For Tiesda: Growing strategy for windsurfing market
This email is addressed to Tiesda You and I hope it will reach him via this forum. It is not the typical technical request about boards and materials so I hope he will not mind and, above all, he will not get bored reading it!
I am Luca, 36 years old, amateur windsurfer since 1985 and working in a multinational in business development and strategy. I have read an article on “Windsurf Italia” where the rider Fabio Calo` was presenting an analysis made by Tiesda about a possible growing strategy for the windsurfing market. Both he windsurfer and the business man inside me have read it with great interest.
The article was showing examples from other markets like the circus and the wine and making some comparison with the windsurf.
Main conclusions was that the strategy to grow the windsurfing market could be to achieve “Social, convenient and easy windsurfing for everyone” . This vision could be achieved by increasing “Family and friends”, reducing “Complications and problems” and eliminating “inactive riders”.
A great article and analysis: if I may I would like to ask few questions and add my opinion to it.
The first question I have is about the integration of the windsurfing products. It looks to me that windsurfing companies producing boards, sails, fins and so on are mainly vertically integrated: they specialize in their own type of product (again the board, the rig, the fin, the wetsuit and so on) and they do not look much at the integration with the other “hardware” required to practice our sport. I know that for example Starboard is cooperating with Severne, JP with NP and so on but I do not see any real strategy to try and integrate the products in a more “horizontal” way with the goal of increasing synergies, reducing costs (manufacturing, transport and so on) and maybe offering a better product to the clients. Is my impression correct? I have seen RRD is now producing both boards and rigs: can this create a competitive advantage and allow a better management of the costs and of the products in the market?
The second question/observation is about how to achieve Tiesda`s vision of “Social, convenient and easy windsurfing for everyone”.
The producers as I said above are very specialized in producing “windsurfing hardware” but in my opinion they are very little focused on the client and on his own “experience”. What I mean is that a windsurfer is not looking for a board or a sail: he is looking for an “experience” of fun and relax during his free time.
My question is: could the producers convert themselves from suppliers of just hardware to “suppliers of experience”? Could they create a much stronger cooperation with surf centers, riders (they cannot be just an unproductive cost!), shops, distributors and so on to make the windsurf more accessible to the man (or the woman, or the kid) on the beach? Could they maybe reach millions of new potential windsurfers by starting new partnerships with hotels, airlines and so on?
Out there are millions of people who may know what a windsurf is but they never tried one: how could we make it more accessible and to them and bring them to “the experience”? Can we bring all these people to the windsurf rather than wait for them to try it or for someone else to introduce them to our world?
In this respect I have seen you have organized the “windsurfing day” last August which is a great initiative but I was thinking of a more structured business initiative. I have few ideas how to achieve this, also using some examples from my own work and from other markets.
I look forward to receive Tiesda`s answers to my questions and to hear his opinion.
I've been windsurfing for almost 30 years, and have seen windsurf evolve from a large audience sport at the beginning of the 80s to a narrow audience activity for specialists today.
This evolution was reflected in gear, which initially was accessible, affordable, simple, and currently has often lost these characteristics.
Certain attempts were done to revive windsurf as an accessible practise, through beginner's boards for example, but generally they resulted in unbalanced compromises. Accessibility but complete lack of performance.
I think Starboard, with this actual capacity of innovation and quality, could do much to revive windsurf as a large audience sport. What they need for that is a board which would be a link between beginners, who need an accessible board, but able to follow them in their progression, and specialists, who need an interesting, performing, technical board. This perfect compromise is not unachievable, Starboard already has it, it is the Phantom Race 320.
I have 30 years of windsurf, still I find this board extremely interesting and pleasant to sail. It is a precious complement to my 4 short boards, which results in the simple fact that I sail 10 times more than before, and always with great fun. However, it is perfectly accessible to a beginner. Accessibility and performance.
I suggested Starboard makes it a monotype class, and defines for these purposes an also performing but accessible monotype rig (not larger than 7.5 sqm). Gear would remain sufficiently affordable with a tufskin construction.
Unfortunately, I already tried to advocate this here without success, Starboard does not seem to be interested. I hope this board finds success despite lack of promotion efforts, and they eventually change their mind.
Kona did this with success with the Kona One, despite the mediocre quality of the design, and mistakes in terms of accessibility, notably the excessive size of their one design rig (9.5). Starboard could do much better.
What they also could do is work together with other board companies to define a common one design, which each could build and sell with its brand and colors, but with sustantially identical technical characteristics. But apparently again, this is not deemed possible. Too bad, windsurf amateur competition could be revived, and the whole sport with it.
