Originally Posted by PG
A few short questions to Kip, just for sake of argument
In order not to mix old oranges and new apples it would be nice to know what models of longboards are available at these local resorts. What generation do they represent?
If the Starboard Race 380 was FUN to sail, shouldn't it be possible to make slightly more recreational boards with similar attributes? Would that be exiting?
[re selling longboards]...significant risk capital (in the range of 1500 Euro per complete set), significant risk in marketing and publicity, lots of time to promote, demonstrate, show, sell, etc. It does in fact mean running a windsurfing shop (in my case virtual).
I've sailed The Kona, the smaller Kona, the larger Manolo, about 3 versions of the starboard raceboard. There are no raceboards of the older generation here available to rent/trial. The IMCOs belong to the Thai windsurf assocation.
The starboard 380 that I liked was not liked as much by the majority of people who tried it, they preferred something slightly shorter and wider; which to me start to get back to that barge feeling; I think the preferred one for most people was that 320 one. And no, it was not more exciting (for me), it felt like sailing a starboard start board vs. a formula board. I guess my point is that longboards excel for racing, but I cannot ever see the majority of shortboarders wanting to race at all, and I certainly can't see them all wanting to race on a longboard.
The Kona, incidentally, is not popular really here in Thailand at all. Most people still prefer to sail a shortboard, and if the wind is light....go do something else. The guys who raced in the Kona worlds, I think a few of them actually sail the Kona for freestyle and mucking around in the light; it is a very nice board. Of course, has all the same issues as formula because mostly everyone then cannot afford to run multiple rigs, and ends up finding the biggest possible rig to get planing in the lowest possible winds.... sail area is king in light winds, that is why rig improvement is key to improving the sport.
I am still not convinced we can compare the majority of a small market today with the massive market of 20 years ago then draw any meaningful conclusions. At the end of the day..... times change. We don't see flares, ford escorts, telegraphs, mobile phone bricks, houses built with real timber floors etc much these days either - not saying in any way that longboards are a fad on par with flares but just saying that each of these products were huge at one time and a variety of reasons cause them not to be huge now; it isn't just that 'ford escorts were boxy and they sold really well, modern fords are quite curvy and don't sell as well, so let's make fords boxy again, as we sold 20,000,000 ford escorts back then'.
I for one am not convinced that no matter HOW hard you push longboards or any other gear, that you will EVER see windsurfing as big as it was in the 1980s. Like other fads, including carving snowboards (which used to be something like 80% of the market in Europe and was a significant proportion of the early 90s market in USA and is now less than 1% of the entire industry) windsurfing was a big hit, it reached popular culture, people bought the gear, and then discovered..... it is not nearly as easy as it looks and the gear is heavy and cumbersome.
Hell, the entire reason why I tried windsurfing once and swore I never would waste another day on the the sport was the heavy, hard to sail board (presumably a WOD or similar) that I tried once in the mid 80s as a kid. How many people do you think were similarly affected, and as a result how many boards do you think are lying around the world rotting? There used to be a lake in Bangkok where in the 80s people would go and sail around and around in the light winds and we are talking hundreds and hundred of people...actually this is the lake where starboard is based now. The gear is still there to be used...but maybe a couple of times a week you see a person showing up to sail. Now the lake is dominated by a cable ski with rap music blasting as the new generation of water sports people show up to do something that requires not much gear, not much skill to start and is not reliant on wind.
The learner gear is here now, both quality longboards and wideboards, but that has almost no relevance to the olympic market we are talking about now. As SteveC says, this is asking for people to have patience, to dedicate time and to invest money when there are so many other choices now available to spend recreational time.
You claim most racers sail hybrid or longboards? Is there some stat for this relative to slalom/formula/etc? Certainly here in Thailand it would be close between formula and longboards, but once you include slalom racing the shortboard scene would be bigger.
And how much of that is the result of sports authorities i.e. not individuals choosing a board and then getting the teams to race them e.g. our authority has team IMCO boards for training and RSXs for the olympic team hopefuls.
Take those two out, and I would say that there are less than 10 longboard sailors in all of Thailand who own race boards....if really pushed...I cannot think of a single person but there is probably some. By comparison...... at least 20-30 formula racers, 20-30 slalom racers and all on their own gear. And if you compare who races to who just comes to sail, then you can expand the shortboards by another few hundred percent...but longboards would increase by maybe....3-10 (of which almost all are, interestingly, serenity boards I would guess).
I too think a way to go is 2 boards. But I think even better is a single board per olympic cycle based on conditions....a formula type board for the UK is probably the best solution. A longboard would have been ahead of time the best solution for CHina, Greece, LA and the various other light wind loations. And let's face it, windsurfing on the RSX was so painful to watch in the ultra light, it is going to look like that on anything other than a longboard and even then you are not going to be able to stop pumping unless you go laser anti kinetics style and have protests continuously. A formula board can be forced to sail around a course; it will suck but then can slog their way around.
This avoids obsolesence and is the closest fit with what real windsurfing is about - a 4 year cycle to prepare - a match and reflection that no olympic board has ever been able to last more than a cycle of. It is cost controlled and it means that each 4 years, the same manufacturer changes the molds to be updated.
To me, the biggest innovations are likely to be in the rigs, not the boards anyhow.
I would expect one of the best people to ask would be Tom Ashley, since he just won. Note that almost all the IMCO athletes had little trouble to adapt to the RSX. There is no way around the fact that there is an ideal favoured body type for every race situation. Not all of us will ever have the skills of someone like Ainsley.
The other alternative is to make olympics totally not linked to the recreational sport (the F1 slash Amcup approach) and just create a racer's board.
The thing is the objectives are so overreaching, I am not sure any one solution stands out as the optimum for olympic racing. However, at least in NZ, one coach has been able to take winners to the podium on Div 2, IMCO, RSX. So perhaps the sports are not as far apart as we think.....