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Gearing up for the Games

Rob Muldur builds the ultimate sit-ski

Call him the man of carbon, but North Vancouver sailboard builder Rob Muldur may be on to something crafting carbon fibre gear for Paralympic athletes.

A sailboard manufacturer for 20 years Muldur built a race chair for Paralympic gold medal winner Kelly Smith in 2003 and became fascinated with the challenges each project demanded.

Muldur builds sit-skis, cross country skis and sledges in a time-consuming 100-200 hour process of drafting templates from body measurements, crafting a foam form and encasing it with resin-impregnated carbon fibre. For the past few weeks Muldur has been putting in 60-70-hour weeks getting gear ready for Smith and other athletes, like Scott Patterson, for the Torino Paralympic Games.

Carbon fibre is the au courant building material, with a high response that allows it to snap back into position after bending. It’s used in everything from bike frames to ski poles to fishing rods to golf club shafts.

"It’s actually not that light," Muldur said, "but it’s so strong you don’t need much of it."

Scott Patterson won bronze at Salt Lake. He intends to grab gold with his Rob Muldur custom sit ski. Photo by Nicole Fitzgerald

Muldur takes the material, that looks like a roll of heavy black fabric, and with resin applied is layered over foam pieces to match detailed body measurements that include athletes’ backsides, curvature of their legs and bone placement.

"Their sit-ski becomes their boot and their torso becomes their foot," Muldur said, with the result being "something that looks like Robocop from the waist down."

"I think of Robocop myself," said Vernon sit skier Josh Dueck, who ordered a Muldur custom design. "I’m half man, half machine and all skier."

Dueck said the sit-ski fits like a glove, and like a custom ski boot it takes some getting into. But he said one key advantage is how the Muldur design, which contours his body from knees to waist, protects him.

"In a generic bucket you’ll make a move and your hips will slide around, your legs will move a little bit. But with this machine there is no room for slippage," Dueck said. Because he has no skin sensation the design also prevents chaffing and skin shearing or tearing.

In addition he gets incredible performance.

"Coming from a generic sit-ski which is like driving a Volkswagon van, with Muldur’s design I went into a Porsche. So now I’m ready to start racing," Dueck said.