GoPro: How Tiny Camera Reinvented Epic Adrenaline Junkie Moments

Credit: GoPro

Even if you've never heard of GoPro, you've definitely seen the footage it captures of extreme snowboarding shreds, death-defying leaps and epic wipeouts from impossible angles.

"It continues to blow our minds that GoPro is what it is today," said company founder Nick Woodman.

For Woodman, the journey from guppy to Goliath in the camera world began on a surfboard in 2002.

"The original goal for GoPro was to produce a camera that the average surfer could use to capture themselves and their friends while they were surfing."

And now, eight years after rolling out their first finicky prototype - - a wrist-mounted 28 mm film camera - Woodman took "Nightline" on a four-day research and development road trip to the shores of Nicaragua, a surfer's paradise. They are beta testing their newest camera, the HD Hero3, which was released last month. Some of Woodman's old surfing buddies are now the company's top officers.

GoPro claims to be the world's best-selling small camera maker, with over three million GoPro HD cameras sold since 2009. It is success that could arguably be credited to the hordes of bruised and unpaid stuntmen out there, trying to live up to the product's name: Hero.

Original GoPro. Credit: GoPro

The vast majority of GoPro videos out there - with over 190 million views on the GroPro's Youtube page - are user generated.

"YouTube has helped make GoPro what it is today, Facebook also," Woodman said. "Our customers going out and capturing interesting footage with it is really what's driving GoPro's growth. It's a virally grown brand in the hands of our customers and it's awesome."

Since 2009, the company has grown from seven employees to nearly 300, and signed some the country's most famous athletes, including Olympic gold medalist snowboarder Shawn White and world surfing champion Kelly Slater. But the camera, which costs up to $400, has become much more than a gizmo for the self-admiring surfer.

"GoPro makes it possible for people to have professional-quality footage of their life during their life's most meaningful moments," Woodman said.

The versatile camera has even become part of the essential kit of journalists covering a wide range of breaking news events, from oil spills to catfish hunts to lightning strikes. It is also good for experimenting with one of GoPro's latest innovations, the follow-cam waist belt, in the Nicaraguan surf.