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marksw 16th October 2007 08:36 PM

Change for changes sake? - Ola H.?
"I seriously don't think they would make better high wind freeriders than the current PA's though" OLA H. in a recent thread.

Hi Ola,

I was just catching up on some old posts and was thinking that a couple of manufacturers [Fanatic & Starboard] have kept 08 shapes same as 07 - PA's etc. AHD used to do this frequently.

Do you at last think certain board design is reaching a point of perhaps not even having to have a yearly range change?

I mean how do you make a better board than 06 PA's for high wind bump n' jump and 07 PA's for DLT wave board / high wind freeride. Global press certinaly agree.

If RRD had NOT changed 06 FSW's which I think are now overdesigned. Graphics aside.

Windsurfing is such a mature sport now certain kit design should be at that stage. Bring out a new PA when they are indeed better than the current ones - if you ever reach that point?
Construction advances aside - although Starboard have that sorted at the moment with sensible compromise between board durability and weight - unlike JP Pro editions.

In the past Starboard has been accused of releasing boards slightly experimental / before their time and letting the customers to take a hit [early Hypersonics and evos] - perhaps now they could stablisize certain designs? Rather than making change for changes sake?

I suppose this thread is only related to wave boards.

Your thoughts please?

Any changes on the 2009 PA's to report? :)

Ola_H 17th October 2007 04:54 AM

First, I'm not really regularly involved with testing and designing, so my thoughts on the subject is more my personal ones.

The first thing to note is that there are two issues at play here. One is deciding what the _designs objectives_ for a given board should be. Ie what stuff is it supposed to do good, for who, how should it feel, sail range etc. When this is decided the second issue comes into play and that is designing a board that fills the goals as good as possible. Sometimes in the design process you might get some surprising results and might have to go back and adjust your objectives (like with the EVO which from the beginning conceived as a "slow wave" board but ended up a great all round wave board).

If design objectives does not change from one year to another, then it up to the shapers and designers to build protos that have to prove themselves against the current board in being an even better match relative the design criteria. Often the protos are not better, or only so little better that it is not worth making a new model. This happened to many of the EVO models over the years (05-06 E70 and E74, 07-08 E62 and E80 fx) and also to the Pure Acids (07-08).

An example of a update to "do the same thing better" is the EVO 62 06-07/08. The 07/08 is clearly a more well rounded shape but it does the same things as the 06, only better. An even more extreme example would be the PA73 06 -> PA74 07. These boards are made to excel in the same conditions, but the shape concepts are pretty much totally different. A case where (I would say) the design objectives was altered a bit is EVO 06-07. The 07 was more oriented to perform well also in clean down the line stuff. Comparing 06 E74 with 07 E75, it is clear this was achieved. But for 08 is was decided to take it back to a more "onshore" focus (but keep as much of the of the line stuff as possible). This is an interesting example. Roughly, the 06 and 08 have the same design objectives, but the tack towards more down the line performance in 07 provided lots of learning experiences and hence I think the 08 version is better than it would have been of the same design objectives would have been kept 06 through 08.

But is the 08 EVO better than the 07? Well, this will depend on the sailor. Of course, it must have been thought that the 08 model would be a better board for the majority of sailors out there or else it would not have been put into production. Personally I also think the 08 boards are better for most people. But of course there can be som odd sailor out there who still prefers the 07. Similarly some may prefer the 06 PA73 over the 07/08 PA 74 (though I DEFINITELY like the 07/0 better). Some may like the 06 PA80 better than the 07 and so on. Generally, I think we do see some kind of objective improvement "in mean" but since taste is a so strong a factor in waves, it is very hard to guarantee improvement on an individual level.

09 PA? Isn't it still 07?

geo 17th October 2007 02:09 PM

The usual story.
It makes perfect sense by a sponsored athlete's, constantly in touch with the designers point of view; a huge lot less from a common sailor's one. In the first case, one is always perfectly aware of what is going on and what the changes are, plus he is often testing the boards even at proto stage. In the second case, testing (and comparing side by side) is not common, one can only read the marketing bull**** and the result is very often just confusion and mistakes.
The idea of making adjustments to the focus of the boards year by year is to my eyes totally crazy. As for Starboard case: you have Evos, PAs and Kombats: what need to adjust "design objectives"? Just decide them once and for all and let know exactly what each lineup is good for! Isn't three enough?
By the way, I was reading a post where you Ola were comparing in detail the differences in possible two boards quivers of Evo models from '06, '07 and '08. This was the only way for me to discover that my decision to keep my '06 83 was right because the XTV80 has less light wind range. Luckily I didn't change.

