Dealer reception to the Wake Tractor — a new surf brand built by industry veteran John Dorton and his son, Ben — has taken off since the brand made its industry debut at Surf Expo in September, with 19 domestic dealers already signed and 12 internationally.
“We have interest in 60 major markets with at least one, and sometimes multiple prospects,” John Dorton told Trade Only Today. “So the boat really hit a nerve.”
Hard orders are starting to come in for the boat and production will start in early November, Dorton said.
“We’re seeing multiple dealers compete for the brand in quite a few major markets,” Dorton said. “That’s gratifying. There’s really nothing else like it on the marketplace. I think that’s what dealers are starting to see.”
In 2013 John Dorton partnered with Lawrence Technological University, a Detroit-area design school, and Andrew Hanzel, a professor of industrial design there. Hanzel, who has deep design roots in the auto industry with General Motors, tasked his class of 19- to 24-year-olds with creating a vessel that appealed to them. That was how the Wake Tractor concept began.
Ben Dorton, who is in his 20s, has had a hand in the entire development of the boat since it is being marketed to millennials.
“It’s all about the wake,” John Dorton said in describing the boat last summer, “the wake and the music.” It turned out that the interior was not important to this group. The boat had to be small because many millennials are parking it on the street since some don’t have garages — part of the urban shift seen in younger people. It also had to be light since this group doesn’t have huge cars for towing.
“It knocks a deep hole in the water. It’s great for surfing,” Dorton told Trade Only this week. “And we found a secondary market: Those are the people that can afford the $150,000 wake boat, but are almost offended they have to pay that kind of money for it. The Wake Tractor can be a nice solution for their boarding needs, and then they go ahead and buy a second boat. Millennials are the primary market, but it's also good for others who would like to participate in the sport, but not with such a big capital outlay.”
With the tagline “Not every rider has a millionaire Daddy,” Wake Tractor’s WT-1 model is retail-priced at $39,995. Wake Tractor needed an engine capable of powering a 1,600-pound ballast system, and it uses Crusader Engines’ Challenger series as its exclusive engine provider.
“Between all the product launches I’ve been involved in with MasterCraft, Hydra Sports and Bryant, this has probably been the most exciting,” Dorton said. “It just fills a nice hole in the marketplace that dealers recognize immediately, and that’s where all the acceptance has come from. They appreciate what the boat features, and just the simplicity of it.”