A new player in the mobile meeting app market is When Vans, the southern California sneaker company, went looking for a off-site teambuilding program for six of its art directors, it ended up on the opposite side of the country for a hands-on experience in craftsmanship, design, and working together. In the small coastal town of York, Maine, the group spent three chilly days in February 2012 building surfboards with the experts at Grain Surfboards, a company known for its hand-crafted boards made out of locally grown cedar.

“The goal was to get off the computer and far away from it, to get the team working together without the distractions of popular culture and the commercial world,” says Tait Hawes, managing art director at Vans. “The trips are ‘thank-you's' for the hard work, but also a time to re-center and find inspiration from outside of the SoCal bubble and the action sports industry.”

Hawes, who grew up in York, had heard about the Grain surfboard factory from friends and family and knew Grain founder Michael LaVecchia from a previous era when both worked in Vermont. “I'm always looking for inspiration trips that are outside the normal definition of what is needed for teambuilding,” he says. Case in point: On an earlier trip, he took his team to Marfa, Texas, an art mecca in the Chihuahua Desert.

The Vans event was a first for Grain. At its rural headquarters about 30 minutes south of Portland, Maine, the company frequently holds surfboard-building workshops for the public, but had never done a corporate event. Since then, however, it has hosted a sales retreat/workshop for the epoxy manufacturer it works with, and LaVecchia says he’d like to do more. Of course, it has to be the right fit—surfboard building isn’t an activity you can fit into an afternoon. The group needs to be small (a maximum of 10), willing to dedicate at least three days to the project, and, if you pick a winter date, have a hearty disposition. “I think a few would have preferred it to be a little warmer, but in my mind it added to the whole ‘Grain in Maine’ experience,” Hawes says. “There are no seasons is SoCal! It’s still being talked about nine months later.”

LaVecchia notes that the company is equipped to take its board workshops on the road. All he needs is power, light, and at least 1,000 square feet of space. Grain provides the tools (most are hand tools) and uses low-VOC epoxy.