We asked leading figures in the windsurf industry to give their thoughts on the next decade, covering everything from cost, competition, accessibility and most importantly, their vision for the next 10 years. Candid, controversial and unplugged – here are their informed opinions about our sport’s future!
Words Robby Naish, Roberto Ricci, Craig Gertenbach, Werner Gnigler, David Ezzy, Monty Spindler. // Photos Fish Bowl Diaries, Aerial Video Maui, Frankie Bees, John Carter, Mocean.Photography, Thorsten Indra, Jérôme Houyvet, Bogodesign.net, Si Crowther & Svetlana Romantsova.
ROBBY NAISH – NAISH WINDSURFING FOUNDER
I can honestly say that I have never really had a “vision” for the company beyond a couple of years…. about the time that we tie things up commercially with a product line. We are an organic machine that moves and adapts with the wind and tides and trends. I certainly hope to be around in ten years continuing to develop great product for the sports that we love. I am optimistic about windsurfing over the next decade. For Naish there is a lot of room for growth on the windsurfing side of things. I love the sport, and hope to stay active both on the water myself and through the Naish brand. At the moment we are investing in windsurfing and will see where that takes us. Windsurfing is what it is. I think we’re there with the equipment. It is as accessible as ever, and as high performance as ever on the opposite side of the spectrum. We have great light wind gear now, especially with foiling added to the mix. It is always going to be pretty exclusive due to the costs and time needed to really get “good’…. but that’s ok. It does not have to be for everyone.
“I am optimistic about windsurfing over the next decade.”
I am not really in a position to comment on the pro tour. I think that the level is amazing, in both the men’s and women’s fleets. It is just a matter of gaining enough of a following to justify sponsors putting money into it. The PWA has a pretty small footprint these days, compared to decades past. We had much more prize money on the tour thirty years ago than they do now… which is a shame. But it is a reflection of the size of windsurfing as a sport and the industry. I think the PWA is doing the best they can do with the resources that they have…. a great job in fact. You’ll have to wait and see if there are many major development changes. Things never stay the same, though I am not really foreseeing “major changes” any time soon. Usually when I say that though, something really big happens… We need to make the sport more attractive and more accessible to younger people. To make it cheaper we could go direct to the consumer, but cutting out the distributor / dealer in a sport like windsurfing has equal and opposite negative consequences. They are what feeds the customers interest, gets people into the sport through windsurfing schools and do after sales service etc.
I really want to see Naish become a real player in windsurfing again. I do not need it to be the biggest, but we have been too under the radar for a while. My roots and heart are in the sport, and though I do many other sports as well and have grown the Naish brand around those other activities, I still love windsurfing. Naish certainly does not live and die from windsurfing…. it is a very small percentage of our global sales. The desire to grow that aspect of Naish is less economical than it is a matter of personal pride. Small and exclusive is cool… but we are a bit TOO exclusive in windsurfing at the moment. Is the next decade an exciting time for windsurfing? I think so!
DAVID EZZY – FOUNDER EZZY SAILS
My vision for the company never changes. It is to keep improving windsurfing sails. My ultimate goal is to make it easier for people to choose the right sail by having fewer sail lines that work in more varied conditions. Over the next decade I would like to see windsurfing return to the lighter wind spots where people sailed in the 80s. I think foiling can help do that.
On the professional / competition side of the sport the PWA needs to develop a model that would allow all sailors and small manufacturers to participate. Trying to generate revenue from windsurfing manufacturers, as they do now, is not the right way to fund the PWA because the manufacturers are squeezed between high manufacturing costs and a limit to what the public wants to pay for windsurfing products. The PWA needs to find money from outside the industry and allow any rider, or brand to compete. I never chase change just for the sake of change. I seek improvements. For me, that means following idea paths by making one change at a time and testing if it is really better. This process is slow and boring, but it is the only way to make lasting improvements. Making windsurfing cheaper is hard, at least for the high-end stuff. We are all used to electronics going down in price every year, but this model doesn’t apply to windsurfing sails. Sails use high-tech materials that go up in price every year. Sails are made by hand by real people that must receive a living wage. There are about 8 hours of labour in one sail, so when you add in the materials, overheads, and shipping costs, current sails are actually a very good deal. Ezzy’s attempt at “cheaper” is our Legacy sail line. It is a high performance sail at an affordable price. After 40 years of making sails, I am not even close to being where I want to be with my sails, so my goal in the next decade is to keep trying to improve them.
Will the next decade be an exciting time for windsurfing? Absolutely. To me, every day I wake up, I feel blessed to be doing something I truly love in a sport that still consumes me.
“I would like to see windsurfing return to the lighter wind spots.”
