There are few places in the world more hazardous for umbrellas than the Netherlands, a country under constant assault by stiff winds and pelting rain.

Like many Dutch natives, Gerwin Hoogendoorn had grown accustomed to replacing broken umbrellas after storms.

But after losing three umbrellas in a week Hoogendoorn, then a master’s degree candidate studying industrial design and engineering, decided he’d had enough.

“After doing some research I discovered 1.1 billion umbrellas are thrown away each year – the equivalent weight of 70,000 elephants,” said Hoogendoorn, 38. “I was fed up and I decided I had to solve this problem.”

With little more than some glue and his grandmother’s sewing machine, an early prototype of the Senz umbrella was born. Capable of withstanding gusts up to 70 mph, according to the company, the aerodynamic umbrella is designed to stabilize in high winds instead of crumpling.

Nine days after going on sale in October 2006, Hoogendoorn and two partners who brought the device to market had already sold 10,000 umbrellas, running out of stock completely.

Now Hoogendoorn’s “stormproof” umbrella has become a regular sight on Dutch streets.

Hoogendoorn designed the Senz to redirect the wind, allowing the umbrella to float on the strong gust like a kite. He also removed hinges from his design and replaced them with sturdy ribbing that’s nearly impossible to turn inside out.

“Like a windsurfer,” Hoogendoorn says, “the idea is to use the wind to your advantage.”

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