Have you ever wondered what goes into manufacturing the long list of tackle, gear and accessories we use today? Anglers and boaters often take for granted the tremendous effort it requires to engineer, design and manufacturer the countless components that combine to enhance our on-the-water experiences. You name it, and somewhere in Florida a team of skilled craftsmen are dedicated to producing the finest equipment possible. We wanted to learn more about these professionals and about the products they specialize in. We’re confident that you, too, will be fascinated with what we discover in our ongoing investigation.
It’s an undeniable fact that anglers and boaters enjoy wearing casual clothes. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find anyone that doesn’t enjoy wearing comfortable flip-flops.
…you may be surprised to learn that elephant ear, ostrich shin, shark, eel, and python hides are more like it for some of the fashion industry’s most reputable distributors.
Sandals have been in existence for thousands of years and own the title as the first footwear to ever grace the human foot. From their rudimentary form of animal pelts and plant fibers, sandals have come a long way. Today, nearly every Florida angler owns a pair of sandals, so for the upcoming holiday season we thought it would be fitting to focus our final investigation on a product that’s a perfect fit for everyone on your shopping list.
Located in Miami, FL, Ocean Rider is one of the leading producers of high-quality, American made apparel. Taking the outdoor market by storm with their recent introduction of UPF 50 anti-microbial easy care long sleeve vented fishing shirts, it’s Ocean Rider’s handmade sandals and belts that have delighted outdoorsmen for years. With quality control standards that are second to none and the ability to fulfill custom orders with unique materials, we were priveledged to visit a leading authority in the field. Their industry partners include Captain Harry’s, J&M Tackle, Cabo Yachts and Rybovich, just to name a few (Image 1). While an inside look at what it takes to create sandals and belts from start to finish would be quite an experience, we weren’t expecting a stipulation; we had to put their product to the test. We agreed to the condition and it wasn’t long before our editorial staff was outfitted with new footwear. Thus far, we couldn’t be any more satisfied.
Sandals are most often crafted from either high-quality rubber or American leather hides, although you may be surprised to learn that elephant ear, ostrich shin, shark, eel, and python hides are more like it for some of the fashion industry’s most reputable distributors (Image 2).
When a sandal order is received the desired material is first selected. If the order is for leather sole sandals, a large roll of American leather hide is selected (Image 3). Leather thickness is gauged in ounces with one ounce equivalent to 1/64-inch thickness. Utilizing high-quality hides that vary from 5 ½ to 6 ounces with an oil-vegetable tanned top grain leaves the end user with a product of extreme durability and superior comfort. Vegetable tanned leathers use materials derived from tree bark and various plants to create the brown coloration. To be able to withstand continual exposure to the harsh saltwater environment of sun, sand and salt, the leather hides are waxed and cured before being cut to final size.
When rubber sandals are desired, the highest-quality rubber sheeting is selected. A rubber’s hardness is measured in durometers. The smaller the durometer; the harder the material. Leading sandal manufacturers, including Ocean Rider, select 45-durometer rubber for the top sole and 55-durometer rubber for the bottom sole. Whether leather of rubber, the next step in the process is where the sandals start to take shape (Image 4 & 5).
Using the brute force of a 50-ton press, the desired material is cut with precision-tooled stainless steel dies. Here, custom dies create templates for the top and bottom soles, along with the middle foot bed (Image 6).
Simultaneously, a skilled artisan completes a similar process with a 20-ton press. On Ocean Rider sandals, both leather and rubber, you will notice a leather embossed patch that brings the sandal strap together at the toe stirrup (Image 7). Since this piece doesn’t require a large piece of material, excess leather from the previous step often suffices. Once the patch has been cut, the leather soles and patches are embossed with the company’s logo. Embossing is the process of creating a three-dimensional image with a combination of heat and pressure.
While the leather components are being embossed, the sandal soles are being siped. Siping is a process of cutting thin grooves across a surface to improve traction in slippery conditions. Companies committed to quality utilize only the best machinery and production techniques to create the all important non-skid sole. The manufacturer we visited happens to own an original Sperry siping machine, which produces one of the best non-skid razor cut soles on the market today. In Asia, siping standards are 7-sipes per inch, while the Ocean Rider machine creates a far superior 9 to 11 sipes per inch (Image 8). Nothing is more important than solid footing when underway, fighting a fish in bumy conditions, or when reaching for a deck line. Rubber sandals are siped on both the top and bottom soles, while leather sandals are siped only on the bottom. This non-skid process is exclusive to Ocean Rider.
While the die cutting, embossing and siping are being performed, a skilled seamstress fabricates the sandal’s instep straps (Image 9). Depending on the desired order the straps can be fabricated in numerous configurations including leather embossed, leather embroidered, cloth embroidered and cloth print. The sandal straps are sewn in long rolls and are then cut to size (Image 10). For the sandal straps a V-notch is cut into the material where the previously die-cut and embossed patch is stitched into place (Image 11). It is now time for final assembly.
A shoemaker starts by attaching a piece of cord to the leather patch with a girth hitch. The fully assembled strap can now be attached to the upper sole. The cord is threaded through the toe hole where it’s tied with a simple overhand knot. The instep straps are fed through their respective slots and cut to size (Image 12). An ample amount of glue is applied to the sole and a few swift blows from a hammer helps shape the instep straps (Image 13 & 14). More glue is applied and the insole, middle foot bed and bottom are combined. Once the glue dries the sandals are trimmed and carefully inspected prior to being shipped to happy customers for countless strides of trouble-free performance. An excellent feature of high-quality sandals is that they conform substantially to the shape of your foot. Stroll around today in a pair of quality flip-flops, and I promise you they won’t be easy to part with.
For apparel manufacturers, sandals and belts are the perfect match made in heaven. Because the width of the sandal strap and belt are designed with exacting standards, the two products can be manufactured with little to no waste or additional steps. For belts, the same sandal straps are simply cut at longer lengths. The belt straps and buckle holders are die-cut, embossed and stitched with the same process as the sandal components (Image 15). Finally, solid brass buckles are added to create a rich, finished product.