfers utilized the energy in the wave?”

Lai started developing the Stair-Rover two years ago, and cycled through 14 prototypes in all. (When we last saw the Stair-Rover, it was in its eighth iteration.) Today, the most obvious improvement on the new model is the absence of any hardware on top of the deck. With the truck underneath the board, skaters have more room for foot placement, and therefore better range of motion. “Now the riders can naturally adopt their past riding experience to Stair-Rover,” Lai says. “They can carve on the stairs, ollie, and dance on the deck.”

For the market-ready version, Lai swapped out aluminum V-frames for a stronger and more flexible thermoplastic material and added a darker-hued option to the pine-colored model.

At first take, getting the Stair-Rover out into the field and into skate parks might be a tough sell. For skating purists, is the Stair-Rover the solo Vespa in a parking lot of Harley-Davidsons? Lai doesn’t think so: “This is part of skateboard culture,” he says. “Most skateboarders are DIY makers. They adjust their boards according to how they want to ride. So every boarder contributes a little to the evolution of the skateboard.” Just as they appropriate a city’s streetscape as an individualized skatepark.

Read more about the Stair-Rover on its Kickstarter page.


About the author

Margaret Rhodes is a former associate editor for Fast Company magazine.