Company Profile – SPL Water Housings
NCS: Take us back to 1996 when it all started.
SPL: In the beginning I was alone building housings in my house on living room coffee table and glassing in my bathroom which was 3ft by 5ft. I started making housings because I did not want to buy one. I made a few for myself then for friends. Didn’t make much of it. Just had fun at it and gave me something to keep me busy. Back then I tried it all different ways with just clear acrylic, then with fiberglass, way too much work with sanding, the smell, the mess and it is very bad for the environment.
NCS: How the name “SPL” come about?
SPL: SPL are my initials.
NCS: I noticed the company is based in San Diego. How important is it that you’re located so close to the beach?
SPL: It is very important that we are located close to the surf mags which is important because there are many photogs living California.
NCS: What really goes into building a custom housing like this? From concept, to design, to end product.
SPL: Design and building is like anything else you would build. You look at it, make a plan, drawings, sketches, then you go home and think about it, then you sleep on it. Maybe it might take you a week or so, some parts you may think about for months, but in the end you just build it.
NCS: Do you have technical background that allows you to do the welding, CNC, CAD design, etc..? or is this something you mastered by yourself over the years?
SPL: I am a certified welder and have been for about 18yrs now. I welded in MA for a few years then moved to San Diego. Worked in the sprinkler business, then got a job in the ship yard and that is where I learned to weld in all positions. I mean literally upside down, in an enclosed area with a mirror. I laugh when people say they can weld but have never worked in the shipyard which is the toughest place to weld in the world. Especially when you are small and they like sending you into places you cannot fit into if you eat lunch, places where you get burned over and over even if you where all your safety gear you can.
In the last 2-3 yrs I have learned to design housings on the computer because it is easier to have a CNC machine run parts and they are repeatedly the same over and over. We have also invested in CNC machines which makes making parts in house much much faster and we can keep an eye on quality control.
NCS: What things are you’re doing that sets you apart from the competition?
SPL: We do many things which sets us apart from most other guys as we have the fastest turn around time of anyone. We have new housings ready to go in 2-3 days after we purchase our new cameras. Which leads us to another thing we do and that is to purchase new cameras as soon as they come out. Mostly digital still cameras, but we do that for a few video cameras as well
Our customer service is also where we lead most everyone else. We take responsibility for our mistakes. We had one flooded housing about three years ago and purchased a camera for the guy and shipped it to him while I was on vacation. We also probably have the fewest floods with only 2 in the last 5 yrs due to a mistake on our part.
Our products are simply designed which makes them solid and functional. Aluminum being our main shell material is the easiest material to use and it does not crack…. it may bend or dent but in the end it will not crack. Plus SPL Housings are recyclable try that with fiberglass. Much much better for the environment.
NCS: What is the most elaborate design you’ve done to date?
SPL: Our most elaborate design was probably for the RED cine camera. It had many many machined parts which made it very easy to load and a few replaceable parts in case of accidents.
NCS: You deal with a lot of the top photogs/video guys in the industry. Any crazy stories from these guys that involved one of your housings?
SPL: The craziest place our housings have ever been used is probably by Larry Haynes in Tahiti. We fed exd him a housing. He picked it up at the airport, got onto his flight, never tested it, swam out into 20-30ft Teahupoo, and got sucked over the falls on a bomb. I have a 4 shot sequence on my wall of him shooting going up the face of the wave. He called me and said the baby survived. He told me where to go and look at the photos and I called him and said what were you thinking. Talk about the craziest photog in the world that is him.
Also had a guy in the UK loose his housing for two days and found it on the beach still intact and not a scratch on it.
NCS: What are the goals for SPL in the next 5, 10 years?
SPL: Our goals over the next 5 to 10 yrs will be to keep doing the same thing making housings that work and survive the most insane surf you have the balls to swim out in.
NCS: SPL does a lot of high-end custom housing, but do you offer an entry level solution for some who is just starting out?
SPL: We make anything you want we have simple housings and we have fully loaded housing, but every time we make a simple one that guy quickly realizes he needs one with some kind of controls, so we try to steer everyone to get a housing with at least aperture and shutter speed.
NCS: Anyone you would like to throw a shout out/thanks to?
SPL: I would like to thank Tom and Kym for helping me in the beginning. They are really the nicest people you will ever meet. Steve Tugwell which is more my dad and friend then anything, could not have made it here without him. My mom love here to death. And finally my 5yr old son Dominic for helping build at the shop probably some of you have a housing that he helped me with.