Ever since his days at the University of California at San Diego in the late 1990s, Nicholas Woodman wanted a way for him and his surfing buddies to capture their exploits without having to take turns sitting on shore with a camera and telephoto lens. “No surfer wants to be the photographer, especially when the waves are good,” he says.
Woodman, 36, eventually decided to solve the problem and founded GoPro in 2002. GoPro makes a small, durable, lightweight (just 3.3 ounces) camcorder and special mounts to attach the device to surfboards, helmets, ski poles, car hoods, or pretty much anything else. It’s become a phenomenon in the world of extreme sports, with back-country snowboarders, kayakers, scuba divers, and others using it to document their feats. Woodman’s company has sold hundreds of thousands of them through sports shops and is only now reaching beyond its X Game base with national TV ads and a distribution deal with Best Buy. “It’s a very cool story,” says Christopher Chute, an analyst with IDC. “GoPro may well be the world’s fastest-growing camera company.”