September and October are going to be big months for Epoch Lacrosse, launching their 2013 lineup of shafts. We recently caught up with Epoch Founder, James Miceli, to discuss the rapid rise of Epoch and what the future holds for the company. The carbon fiber shafts in particular have been well received. In the interview we talk about the new lineup, shafts, shaft technology, materials used and what’s going on in the marketplace. View the conversation below.
LPG: What was your motivation behind the start of Epoch, with there already being plenty of shaft companies in the marketplace?
Epoch: During our evaluation of the marketplace, we saw a major gap in the way technology was being used to develop products. In particular, the lacrosse shaft had not changed since the early ’90’s when titanium and other alloys hit the market. Each year we saw the same products, with new cosmetics, being offered. This has been going on for nearly 20 years. In sports like golf, hockey and cycling, carbon fiber has become the industry standard. In lacrosse, there were several false starts when it came to carbon fiber shafts and more often than not these shafts did not perform nearly as well as their alloy counterparts. We knew by using better design, materials and manufacturing techniques, we could greatly improve the current product offerings and reinvent what a lacrosse shaft should be. Last year, with the launch of our Dragonfly carbon fiber shafts, we proved to the lacrosse community that we could manufacture a shaft that was durable with maximized performance and playability.
LPG: How does Epoch’s development process work and how do you choose which products go to market?
Epoch: We don’t have a secret back room where we develop products then surprise them to the public. Instead, we are actively engaged in the lacrosse community, working with players every day to understand what type of “feel” they are looking for in a lacrosse shaft. We conduct an advanced prototyping test program where we put potential products in the hands of some of the top players across the country. We stay engaged with these players and solicit feedback. From time to time, we will ask for a shaft to be returned so we can share it with our engineers to see how it performs under lab tests after it has been tested under normal game conditions out in the field. The combination of player feedback and post play engineer review help us determine what shafts we will bring to market.
LPG: What was the decision process like for choosing (these) materials for a shaft? Weight, strength, availability, cost?
Epoch: We have and continue to set high standards for selecting the materials used in our shafts – simply put we use only the best available! The carbon fiber used in our shafts is sourced from the same supply manufacturer used by NASA and Boeing, making it truly “Space Age” material. The actual material we use is high modulus carbon fiber pre-preg (carbon fiber sheets pre-impregnated with a resin). When molded into a lacrosse shaft, it creates a very strong, light, and durable product. Our carbon fiber layering technique, called A.C.L. (Advanced Carbon Layering), is our secret sauce. Advanced Carbon Layering allows us to control several aspects of the shaft’s performance, such as the stiffness profile (Flex), weight and durability among several others. Weight is a very important factor when determining the design of a lacrosse shaft. Usually a player’s first impression of a shaft is derived from the shaft’s weight. At Epoch, we push our engineers everyday to create the lightest possible shafts while maintaining our industry leading durability levels. However, weight is only one factor that drives us. The overall “feel” of the shaft is our biggest factor because at the end of the day, if a shaft doesn’t “feel” right, then why use it?
LPG: Speaking of carbon fiber, what are the differences between composite, carbon fiber and graphite shafts?
Epoch: Actually, they are all the same. Any time you mix different materials together, it is technically considered “composite”. We like to use the term “carbon fiber” to separate ourselves from companies that use fiberglass as the dominating material in their shaft makeup. Carbon fiber is a far superior material in terms of strength to weight. We use fiberglass sparingly to help adjust the stiffness profile, or flex, of a shaft. If you look down the barrel of a shaft and see a lot of white, it means there is more fiberglass (less expensive) than carbon fiber and the quality has most likely been sacrificed for a lower price.
LPG: You guys are definitely known as a leader in carbon fiber shafts, but you also offer alloy. Can you touch on this?
