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25th May 2007 05:06 PM
RE: 2008 isonic's


I know that you all at Starboard have very good reasons to support the brand's decisions. if not else, it was you that made and took the decisions! But from my point of view, things are a bit different.
I am absolutely certain that the '07 PA are better wave boards than '06, even if I never tried one. Was the balance between changes for better (dedicated wave) and for worse (less "universal" use) worth the damage done by making some (few, many...) users of previous models a bit (little, much...) upset? Of course Starboard is the most successful brand in the industry and knows the answer better than me; but I do know my answer better than Starboard!

When I bought my new two boards in '06 season, Starboard was an obvious, safe, sure bet after years of not taking care of boards evolution: my last buys were from '99, plus the HS in '03 and this last experience taught me that new designs might bring nasty surprises. Big brand, serious boards tested by dedicated riders; I choose a rather classic, race proven slalom design, and a re-volutionary, but already tested and acclaimed, wave design: no way to go wrong. Next year probably I will buy something new again, and this time I will know much better what I want. So I will be able to choose taking into account other items, such as weight, obsolescence, design quality (again, to me changing models yearly is an indicator of models needing yearly amendements; while unchanged models indicate clever successful design; there is absolutely nothing new this year that was unknown one year ago), graphics... maybe it will be Starboard again.

After all it is a matter of phylosophy and I have mine. Please take into account that me is just one very weird customer. Most want hot new graphics and something new to talk about. Sure.
25th May 2007 02:55 PM
RE: 2008 isonic's

I don't think the PA80 is an example of moving aimlessly. There was a clear wish from team sailors and testers for slightly turnier board and I think not many people would prefer the 06 over the 07 in waves. But the Pure Acids are also good boards from high wind blasting freeriding and in this setting some may prefer the 06. But no doubt, the PA series is first and foremost wave boards. And the 07 versions also double as freeriders in GREAT way and I even think you would have to be a very "dedicated blaster" to appreciete the difference between the 06 and 07 in this setting.
25th May 2007 02:31 PM
RE: 2008 isonic's


I am not advocating standing still! Only, I am saying not to pretend to show you are moving even in the case you actually are almost standing still... you risk to move aimlessly (PA80; but I guess it is not alone at all).
I do appreciate Starboard's reduced graphics changes year to year, indicating continuity in each board line; nevertheless, if Starboard was giving us a "full white" option, or something like the Fanatic "pro edition", I'd be even happier.
Most important of all: of course the Starboard staff knows better than anyone else how to successfully manage business in our sport! I just say that I guess I am not alone and probably not everybody is much happy with models changing at a yearly rate. You can go on with yearly "progress", be it really necessary to keep up or maybe a fake to induce more sales; at the same time, on the other side, customers receive damage from programmed obsolescence and this may have a cost. Just mind such cost doesn't get higher than the benefits you can gather. You always know exactly how many boards you sell; but you will never know how many you don't.
25th May 2007 06:29 AM
Ian Fox
RE: 2008 isonic's

Hi Geo,

Well known adage "if you're standing still, you're going backwards".

It's a complex discussion, with many valid perspectives, and in the end the result is more like water finding an overall level than just in one corner...

Our history - and commitment - of NOT introducing a new model on every version, every year across our range is well documented. (Carve 99, old now but probably the best ever example - at the time a major market leader). Within reason, we make only moderate graphic or color changes within models year to year (iSonic, classic example).
Finding the balance between retained ownership value (or perceived value) in aging models and yet satisfying new model customers with a new look is a very difficult - but measured -decision.

One major factor is we release new boards so customers may choose to buy them if they wish.
No one is compelled or required to buy anything or upgrade if they do not want to.
On average use (note : average) a board will last an average user 2-3 seasons,
so (on average) no mechanical reason to upgrade every year.

[Yes, I also understand the point that you - or me - may really prefer a shape from earlier years (PA80), but when the time comes to replace, that exact version is not in production any longer.
That is in itself potentially not good, but also the same in just about all aspects of life.]

And I (maybe surprisingly) share the "familiarity" complex ; that is, one often naturally feels more "at home" on what they are used to, what had previously been determined through much careful analysis and lots of trial & error to by the "favorite" or "best ever". Like a lot of people, change for change sake alone does not seem so attractive.
~ Many examples exist of being well in tune with "older" equipment being a more competitive solution than one being unfamiliar (and un-tuned) on new, more competitive equipment. However, in time the familiarity with the new equipment kicks in, the overall performance rises to an even higher level. Of course, one can always argue an exception.

We are, at this moment, in the grip of "slalom fever" worldwide in our sport. Demand for the products is high, and whether one manufacturer freezes design or not, the overall (not one manufacturer) worldwide race for development goes on overall. And like water finding its level, the market will see/feel/witness the progress. We (in Starboard) certainly can't stop that, even if we wanted or tried to.

Competition improves the breed.