WERNER GNIGLER – HEAD SHAPER JP AUSTRALIA
My vision for the company is to stay innovative and come up with top-level products that set the standard in our sport, for the mass consumer demand and on the competitive side. Due to the latest developments, we’ll need to grow; on one hand cover more specialized products and on the other hand offer products with a wider range of use. This means we have to deal with a bigger range of products.
It is too difficult to foresee the decade ahead because 10 years ago, nobody had any idea about inflatables, the wing or foiling. Trends like these come up with the development of new ideas, concepts and technologies mostly from outside the windsurfing industry. We windsurfers will try to embed these new developments into our sport(s) and our product line. We need to be ready and open minded, but at the same time must keep in mind to further develop our core products for our core customers. Apart from unforeseeable developments, we will see more specialization and at the same time a wider appeal. For example wave boards and performance boards will become more specialized for their discipline and also will become easier to use in a wider range. All-round boards will be more user-friendly, but may come with additional benefits like a special foil-ability. There will be more crossover ideas and concepts.
Windsurfing offers such spectacular action and beautiful footage. We need to bring this action and lifestyle into the mass media, we have to get good live pictures to a wide public. This will create more interest to the sport and will attract more potential outside sponsors and get more money into the sport. As a consequence, the professionals in windsurfing would have a higher income. The video channels of the PWA, EFPT and IWT are the first step in the right direction.
Growing windsurfing is not only about the price. People spend more money on new phones than on boards which they buy used or second hand. Today, a street bike costs as much as a cheap new car, and customers buy it! One can see that people are willing to spend – if you give them reasons. Windsurfing needs to be more attractive – again. The trends we see today may be a step into the right direction.
Windsurfing was and is one of the cheapest and easiest sailing sports. By far! And it is accessible – even more so with the inflatable boards. We have products which are also fun in light winds, we need to get the message across that people can have fun in various conditions and can make use of their windsurfing equipment a lot more than in the past and come every time off the water with a smile on their faces. But for sure it is not as accessible as running, where you only put on your shoes and off you go… My personal goal is to develop shapes that make people smile when they come off the water.
The next decade will definitely be an exciting time for windsurfing. Windsurfing is and will be in the future one of the most exciting sports. The developments will make it more accessible and easier. People will have fun on the water in various conditions and we can attract a wider audience again. The next half-decade will be interesting with all the new developments and options that become possible.
“There will be more crossover ideas and concepts.”
ROBERTO RICCI – RRD FOUNDER
Twenty-five years have passed since we started RRD. I am still loving what I see ahead of me. Coming from windsurfing as our main sport at RRD, we have also developed into other watersports and openings. That has widely opened up the base of new customers generally. The company will just keep on developing products and possibilities while staying in touch with the watersports environment. My vision is the same as when I started. To bring people to the water! If we can do this then we are doing our jobs by letting people discover a passion. People getting out on the water is good for their mental and bodily health. As I always say, our watersports goods should be tax deductible! Maybe one day our governments will understand that, just joking! Pure windsurfing is opening up to be contaminated by foiling. I can see the sport will look into new perspectives like compact rigs as we are already doing, split boards and anything that can be carried more smoothly and with more convenience. Not on top of the roof, but inside the car! I think the more compact side of windsurfing could take off. I think that is definitely one area we can benefit from a lot, especially for people that live in cities or who don’t have space in their houses or cars. Also, for travelling kit like our ‘Compact’ rigs will make life easier. This is something that I really believe in. Of course, material and technology are always going to develop. I think that the biggest influence that is going to change windsurfing is going to be foiling. Wind foiling is really going to be a big part of the future. I think it is a huge plus for windsurfers who were not sailing because when the wind was light, they didn’t want to rig a huge 9.0m sail! Or even bring back those that switched to kiting when it was light wind. Now, with foiling, guys can use a 6.0m or a wave sail and can get in the water with that; the best solution for light winds is to put a foil underneath your board! I also believe in the interaction between foiling and compact windsurfing.
I would like to see people that are windsurfing take some time to try new sports. To try foiling or to get them to go back to longboard riding when it is light. I would like to see riders bringing their partners or friends to the water to try these things. I would like to see the love of the sport spread as wide as possible. This is vital for windsurfing to keep growing and sustain itself in the future. I would like to see more growth in the freeride approach than just the professional approach. So, for the guys that run the windsurfing magazines, they also have a big role in the future! It is important to portray the easy approach for windsurfing. Make it possible for potential consumers that are out there to not think windsurfing is too extreme for them. Let’s move this extreme and bring back the grass roots side of the sport! I feel the extreme image is limiting the sport. I am not saying it is bad for the sport, but just limiting the growth side.
