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Bringin' the Style

We sat down with BOTE Creative Brand Director, Rob McAbee, to see how he designs some of the most unique boards in the industry and learn a little bit about his creative process and the future of BOTE.


Describe your creative process when it comes to designing new boards each year.

The creative process for me is constant. Pretty much anything and everything can be an inspiration just depending on how you look at it. A lot of times I will look into other industries and magazines to see what common color pallet and thematic they’re using but it can also be as simple as seeing a motorcycle or dress while walking around. However, it is also business based. When I start designing the lineup for a particular year, I usually look to past seasons and talk to Corey (BOTE owner and CEO), to see what the sales were like. If one board did better than another or if we can draw any parallels between color ways or deck pad colors we can use that as a general lead-in to the current season. Then I will look and create a complementary pallet to introduce new accent colors and aesthetics. Corey and I also do a lot of what I would like to call, Digital Sketching” where I’ll do board designs that really aren’t complete but paint a story and then Corey will alter and change it. We constantly volley ideas and concepts back and forth. Inevitably, we land on something that we both mutually feel is a successful board design. The process is incredibly organic and constant.

Corey Cooper designing boards

How have your designs evolved over the years?

We have started to design a lot more intricate paint schemes, created different nose caps, tail caps, and pin lines—things to make the overall board aesthetics much more interesting and give contrast between colors and design. Honestly, you have to hand it to the craftsmen that make our boards—just because I can come up with it in my head, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to translate in production. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. I can design a board that would take hours to paint or do inlays but we could never produce it due to financial or timeline constraints. In the end, I have to marry my production knowledge with my design approach to produce a great looking board. For me, learning to push the limits of those production constraints is where the evolution has occurred.  


What is your definition of BOTE’s style?

What sets BOTE’s style apart from other brands? Well, there’s a lot. However, the one thing that definitely sets us apart is that, in essence, we redefine what our entire lineup will look like every year. As far as our boards’ personal style, that’s kind of hard to define. The style has been an evolution—the boards that were designed five years ago have some similarities in the fact that they share the same underlying DNA, however the designs have mostly changed. In the beginning, our boards set a standard with a more traditional design scheme. Since then, we have taken that standard, finessed it, and are now constantly pushing the envelope, which is exactly what the BOTE style is about. Creating a product that people are not only proud to buy, but to take out on the water and show their friends.Every March we basically scrub every board design clean and start fresh, which is a pretty daunting task. Thanks to our team though, we make it happen. That’s where the style really comes from; the mass array of talent that we have internally. Between the designers, production, sales, and marketing—everybody’s coordination and synchronization allow us to create the BOTE style and it’s pretty amazing. We have become a pretty well-oiled machine in an industry that is constantly changing. That in itself puts us a step ahead because not only can we do it, we make a point of doing it.

2016 lineup at dockies

Explain the difference between BOTE’s classic, native, and chainmail.

I’ll start with our Classics. They are traditionally wood veneer inlays making them our timeless board styles. No matter how much time goes by, that wood combination is just always an aesthetically pleasing board. We are trying to mix it up going forward with creating some digital wood concepts that are going to push that look a little further than could be done before. The Natives are the most unique boards in that each inlay is designed with a more artistic point of view. Those are the boards that try to follow current trends and pallets to make them distinctive. The Chainmail was developed by Corey and I years ago. It is our higher end board that we designed from a proprietary fabric, which was a combination of carbon and innegra. We came up with a pattern and a weave which utilized both of those fibers to create a super strong and light layup fabric which was termed, Chainmail.” 


What has been your favorite board and why?original bug slinger

My favorite board design, not to be cliché, was probably my first ever board design with BOTE. Many years ago, prior to working at BOTE, Corey approached me to do some limited edition Bug Slinger standup boards, which I thought would be a really cool new way to show my artwork. The feeling I had the first time we actually debuted the board at Surf Expo 2013and I saw the board displayed for the first time, was addicting. Since then, I have definitely designed better looking boards and the board aesthetics overall have improved, but that one is still the most special to me.

How do you decide what to design for your special edition boards? (I.e. how the Bug Slinger changes graphics with every board.)

The Bug Slinger boards are actually pretty difficult to design. Most people are still under the impression that SUPs can only be used in salt water, so the thematic that I use have tended to lean more towards the saltwater and species that live within it, which can be limiting. Moving forward, as people start to use them in more of the fresh water environments, I’ll be excited to alter the variety of species and to expand artistically. It will also give our board another shot in the arm and allow them to reach a broader audience


What should we expect for a 2017 design theme?

This has been one of the hardest years that I have had to deal with thus far. If you’ve ever heard of the term artist block,” well I’ve certainly had it. Over the years I’ve gotten a lot of feedback, which has mostly been incredibly positive, however, I have still made mistakes. That culmination of input really starts to narrow the flexibility in designing boards. You start moving in a direction and then realize it might not work because of years previous input, which has kind of hemmed me up in designing. A positive to this though is that with the 2016 line, we have finally hit a sweet spot. This lineup really resonated with people and the overall aesthetic had some really positive feedback, which enables us to really build on it for 2017. It can only get better from here and should be really exciting.


Rob McAbee is a creative professional with over 25 years of experience in the outdoor sports and fly fishing specialty industries. After ten years working with manufacturers, apparel embellishment companies and boutique design firms, Rob started Nomad Design Company. Nomad Design Co. specialized primarily in brand development with clients including international outdoor brands, rock bands, the Navy SEALS and various other specialty companies. In 2008, he started Bug Slinger™ Fly Gear, a fly fishing apparel company focused on contemporary designs targeting the younger cross-sports demographic. In early 2013, BOTE released the first limited edition Bug Slinger™ boards and by mid-2013, Rob joined the BOTE team full time as the Creative Brand Director. 


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Published on Thursday, March 17, 2016 in Stories