In the early years of WS the market was awash with a lot of gear some of dubious quality (and all greatly inferior to today's kit) that probably did the sport no favours.
While there was 'universal' packaged kit in the early years even then there was the start of the proliferation of specialities as the sport sought to define its limits. I remember the contrast between regatta boards with fun boards that translated into the raceboards, slalom and surf gear. With sails there were fat heads, pin heads, and RAF and not long after-wards the cam sail. Fin design has of course come light years.
I note that for years there was pressure on *board to decline the supply of fins with its performance boards on the grounds that specialists do it better - for myself I still use my Drake fins but each to their own, but this is an example of the market speaking.
What has impacted on the sport is the reality that it is wind dependent and as noted on another thread it might not be the summer months when it is at its best, depending on where you live (and for the moment certainly not in the snow bound northern nations). Where I live this killed off the club racing scene. I know that in sub tropical parts of Australia the situation is very different - there is no universal best answer.
WS is at heart an experimental sport that adapts to its local conditions which is its strength rather than a weakness. Therefore putting a package together of sail/mast, fin, board and wetsuits is best done by simple observation of what the guys are doing on the water and then (importantly) working it through with the local WS retailer which would be the first port of call for newbies anyhow.
The most promising development I have seen for a long time is the Kona One project in Sweden. It is about the combination of social and family fun, and one design racing. There is the horizontal integration with one-design rigs, with different sizes for weight groups (with 7.4 being the mainstream adult sail, complemented by 9.0, 5.8, 5.0, 4.2, 3.5).
I think this kind of horizontal integration works with consumer segments that are entering the sport, or re-entering it with their kids. It does not work that well anymore with seasoned users, they are already too specialized, and have preferences that cannot be met by a "one size fits all" concept. Can savings be done? Not so much in production as in marketing, product development (not much in one-design), etc.
And we have to remember that it is quite expensive to keep a one design class running. That needs management, events, promotions, racing, community, etc.
The supporting web sites are unfortunately in swedish, but I think you can understand the concept:
It is about kids and youths, about sailing and competing in all winds, about families. It is windsurfing centers focused on "windsurfing for everyone, in any wind".
There are KONA windsurfing schools around the country, and training for the windsurfing teachers.
It is the building if a community. Of reaching out to those in Sailing Clubs, and those that like to be on the beach. To systematically look much further than those who regularly visit windsurfing forums.
I believe that it is more or less impossible for a windsurfing brand to do this by themselves, by employing people. It has to be done locally, maybe using a franchising concept that helps the local enthusiasts and entrepreneurs to succeed.
And all this, one the structure is in place, can of course be marketed towards travel agencies, airlines, etc.
It is not easy. It is really hard work. It requires a lot of patience, and to be able to resist continuous development. But it is surely the way to go.
Will Starboard be willing to walk down this path? I doubt it. Starboard is so committed to development, to creation of cutting edge products. One-design and patience is not in their genes. But lets hope that Kona can make it big. That would inject a lot of energy into windsurfing.
I am relatively new to windsurfing having taken the sport up 1 year ago.
I briefly considered kiting, which is I believe is the most serious threat to the growth of windsurfing, but having sailed yachts in the past, the similarities brought me to windsurfing.
Recently I introduced a young yachtsman to windsurfing and he was instantly captured by the experience.
My point is, that the sailing community (I can only speak from experience in Australia) is, I believe, a fertile field for promoting windsurfing. Sailors understand the wind, appreciate the mechanics and hardware associated with the sport, and find rigging / de-rigging a minor inconvenience compared to yachts. The speed and thrills, of course are incomparable in any other sailing craft (IMHO).
I can imagine information / trial sessions at yacht clubs instantly being successful. In addition, the clubs themselves may find it an excellent marketing tool to attract a new class of member.
Hi Luca, ZedZdeD, Philip and PG,
Thanks for contributing to this forum thread. As you mention Luca, stepping outside of our windsurfing world is often a great way to find new innovative ways to market our sport. Innovation doesn’t have to be limited to board design; the marketing of our sport also has plenty of room for Innovation Quality.
Our presentation did include some examples of what we have done to contribute to the Growth Strategy, but the Growth Strategy’s key message isn’t actually about the details themselves – it was more about needing to first change a fundamental concept.
In the past, there has been no shortage of excellent ideas. In this thread alone, you’ve all mentioned examples of great ideas: the Kona class, simplifying equipment, horizontal integration, the yachting public. These ideas and more have been executed and implemented in the past. But we have yet to see a tangible change in the popularity of our sport. We are talking growing our sport by at least a multiple of two. So if past ideas have been great, why is it that the result is unfortunately not yet here today?
