Did an Israeli sky diver invent summer’s new big thing?
A trip to almost any beach this summer shows that clunky beach umbrellas have made way for the lighter, less-likely-to-fly-way sunshade. An Israeli company founded by a former skydiver takes credit for pioneering the product, variations of which dot the sands from Eilat to Malibu.
In 2011 Ilan Elmaleh launched the Otentik sunshade, a play on the Hebrew words for tent, ohel, and bag, tik, to sound like “authentic.”
The company is headquartered in the central Israeli town of Beit Yanai, and makes the Otentik from a stretch of material supported by extendable poles that are secured in the sand with sand or rocks. It’s hardly the only sunshade on the market — other brands include Botindo and Sun Ninja, which sells an eight-person shelter.
But Elmaleh said he was the first to hit upon a design for this next generation of sun protection.
He said he got the idea when a strong wind blew away his tarp shelter while camping at the beach, and a. He also worked as an event planner, and was tired of watching strong winds blow down tents he set up. So he created a tent that flowed similarly to a parachute, moving with the wind instead of against it.
“Without thinking, I took plastic bags and filled them with sand and tied them to the tarp,” he said in an interview. “When we got home, I Googled the idea of sandbags and saw that in 1936 someone wrote about it. I looked for something similar on the market and when I couldn’t find anything, I set to work on the patent.”
The Otentik weighs about 4 lbs. Touting its weight, the product website promises “No More Shlepping.”
Elmaleh — and his competitors — also promote their sunshades as protection from the UV rays that put beachgoers at risk for skin cancer and eye damage. Otentik says their sunshades provide a UV protection factor of 50+.
Retailing between $89 and $169, the tents provide shade for three to seven people, depending on the model.A first-time inventor, the Ashdod born Elmaleh spent two years on the design before releasing it. He told Israel21C a that the key design element was a lightweight Italian swimsuit material, resistant to elements like chlorine and sand, nimbly stretched over the top of flexible poles. The tents are manufactured in the Druze village of Peki’in located in Israel’s Northern District.
“To say this is an Israeli product gives me a great sense of pride,” Elmaleh said.