And not just on the racecourse. Inside our development, old boards compete with newer designs and concepts. Sometimes they win and go forward, only when the advance is fully verified. Often - very often - we do not see a worthwhile overall improvement, and often a new design does not go forward. And that is only at development level, not public view, or retail level. Our yards and garages are filled with rejected expensive custom one-off protos that never ended up progressing. We chop, we cut, we grind like never before. Like Edison, a lot can still be learnt from what doesn't work. In FW alone, for one upgrade of a single size/model, I stopped counting at 18 (!) protos in one year cycle. Our ability to improve is ultimately judged in public - if we send forward a worse design than previous, harsh and open criticism will be our reward and a commercial success is unlikely to follow. Alternately, if we get it right, the water flows more in our direction and the effort/investment/commitment (business as well as mental) pays dividend.

It is a competitive market and customers choose as they wish.

We choose to make our chance at success by leading, rather than following.

Cheers ~ Ian

Agree, the F1 example is extreme, but to easily show the point.
KP, A2 and the rest race almost exclusively on ISAF registered series production boards. It is the same design you- or anyone- can buy at the local surfshop, unlike your Ferrari dealer. So in windsurf, the customer is closer to the real thing than automotive. But if we ask Kevin or Antoine to race last years designs next year, the reaction will be just like Kimi.

Your Sonic 95 choice was based on it being a stabilised, mature, evolved design - some 3 (public) generations old. This August, we will present the 3rd (public) generation of iSonics. No, there won't be any radical changes. Yes, there will be a mature, honed evolution.
And in the end, the choice is with the individual.
We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
25th May 2007 03:33 AM
RE: 2008 isonic's

I would add to steveC's reasoning the fact that customers' attitude is somewhat induced by manufacturers via the way they communicate. As an instance, ever changing graphics and colours (as opposed to i. e. plain white with logos) induce to make changes noticeable even if reduced to new graphics themselves and accelerate obsolescence. Personally I grew tired of this since long now, and I very much appreciate manufacturers that tend to make little yearly changes if any and that use simple graphics keeping them over time. After all, one point that made me choose my Sonic 95 was the fact that it was a third year slight modification of a board that was on the market from two years already, proving that the design was good.
25th May 2007 01:06 AM
RE: 2008 isonic's

What is the expected life of a state of the art production board? Really, an interesting question to consider. From my personal point of view, it would have to be substantial, but I often wonder what other folks expect. I have to believe that the construction integrity of today's products are fairly robust overall, because I don't think that customers would tolerate a product that self destructed in one to two years. As a result, I think the potential for an extended product life is there.

As Ian has pointed out above, I have to think that it's an absolute given that brand designers are highly incentivized to keep the crank turning, especially in a seasonal sport like windsurfing. There's a lot of competition out there, and a company's primary strategic goals must include standing out in the crowd, attracting paying customers and ultimately increasing market share. One can expect that yearly changes will run the spectrum from evolving concept designs, construction improvements/enhancements and presentation graphics.

But, is change always indicative of an ever increasing series of better products? Of course, a very arguable point. Yet, assuming that a customer buys a product that's outstanding in every way, how long does the satisfaction and interest last? In my opinion, I think that its crucial that a customer be happy and proud of their chosen product, even after newer more fashionable products are released over the years. Still, I often wonder if this is true for the majority of folks out there, particularly in such a fast paced environment the places newness above more practical concerns.

25th May 2007 01:01 AM
RE: 2008 isonic's

I think Starboard is not changing unless it, in some given perspective, is necessary. Every year there are a boards that are not changed simply because no protos tested significantly better than current models.

But it is still a fact that for slalom and racing, the margins are smaller. In the PWA slalom 42 format the racers have to use standard equipment and for these sailors, winning is everything. I would rather say its a challange to design the stuff to have world cup winning speed and still be easy for the general public to use. Both S-types and iSonics are proven success stories when it comes to this.
24th May 2007 11:58 PM
RE: 2008 isonic's


sorry I forgot to mention. 100% of F1 cars are purpose built for racing in the hands of F1 drivers and absolutely none of them is going to be used by the general public. While almost 100% of production boards are used by the general public, few of them by racers and very very few by top notch racers that can be compared to the equivalent of F1 drivers.
New models are OK, but please don't ask me to believe that changing everything every year is necessary. I guess that if yourself were asked to choose between an '06 PA 80 and a '07 PA80...
24th May 2007 06:35 PM
RE: 2008 isonic's

If there were changes they would be on ISAF if going by last few years.
24th May 2007 06:33 PM
RE: 2008 isonic's

Hi Ian,

of course, it was a boutade... I will wait and check everything. I am rather satisfied with Starboard boards right now. CA are interesting nevertheless, and their lineup changed just now since when I bought my Sonic in February 2006, which is something I appreciate.
As for the new model frenzy, I understand you hold your point, but I still do not agree. F1 racing cars are really leading edge tech, every new advancements are immediately used there, just think about the effects of advanced metallurgy on the combustion chambers temperatures, or new electronics on motor and body management. Nothing like that in windsurfing: aerodynamics, hydrodynamics and plastic composites are the same since years or decades. There is some change coming from the customers' ability or will to purchase more expensive stuff, that led us from PE and ASA to carbon sandwich; but by sure no need for yearly change because of any breakthrough innovation or even incremental advancement in science or technology.
Materials manufacturers would like us to believe this all is necessary; but at least some of us would prefer slower obsolescence, even if the trade off was some slight barely sensible performance enhancement. I regard almost every "advancement" as an amendment of previous models in reality.
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