Ola_H 17th October 2007 03:11 PM

Well, I think it would be crazy not to "adjust the goal" (ie design objectices) now and then. Shapers learn stuff and in fact, windsurfing as a sport changes. If I go down and look at a beach in Sweden now, many, many people really try to wave _ride_ despite our often shitty onshore conditions. 15 years ago almost everybody only did some backside riding and concentrated on jumping. If design objectives of wave boards should have stayed the same I don't think there would even be a production wave board market anymore as everybody would have gone for customs. So over time, also production board design objective has to change.

And in almost all cases, the design objective changes (as I interpret them from "semi outside") only changes very, very little from year to year. In fact, the EVO 06 and 07 are still more similar than either of them is to ANY other board so it is really marginal in the big picture. The "general" design objective for each board stay the same, it is more in the details things chnge. And the EVO 80 from 07/08 is in my opinion a great success and one of the best EVOs made (and for me it actually has a bigger wind range since I can still fit my big wave sail on it but now are more comfy on smaller sails too). In fact, even if you go back to the original EVO presentation in 2004 ( ) the 07/08 EVO 80 might be the board that fit that criteria best of all boards so far. If anything it was the 2006 EVO 83 that was a bit "different".

Kombats are also interesting examples. If Starboard would have kept the same design objectives as for the first incarnation, they would definitely not be as good as they are today.

So getting back to were I started, there has to be some experimentation for the industry to move forwards. Producing good production boards is not only about deciding-shaping-testing. Some things can only be learned by listening to real customers and see how certain boards fair on the market and that knowledge is an important part of the design process too.

But a good point, geo, is that one should never change just for the sake of changing. With the internet and everything, is actually not so difficult to get good and rather specific info on how the new boards work.

geo 17th October 2007 06:24 PM

Hm. Good points. But I don't perfectly align myself yet.
"Evolving" design objectives is one thing, changing them another. New objectives can be wider than older ones and encompass them because shaping evolutions make this possible; but changes just make things more difficult for buyers. It might be a matter of terminology, but every now and then I see people asking "I'm xx kg. and want a wave boards for xx conditions, xx to xx sail size, which one I buy, E, PA or K?", just like I did some times ago, meaning to me that it is not everything perfect.

Your point about the '06 Evo 83 is probably good at your weight: to me that board is just about as small as I can go and still have a board of some use, any lesser (light) wind range would make it almost useless. And I'm about 84 kg., not an hulk. Actually it lets me use 5.0 to 5.8 sails with ease, which to me means having a one board quiver; but just try to stretch it one way or the other and...

What I really don't like is the usual marketing thing, make a new model and make it obsolete after one year. I hate that. Maybe it is just part of how the industry works, a needed ingredient in the recipe of a successful manufacturer as it boosts sales somehow, making it possible to go on selling lots of nice boards at a decent price; but it is where customers' and manufacturers' interests are conflicting too. I may have my 83, feel it is perfect for me, will never use it any near the limits SMcK pushed it to, and see it is substituted by a new model that is "different" rather than "better" and that simply can not take the place of it... so I have an obsolete board, and hope it will not need replacement, just because the manufacturer decided so. No. I don't like it. By the way, I am waiting for a new slalom board '08 model that was just very very slightly changed after two full years production of previous '06-'07 model, which by the way is undistinguishable from the new one at sight unless by actually measuring it. One of the reasons I choose it is that in the meantime Starboard has proposed, for about the same wind range (6.3 to 7.0 sail size), S95, iS105, iS101 '07, iS94, iS101 '08 and iS96. Call that evolution, and hope Starboard is happy with it...

Ola_H 17th October 2007 07:41 PM

Good point, but I think Starboard in general and the forum team in particular always tries to point out that the "old board" is certainly not going to be obsolete just because a new one comes out. In fact, I think this is more than anything in the heads of "regular sailors" and prospective buyers, and I would even go as far as saying the less "aquatinted" you are with the boards (ie the further away you are from owning one) the more important it will seem to get the absolute latest model. I think this is in one part marketing, but in another part the fact that if you're gonna plunge down the money and get a new board - something you maybe never did before - you're very worried about getting the latest and greatest.