Epoch: Epoch will offer 3 alloy shafts in our 2013 lineup. During the development process of our carbon fiber shafts, we realized we could make a traditional alloy shaft better than what was currently being offered in the marketplace. By improving the design, materials and manufacturing process, we were able to create a shaft that performed better when compared to other alloy shafts both in the lab and on the field. For these reasons, we decided to bring they alloy shafts to market. What consumers can expect to see from us this year, in our alloy line-up, is transparency in the materials that make up specific alloys which has never really been seen before in lacrosse. We think players and dealers will be very surprised by which elements are actually present in a shaft
versus what is being marketed. Take the element scandium for example, which today costs about $1,400 per 100 grams. A typical shaft weighs between 160-180 grams. Therefore, if a shaft were 100% scandium, it would cost about $2,240. So the question becomes, “how much scandium is really in a shaft marketed as scandium?”.
LPG: In your opinion, what do you think draws consumers to use your product over your competitors?
Epoch: We believe consumers are drawn to our brand for several reasons, but two in particular standout. First, we have pushed the boundaries of how a lacrosse shaft should perform. The lacrosse industry was ready for a brand to reinvent products that maximize performance and playability, and Epoch has done just that. We reinvented the lacrosse shaft one carbon fiber layer at a time!
Second, there is a honest and genuine quality we project that lacrosse players understand and are drawn to.
LPG: What emerging markets across the country, or internationally even, do you hope to make an impact in?
Epoch: Ironically, we launched the brand in the so-called emerging markets here in the United States. Our first 20-or-so dealers were based outside of the traditional east coast hot spots. Word quickly spread of our products across the country, and east coast dealers were quick to embrace the brand. We have several new dealers in all markets, including Japan, which we are proud to have join the Epoch family as we prepare to launch our 2013 product lineup.
LPG: As Epoch enters year two in the marketplace, what is in store for consumers?
Epoch: We have really pushed the boundaries on what is possible in a lacrosse shaft. Our engineers work extremely hard and we feel we have raised the bar even higher. We will put a stamp on the lacrosse community that if it’s a carbon fiber shaft you seek, Epoch is your only choice.
LPG: Any plans to expand beyond shafts?
Epoch: Absolutely! We are working in the development stages on several products. We teased the market with a potentially new uniform line this summer when we outfitted the Adrenaline Tropics. To be honest, we are really excited about our new head design currently in development. We continue to work with some of the top players in the game on our designs. Additionally, we have a very unique partner that has been instrumental in helping us understanding how the ball interacts with a the plastic and the pocket. Our goal is to have a prototype ready to test by year’s end. What we can tell you now is, it will be innovative without being gimmicky.
Questions from the fans…
David Miller: Are the 2013 Dragonfly’s going to be black or white or both?
Epoch: David, we will be offering both a black and white option of each of our 2013 Dragonfly Shafts. I hope you like this year’s cosmetic design – when we first saw the initial samples arrive, we were blown away!
@Baileylax5: What do you guys have ready to go on the market later this year? Will they be lighter?
Epoch: Without giving away too much before our official launch, I believe we have stretched the boundaries on what is possible as far as designing a shaft that is extremely light yet still be durable enough to provide a one year warranty! We pushed our engineers to create a shaft that is not only light, but one that “feels” right as well. We will be introducing two new cross sections to our 30″ Dragonfly lineup to give players the opportunity to find the proper “feel.” Oh, and yes, they are lighter than last year!
@Sambrochill613: How do your shafts compare to the STX Alliance line in terms of flexibility?
Epoch: Great question. We think STX has done a nice job with the Alliance lineup, but it is difficult to compare directly. What level of Flex do you prefer and why? With over 14 shafts in our lineup, we have the flexibility to offer several shafts with different types of “Flex.” Beginning with this year’s lineup, we will begin to reveal more about the actual technology that is built into our shafts. It is no secret that all shafts will “flex” when you shoot. We hope that with our 2013 lineup, we can show the lacrosse community exactly the type of performance an Epoch shaft can provide a player.
Thank you James and Epoch for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with us. We can’t wait for the launch of the 2013 lineup of shafts. Make sure you follow them at http://www.facebook.com/epochlax, @epochlax and Epochlacrosse.com. They’re going to have some exciting things coming up soon!
The NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Final Four took place in Foxborough, Massachusetts. After historic wins by Salisbury, Dowling, and Loyola, Epoch Lacrosse sits down to reminisce about how important this event has become to lacrosse fans and what it means to them to be a part of it.