I think the professional side of the sport has gone too much towards the competitors themselves. The riders think that budgets can be unlimited, and they can bring tonnes of gear to events and impose crazy wind minimums. This is a silly approach in my view to professional windsurfing. If you are a pro, you are supposed to be able to go out in any sort of conditions that you are given. If it is super light, then of course some competitors will be better than others, but that is how it should be. I really think the PWA needs to take a stand towards restructuring the parameters of approving production boards. Taking proper checks to approve what is a production board and what isn’t. As it is today the main brands pay a high fee to be part of it. But then letting anybody in with a tiny run of production boards is absolutely absurd! It is ridiculous and it looks like it is just a one-man show!
So pretty much the PWA is sustaining itself for the riders to go out there and perform in the current conditions. They have to realize that manufacturers no longer have the budgets they used to! The sport has changed a lot in the last years. To be more viable for new riders to come in, we need to be able to compete in lighter winds and very less complicated equipment. They should not go only to racing foiling and not make the disciplines complicated. There has been a big mistake in the last couple of seasons in my opinion. It is clear that professional windsurfing has to come to some sort of change. I propose to either open the racing up to everybody and all custom-made companies, without any limitations, with the sport financed by outside sponsors and not any longer by the manufacturers. Or, keeping it with production equipment but with way more serious checks in place, otherwise we look ridiculous. I mean I have seen so many new small brands coming into the PWA without having their boards registered properly. For sure nobody has been checking on them at all that they are complying with the rules that the major brands have to obey. So, either custom made or a more professional approach! I would like to see more freeriding and very low wind limits! I would also like to see freestyling with foiling. That would be a very good discipline to introduce.
There are always changes! As I mentioned already, the ‘Compact’ sails have been bringing a huge new eye-opening possibility to the market. I think split boards will be important too. Also, we are going to see a lot of new improvements in terms of performance with light wind ability for foiling. As I said before, I think growth will come from making the sport more freeride dedicated than the professional speed side of windsurfing. I think professional racing right now is not representing a growth, but just making a limit for windsurfing!
It is difficult to make windsurfing cheaper because the production costs are already there. To make windsurfing more accessible, you just need to change the face of the sport and make it more viable for the people that just want to go freeriding. Plenty of people would go out with two knots of wind and go sail on a lake or when it is light wind. For it to be cheaper it is possible, but only with heavier equipment. There is always the opportunity to change and evolve! For example, wing foiling or wing surfing is a way to be cheaper because a wing costs less than a windsurfing sail. All sports will evolve! Maybe ‘Windsurf’ magazine will be called ‘Wind Watersports’ in the future. That is how I see it! I really believe that watersports in general are going to evolve!
“Growth will come from making the sport more freeride dedicated.”
My brand goals are to keep growing into the field of communication with people that were never part of our watersports world at the moment. I want to introduce new people to windsurfing, paddle boarding, wing foiling, kiting and any watersports. It is all the same sport! I am not so much in favour of splitting them all up into dedicated areas. Anybody that kites can go windsurfing or vice versa. I am really a big believer in watersports in general, not just a windsurfer or a kiter. A watersport addict! If you love the water, I think you have to adapt to the conditions where you live. Let’s say the place you live and the conditions you have there are going to drive the future on what watersports you take part in. The next decade will be a very exciting time for watersports in general. I think people need to get involved more and be a part of this huge community as watersports lovers. Let us merge in the future into wind driven watersports. In my heart and soul I am a windsurfer, that was the sport I loved in the beginning, but we have to evolve and have our minds open to general watersports!
CRAIG GERTENBACH – FANATIC BRAND MANAGER
We are celebrating our 40th anniversary at Fanatic this year, so we would like to see the same enthusiasm, energy, innovation and excitement going into Fanatic & windsurfing in the next 10 years, as it did in the last 40! It is our responsibility to ensure windsurfing has a sustainable future and growth, for both existing and future customers. And a higher focus on sustainable products, thereby minimising our eco footprint, whilst delivering the most fun and high quality products and lifestyle to our customers.
These are exciting times for windsurfing, both in terms of new equipment, especially with foiling, as well as the promotion of windsurfing in social media channels – allowing a more widespread awareness and credibility of the sport. The new generation of pro riders and customers is showing us what is possible at a very young age already in high performance windsurfing, whilst the older generation impresses with their ability to keep windsurfing at a high level, well into their 80s. That is inspiring! Foiling is a great addition to our sport, enabling way more sailing at a local level in “real world” conditions – meaning people will be able to spend more time on the water, which automatically increases their addiction to windsurfing. Firstly and most importantly, it would be great to have more positive minded people in the sport, whether in the industry, pro riders or just generally – our sport is such a great lifestyle, that despite the many barriers, it deserves to be celebrated. Some people have been involved for too long and have grown negative in their thinking, perhaps they should move on and make way for a more positive generation who appreciates windsurfing for what it is today, not what it was 40/30/20 years ago. I learnt to windsurf in 1982, I´d hate to think about trying to teach my kids with that gear today or compete on it!
