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Ray Rude - Founder of the Duraflex International Corporation

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Ray Rude and the Sport of Diving:

While relatively unknown, Ray Rude may be the single most influential person responsible for the level of diving we see today. Prior to his development of the Duraflex springboard, divers competed on a precurser to the modern Duraflex diving board known as a buckboard, small aluminum I-beams that were bolted together. Restricted by the amount of spring a diver could achieve, diving was limited and the acrobatic nature of the sport that we see today was nonexistent. With the advent of his springboard, diving was changed forever.

About Ray Rude:

Born in Stanley, N.D., on May 23, 1916, Ray Rude worked in his family's business until, at the age of 15, he quit school and left North Dakota. A self-made engineer and entrepreneur, Rude spent the majority of his life in California and Nevada, but the native son of North Dakota returned to Stanley in 2002 following his retirement from Duraflex and the death of his wife of 45 years, Ina Mae. During his lifetime, Rude and his wife contributed millions to both the city of Stanley and the University of North Dakota. He passed away in Stanley at the age of 88 on December 16, 2004.

Arcadia Air Products and Duraflex:

An aircraft engineer by trade, Ray Rude started Arcadia Air Products in 1957 in southern California, as a subsidiary of Productioneering, his own aircraft tooling manufacturing company. After discontinuing Productioneering in 1970, he moved Arcadia Air Products to Reno, Nev., and on October 1, 1985, he changed the name to Duraflex International. The company has sold more than 60,000 diving boards in the past 50 years to virtually every country and continent on the planet.

Duraflex Diving Board:

Ray Rude made the first aluminum diving board in 1949 out of an aircraft wing panel for a friend who needed a diving board for his pool party. Refining his basic design, he developed the machinery to produce each diving board from a single aluminum extrusion. An extrusion is a single piece of aluminum that has been heated and through a die. Rude designed, or built much of the machinery at the Duraflex factory that is still used today to make diving boards.

Maxiflex and Model B Diving Boards:

The Maxiflex model diving board was introduced in 1969, featuring an aluminum extrusion that is tapered on both the back and the tip end of the diving board. This feature increased the flexibility of the diving board and the lift that a diver received. The Maxiflex Model B, known as the “Cheeseboard,” was introduced in 1979. Identical to the original Maxiflex, the cheeseboard has 189 perforations at the tip end of the diving board, reducing the weight and air resistance.

Durafirm Diving Stands:

After hearing complaints that diving stands could not accommodate Duraflex diving boards, Rude designed one- and three-meter stands in 1960 and later short stands in 1961. Produced from large aluminum castings, he reduced the number of pieces that made up a stand and they were better equipped to handle the stress from and diver and a diving board. These new stands increased both the safety and the longevity of the diving boards and their users.

Duraflex and The Olympic Games:

The Duraflex diving board was first used in Olympic competition in 1960. At that time, divers would bring their own boards to competitions, and the popularity of the Duraflex diving board at those Games became legendary. Since 1960, Duraflex diving boards have been the only diving board used in the Olympics and all major international competitions.

Interesting Facts:

  • Found and repaired a broken, miniature steam engine -- while in the first grade.
  • Created irrigation pipelines for his mother's garden using items he found in the junkyard behind a local Ford dealership.
  • Got his first car while in the seventh grade, a Model T Ford that he assembled from castoff parts found behind car dealerships and tractor shops. He used it to transport cream from his family's creamery store to the rail yard for shipment, and also to transport supplies for their store.
  • Dropped out of school in the 10th-grade and left home at age 15 to make it on his own.
  • Worked as a chauffeur for P.K. Wrigley, the son of William J. Wrigley.
  • Worked for Aircraft Company Lockheed Martin, and was given the newly created title "tool engineer."
  • Briefly spent time with reclusive mega-millionaire Howard Hughes discussing airplane tooling in Hughes' private workshop.
  • Was responsible for some airplane tooling on the plane Amelia Earhart flew while attempting her historic flight.
  • Named his diving board the “Duraflex” because it was both durable and flexible.
  • Once sold a diving board to the King of African Congo, who wanted a Duraflex diving board for his palace swimming pool.
  • Was the first non-swimmer, non-diver, non-water polo player or non-coach inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
  • Inducted into the North Dakota Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame in 1993.
  • Received an Honorary Degree from the University of North Dakota in 2001.
  • During his lifetime Rude was a large financial supporter of United States Diving, Inc., and continues that tradition today through the Ray Rude Foundation.
  • Donated $1.75 million to the University of North Dakota's Center for Innovation Foundation, leading to the creation of the Ina Mae Rude Entrepreneur Center in honor of his late wife.
  • Donated over $5.5 million to the Stanley, N.D., medical center, school district and aquatics center.
  • When asked where his favorite place was to vacation, he sat and thought for a minute then said “I can’t remember if I have been on vacation in the last 40 years.”
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