Innovators of Vaping: 7th Floor
7th floor proudly states their mission objective on their website: build the best vapes in the world. Perhaps this is why they chose to name their original vaporizer after Marvel Comics’ powerful cosmic hero, the Silver Surfer. For those of you who don’t know, the character of Silver Surfer was once a man who chose to become the servant of an interstellar god in order to save his planet. Despite being given futuristic abilities, he still retained his human spirit. Likewise, the people behind the Silver Surfer vaporizer are artists who simultaneously stand at the technological cutting edge of vaping.
Steve Kelnhofer, founder of 7th floor, got an idea in 2002 to make a high-end wand-style vaporizer. For desktop vaporizers, the wand is the glass piece that connects the vaporizer to the tube (often called a “whip”) that is used for inhaling. The wand also holds the dry herbs or tobacco while in use. At the time, the best vaporizers on the market used bags that had to be changed and were not always the most convenient to inhale from. Wand-style vaporizers, on the other hand, were often prone to breaking down due to being made of cheap materials. They also generally required users to turn the herb bowl upside down, which risks spilling the contents. Kelnhofer wanted to combine the best of both worlds with a comfortable whip construction for inhaling and a reliable ceramic heating system. Unlike most of its competitors, the wand, heating knob and heater cover of the Silver Surfer are made of ground glass. Kelnhofer taught himself and his crew how to blow glass in order to ensure the best quality. 7th Floor’s glassblowers individualize their Silver Surfers by giving each a custom colored-glass knob.
With an interior construction that emphasized clean flavor and efficient heating, 7th floor now needed housing for their vaporizer. The iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa design wasn’t just for style; this angle kept herbs from falling out of the wand while in use. After that, 7th floor went with an inexpensive aluminum cover (which was also good at resisting scratches) for the Silver Surfer’s housing and thus created their most famous vape, which was released in 2004. Many of these features (the aluminum cover and glass-on-glass construction specifically) were carried over for 7th Floor’s more affordable vaporizer; Da Buddha.
Unlike many vape companies that gain recognition through hip-hop sponsors and lavish parties, 7th Floor has has been building underground support for years due to their artistic style and the longevity of their products. That doesn’t mean they haven’t gotten a little recognition from Hollywood: in an interview with the Colorado Springs Independent in 2015, Kelnhofer tells a story about how his creation rubbed elbows with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars:
“One of Kelnhofer's customers, the tale goes, picked up actor Woody Harrelson on the side of the road and brought him home to smoke from his Surfer. Harrelson was so taken with the Surfer that he insisted they meet with Willie Nelson, his longtime poker buddy, for a smoking session. The customer bought Harrelson and Nelson each their own vaporizer, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Kelnhofer goes on to say that Nelson has since bought 46 Silver Surfers for his friends, family and acquaintances. The Surfer has also appeared in the smoker comedy Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. Kelnhofer is often said to have childlike excitement for his vaporizers and it’s easy to see why: Kelnhofer began the 2000s as an out of work electrician and he’s now the founder of one of the world’s most popular vaporizer companies. Good job, Steve.