I´m a member of the PWA Management Board and was a PBA rider many years ago, so I can see both sides of the coin regarding professional windsurfing. Everyone would like to see more events in more exotic locations – for obvious reasons the budgets at these locations is not there and riders do not want to compete for free, they have to sustain their living costs. I think the PWA currently is doing the best we can in terms of the racing tour; for waves/freestyle we are battling to find locations who have the budgets, this has to become better. And national tours need more attention of course, as well as the IFCA path from national to international for athletes – all things we are working on with some good progress lately.
Foiling has definitely only just started to show its potential and I think in the next years we´ll see a lot of stuff going on there, not only in light winds, but also in “planing conditions”. The current planing boards will also continue to evolve. Given a customer only buys a new board every 4-5 years, these incremental gains every 2-3 seasons, as we replace models, can mean big improvements for their next purchase.
To make the sport grow, we will keep doing what we are already, working with schools, pushing the image of the sport in all its aspects, but especially the more youth oriented images of the sport, where we have loads of competition from skateboarding etc. Social media has given us a huge chance there, versus before trying to compete in print media/TV. We need to use that, especially via our very marketable team riders and opinion leaders to show the appeal of windsurfing.
How can we make windsurfing cheaper and more accessible? Depends what you rate as expensive and what are the benefits you receive from a sport – you can buy a road bicycle for 15,000 Euro, but in the end the best day on that bike will never, ever be as good as a day on a windsurfing board for way less money. So whilst we don´t expect pricing to go down, we think in terms of value for money/experiences, there are few sports that can compete. If I look back at what gear used to cost when I was a kid and what you got for your money compared to today, I think it´s actually quite good value, given the performance level the gear had 40 years ago. If you look at the real costs to start windsurfing, the gear is excellent value for money at the entry level. And then at the higher end, you have choices on weight/carbon content/price, like you do in any sport. If you want the best, unfortunately it costs more than a plastic plank from 40 years ago. As for accessibility, yes more work on local clubs, schools and building back the windsurfing communities can be done, through events, social media groups etc. My personal goals are the same as above – keeping the brand image fresh, true, innovative and at the forefront of promoting and growing our sport. And always building a bit of something extra into our boards, there is nothing worse than feeling that you have mastered a product 100%, as you will never master windsurfing 100% – that´s part of the ‘Addiction to Ride’.
Is the next decade an exciting time for windsurfing? Absolutely, I can´t wait to see what lies ahead and look forward to spending more and more time on the water, regardless of whether it’s on a wave board in Cape Town, or a foil on our local lake in Germany, it´s just great to be a part of it! And having the chance to follow all the best athletes in social media and dedicated magazines like ‘Windsurf’ is a huge motivator to keep pushing your own level, no matter what age or level you are.
“These are exciting times for windsurfing.”
MONTY SPINDLER – LOFTSAILS CHIEF DESIGNER
My vision for the company over the next ten years is what it has been for the past 20 years – development never stops. Over the next decade I see more progression. Rig development will lead to greater wind range, expanded tunability, and more accessible windsurfing. In foil windsurfing there is intensive development – foil slalom is now raging! It’s all fascinating and exciting to explore.
I would like to see all windsurfers develop their tuning skills to feel the impact of trim variation. There is so much to explore: downhaul tension, outhaul tension, mastfoot position, and boom height etcetera. It’s more than just splashing about in the water. Windsurfing has a serious side, a world of sensations, waiting to be discovered. I would also love to see more local, informal competitions, and more of the pros mixing it with locals at all events. Rig-performance-wise, there will likely be continued small improvements. Foil designs will develop! Otherwise, there is a search for eco-friendly materials suitable for rigs, a desire to reduce unnecessary ‘cosmetic’ items to a minimum, and prioritize material economy over graphics.
We can make the sport grow by sharing good sessions with friends and family and continuing to find ways to improve products, reducing costs and weight. Improving Loftsails designs could help windsurfing grow also! Making windsurfing cheaper is not easy! The golden years of windsurfing – in terms of global sales volume – were years ago. My impression is that all brands are operating with extremely tight margins, regardless of business model. A lot goes into a windsurfing sail! The sport can become more accessible. All brands make real progress. Rig quality/accessibility is better now than ever. My personal goals for the brand are for it to be the best solution for competition-oriented windsurfers in all disciplines. The next decade will be an exciting time for windsurfing. It is likely that wing surfing will bring more to windsurfing. Foiling gear will evolve. More will wind-fly. Personally, I look forward to developing my foiling skills, and to seeing my three sons explode with windsurfing stoke!
“I would like to see all windsurfers develop their tuning skills.”