Marketing is kind of hard to aviod these days, but I really think we try to build value so that old boards will not feel more obsolete than necessary. When a new concept like the Futura comes around it's more difficult, but in most cases the old boards keep their value rather well (value in terms of that a sailor using them will not feel they are to much dated by newer models).

As for the difficulty in knowing what wave board to buy, I think the three lines, or at least EVO vs PA/K (P and K are very similar) are actually as far apart as you can imagine two wave boards to be when it comes to feel and style. I think the marketing describes them rather well (within a limited space). The problem is usually that it takes some "talking through" before the sailor realize what they want. If you look at most of my posts, they are a lot about lifting certain aspects of the boards performance an comparing them. This is a "trick" to make the sailor think about what he values in a board (rather than just what conditions one sails). So in a way, it s more about educating the customer to make his own choices in an informed way. Often this pans out rather well, look for example at this long thread at the hot sails maui forum to se what I mean ( ). The person that asked the original question had done a good deal of analyzing himself, but in the end, I think, got a better way of organizing his thoughts around how boards work and what he wants from them.

As for the E83, yes, weight will matter, but I would still say that the 07/08 E80 offers more to more people. Its a better wave riding board with more "rounded" performance on a wave because it improves a lot on the achilles heel of the EVOs (top turn at speed) without sacrificing much in other departments. There are plenty of sailors your weight that loves it as s single board. But I liked the 83 too, and when it came I thought this was the future of the EVO concept. But things went a slightly different way. It certainly would be interesting to develop the E83 concept (more concave, less rocker) but there is only so much time in the world.

geo 17th October 2007 08:25 PM

I meant "commercially" obsolete. Graphics changes put the accent on that.

Ola_H 17th October 2007 08:35 PM

OK. But even graphically, EVO was extremely conservative with changes for may years. I don't think it's that over the top with a new color after 3 years. And now 08 is very similar to 07 again. I think you agree that without any changes, it would get boring after a while. Personally, I'm not much of a graphics man - newer was, but many people do think its important - or at least an extra bonus - with good looks.

A ski brand I used for a few years changed graphics the years when the design was not changed but kept the graphics the years the design was changed. Interesting concept.

geo 17th October 2007 09:58 PM

I appreciate Starboard conservative approach to graphics, expecially in recent times; I like that much better than what they do at RRD, for instance. I agree that graphics could be appealing to some, and I personally used to know a guy that changed and choose boards just because of graphics. Nevertheless I still think that yearly graphic changes underlining model changes, be it substantial or just graphics, isn't any good for the customers. Personally, I best like boards with plain white coat, or single colour; and plain simple graphics. But that is just personal.

steveC 18th October 2007 02:10 AM

The subject of this thread is really quite interesting. From my perspective, one of the most notable take on the production windsurfing industry today is that it has actually taken on the character and flux of the "custom" side of the spectrum.

In the old days when boards were produced from expensive molds, the opportunity for change was heavily restricted because a company was obligated to hang tough to cover relatively large up front costs for design and manufacture of tooling. To reap the thrust of progressive design changes at that time, folks really needed to focus on the custom side of the industry. In addition to realizing the latest designs, the custom builders also provided the opportunity to get into some wild and striking graphic statements too.

Now that the production side of the industry has matured in the direction using methods more like "custom" manufacturers, the opportunities to change and evolve designs, to include flamboyant graphics, has reached a dizzyingly level. Really, with respect to graphics, the production industry has reached a level that arguably exceeds that of the custom industry, since complex custom graphics are so time intensive and costly to produce.

However, with all the benefits of virtual "custom" manufacturing, the production industry has created an almost fashion approach to style and design, such that last year's trends are seemingly outmoded next to the current new releases. When you stop and consider it, the actual worth of last year's designs is significantly less, even if the product is brand new. Of course, that's great for some that can rationalize investing in an "old" design (I have to smile a bit when I say that).

Much of this fast pace fashion thing is artificial and simply marketing induced, it's interesting to stand back and think a bit more about the viewpoints highlighted by marksw and geo here. Maybe a slower more deliberate pace of things makes sense from both the customer's and the industry's perspective. Rapid change has its cost. Frankly, I think much of the cost of fashion and changing designs might be better invested in construction innovations that influence longer product life.

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