[part title=”Eco boards and decreasing ranges?”]
9. With the increasing cost of materials, are board constructions still improving, or is it just a case of keeping costs at bay these days? What new materials are we likely to see in the future?
Seb W - Yes, board construction can still be improved. At Fanatic we employ a full time product manager to constantly follow up on new materials and processes. It is not only about the lightest and strongest tech, but also about finding smart ways on how to make it and use alternative material, for example cork. All of this is part of the theme of our Ocean Mind campaign, where we try to find better ways of making a board, with less environmental impact. Regarding new materials – we are constantly sourcing new stuff, for example, our Oxeon Textreme – it was Fanatic that introduced that material to windsurf boards. We will continue to find new materials that make better boards.
Keith T - We have had a good construction for many years. The main thing now is just improving the weight to strength ratio within the materials we have, and then introducing more green materials (where we can) that doesn’t affect the pricing too much. I am always looking for new materials and testing them when I can. I think our industry is pretty small, so new lighter materials are out there but, like you said, the cost effectiveness of these materials is always the issue.
At Quatro we have just purchased a shaping machine with a hotwire integrated into the machine, so I am excited, because this will allow us to create some more ‘specific location strong’ boards with different flex patterns. I’ll get into this more when we are doing it, but I have some pretty interesting ideas.
Tiesda - Board construction techniques have been, and will keep improving: lighter, stronger or less expensive, or a combination of the above. Our new iSonic Reflex Carbon boards feel incredible. They mix carbon fibre directions in new ways that I don’t think anyone has ever done before. We have some really exciting things in our pipeline that we’re developing exclusively too… there are many new constructions that are still possible. Board construction will certainly keep improving.
Material price increases: it’s a myth to think that material prices are to blame for increasing board prices. Unlike other larger industries, we have only one factory in Thailand, so we can’t move production around to offset currency fluctuations. Look at the trend between the Pound/Euro and the Thai Baht, and it’s plain to see that the weaker Pound/Euro is what has made boards 15-25% more expensive.
Cisco G - Yes, everything will always keep on improving, that is our human nature. Gear just keeps getting lighter and more durable year after year. Better designs require simpler layups.
As an example, windsurfing centres like Maui Windsurf Company used to have to renew their gear every season. Now, they turn their gear every 2 years, their repair bill is 1/10th of what it used to be, and they get a better return when it gets sold after. This is also more ecological.
Werner G – We are always improving our products. Of course, we keep in mind to keep costs at bay, but we try to offer the best possible construction with minimum weight for each price point. The key is to use certain materials where they make sense not waste them. We are working with all known composite materials. They are all known from Formula 1 and yachting. At this stage no new magical material is on the horizon. We still have potential working with existing high tech materials.
Ola H – Within the mainstream (eps sandwich) building paradigm there is always room for small improvements but not a great deal. I think the most important thing is actually the quality of the production process to ensure that each single board is built like intended. I would love to see some new ideas though, in particular more environmentally friendly ones. What we can do already with the current technique is to keep working on strength and repairability, as well as shapes that don’t get too old too fast. Then each board will have a longer life.
10. One of the biggest improvements we have seen over the past 5 years is the increase in range that boards are offering. E.g: Freewave boards that can now turn nearly as well as wave boards, but still have great speed and wave boards that can be used through much bigger wind ranges. With this in mind, why are we not really seeing a decrease in the number of models offered by the brands?
Seb W - Well, if you look at it, I think Fanatic is the brand with the cleanest range. It has been always our goal to keep the range compact. I think one FreeWave range and two pure Wave ranges is an excellent range, which offers a board for every condition and level of sailing. If you check out the shapes in detail, you will find quite some differences in the shape details.
Keith T - I think this is a great point and something we struggle with every year. We want to reduce our line and make it simpler for a customer to choose. I do feel our line is pretty simple and is a reflection of what we believe in. Our range goes from a simple freewave design, to fast thruster, to a side shore thruster, to the all around quad, to a fast easy twin. I think that any of these boards have a real world connection to the consumer and to what we believe as a brand. You could go anywhere in the world and choose a volume and condition-appropriate board and have a great time.
Tiesda - This is subjective and we don’t necessarily agree with Boards’ assumption. So the fact that the market has not asked for fewer models from manufacturers would actually prove us more right than wrong. Boards are getting better; they cover a wider wind range, a wider range of conditions and rider weight. But a slalom board did not get better at bottom turning, and a wave board did not get better at freestyling. We haven’t worked in that direction. Our philosophy is to make really good boards that are the best at what they do. A jack-of-all-trades is a jack-of-all-trades.
Cisco G - With Goya that is exactly what our goal is, simplify our sport, bringing more into less; we believe good design offers more solutions. Our Custom Quad Series can be used as a Twin as well, and the ONE Freewave Series Thruster can also be use as a single fin, and any of these boards can be used by a heavier rider in a lake – or by a smaller one at Ho’okipa. The only thing different will be the size they will choose.
Werner G - We always try to widen the range of use and as you mentioned we achieve that. We still need to offer various models for the good riders who look for something special. If you live at a spot and you only hit the water once the conditions are right, you want the perfect board for that, and it has to be in line with your body weight. The weight issue already asks for quite a few sizes. There are lots of customers out there who are super happy with a Freestyle-Wave board or even a Single Thruster, but even so, the numbers are small. The specialised riders want something special and we need to cover all aspects. Unfortunately (or luckily), there are lots of various conditions out there we have to cater for.
Ola H - It’s easy to get away with one wave board for pretty much all sailing these days so the range of most boards really impress. Basically, all four of our wave designs can perform on any wave in the world as well as cover a typical wave sail quiver. But the difference in style and feel is still as big as ever, or actually bigger than ever. The sweet spot of every board can also be quite different and to really get the biggest range out of one board it’s important that the sweet spot of the board coincides with the preferences of the sailor. Our customers seems to have quite an easy time choosing between our boards. Find one that kind of coincides with your identity as a sailor and that will typically play out well. Then, like with fins, you can of course spend as much time as you like contemplating over board choice if you like to… but that’s more like a hobby in itself just like in so many gear intensive sports.