To have a chance of succeeding in the future with a new Growth Strategy, what we need is to first make a fundamental change in the way we work together. We need to understand why past ideas have failed to significantly grow our sport; then we can make the right change for our new strategy.
Imagine this simple illustration: a group of one hundred paddlers on a lake. Under the water, they are linked by ropes. As every paddler paddles in his favourite direction, the group will have trouble to move in one direction. A lot of energy is wasted as most energy is used to try to pull other paddlers in opposing directions. The end result is a group that is tired, but a group that is still in the same place.
For the group to move efficiently towards their destination, all the paddlers should first agree on the best direction, then make sacrifices to change their direction and align themselves with each other.
With one hundred paddlers now paddling in the same direction, the group moves forwards and reaches their goal. This is the fundamental message. We need to each understand and accept this first.
The direction: we’d like to focus on making windsurfing social, easy and convenient for everyone.
Why could this be the optimum direction? It comes from a pattern we found by making a basic survey. We did a survey to find out the reasons why people didn’t windsurf. This includes people who already know how to windsurf, people whose friends windsurf but they choose not to, and also people who vaguely knew about windsurfing. We also did a survey to find out how we addict windsurfers started windsurfing in the first place.
There were many responses, and all very good ones. What was exciting was the clear pattern we found: the majority of people didn’t start windsurfing (or stopped windsurfing) because windsurfing was inconvenient. It was difficult and because we lost the friends and family contact. The other very interesting pattern we found was that the majority of today’s addict windsurfers also learnt from their friends or from their Dad. Back then, our friends and our Dads had big boards we could learn on. Today, our generation has no chance to teach someone new how to windsurf - we own tiny slalom boards and tiny wave boards. Essentially, we’ve cut off the biggest natural pipeline of new windsurfers.
Try this basic survey for yourself and it’s exciting to see this pattern emerge. Even if you just imagine yourself, your closest windsurfing friends and your closest non-windsurfing friends, this pattern should already emerge. It’s fascinating.
Hence, one could argue that the optimum, most efficient direction to focus our collective efforts is in making windsurfing social, convenient and easy for everyone. This includes, most importantly, rebuilding the friends and family connection. Some of the examples above and some past examples are already in line with this direction, which is perfect. Some other ideas, good ones at that, are not. They may need to be tweaked to align themselves, they may need to be eliminated altogether.
So as you can imagine, there are many more issues to discuss and iron out; what happens to ideas that are not along these lines? Where do we find the resources to do all this? What about the high performance market? And so on. There is much to discuss, even more to execute and implement, but it all starts here and it’s up to each and every one of us to do our part in our area.
Thanks again for your contribution and I hope you guys will continue to find interest in the Growth Strategy. If you’d like to dig a little deeper, feel free to visit our Growth Strategy forum: www.starboardgrowthstrategy.com . The password is ‘growthstrategy’. This is a forum we created last month for our network and a place where we are presenting our next steps. I hope that putting this access here will be ok. Let’s see how it goes.
"The direction: we’d like to focus on making windsurfing social, easy and convenient for everyone."
In my opinion, this is exactly the right thing to do, precisely what the sport needs today. But each word is important, and notably the word "everyone" needs to include the current base of seasoned windsurfers.
In the past, attempts to propose accessible gear was done in an unbalanced way, either accessibility or performance, but not, or never really, both. Indeed it is not easy to achieve, but thats exactly why I am so enthusiastic about your Phantom Race 320. I have an iSonic, 2 Futura and one Kode, all fine, but this is a real innovation.
With 30 years of windsurf, I find this board extremely interesting and pleasant to sail, so I am sure it has a large potential towards seasoned windsurfers, but at the same time, it is also perfectly adapted to beginners or families. Just put the mast rail on allround position, forget it there for now, and here you go.
I can't think of another model in the past which was both a performance board for specialists, as a perfect complement to their short boards, and an accessible, affordable (in tufskin) board for all other persons, a board which will follow them in their progression without ever frustrating them.
I have been waiting for years for such board,
and now I sail ten times more than before,
the question to know whether I will have the right conditions is history,
the question to know whether I will have max fun is history,
I rediscover promenade, surfing with two persons onboard, tactical race course windsurfing (even when I am alone on the course), more diversified practise
I have fun whatever the strenght of the wind
I even use it as a kayak with the Bic Jungle seat, and probably can also use it as a SUP (will try)
I hope so much you would share this enthusiasm, dedicate some promotion efforts, and redefine the marketing positioning of this board. Not only the best raceboard for hybrid class, much more than that.
But what is the username to match the password?
Same question. Thanks.
If you look careful, it's written on the logon page:
Please enter Shop, Distributor, Rider, Magazine or Brand as your username
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