From humble beginnings in the late 80s, to one of the major windsurfing and watersport companies of today, John Carter learns about the history and rise of RRD from its founder Roberto Ricci.
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Back in the early nineties, Roberto was competing on the PWA world tour but also took a keen interest in designing his own boards, hence the birth of the brand. ‘Year zero’ was 1994, when the first board collection was born and at the same time he launched his RRD fashion brand which turned up a notch in 1995 when he joined forces with Roberto Bardini, with a mission to design board shorts and t-shirts for those sharing a passion for watersports. After 26 years in the business, the credentials of RRD as an all-round watersports brand have been truly established. The 2021 stylish orange collection has certainly remained true to the identity of RRD with its ‘made in Italy’ philosophy and fuelled by the company’s continuous commitment to research and development. Rather than sitting back and letting others take over many of the roles within RRD, Roberto Ricci still plays a very hands-on approach to his collections, meticulously checking every detail of design and style before products are launched on to the market. This year’s RRD slogan is “It’s all ride!” which comes from the companies desire to make products that are both fashionable and functional to all watersports enthusiasts. RRD is all about that genuine Italian style and for Roberto, RRD is very much his passion as well as his business. I caught up with Roberto to hear a little more about how he has shaped the brand and his plans for the future.”
Roberto Ricci – “First of all, I am very honoured to be part of the 400th edition of Windsurf, it is a privilege to be a part of this super important issue. I was obsessed with the ocean from the age of 7. I was fascinated by two divers, Jaques Mayol and Enzo Maiorca, who were pushing the boundaries at the time. I dreamed about diving and ocean life in general. I even used to hold my breath before classes at school. I bought my first windsurf board in 1981, I was 17. Windsurfing was the cool sport at the time. There was a windsurf school next to the pool in Tuscany where I worked. I got the idea in my head that when it was windy I could windsurf and when it was flat, I could go diving. I got hooked on windsurfing. It blew my mind. I was able to be independent on the water and see the ocean from different angles. I could explore and discover and my mind started to take off. My windsurfer was like my own little boat I could explore with.
I ended up working in a windsurf shop doing repairs. My father was a car body repairer and he taught me how to use resin and I could capitaliseon his expertise. I was young, full of motivation and started racing on the Italian circuit. I met a guy who had a beautiful custom board and soon was interested in making my own boards. I bumped into Paolo Cecchetti, who was one of the founders of Drops boards along with Mario Vinti and Fabrizio Marascia. I personally started shaping my own boards around 1984 at home in Tuscany. We learned the trade using Clark foam blanks, starting out by cutting our templates with paper, then modifying them into wood. We sawed the blanks with a hacksaw and then used a planer and sandpaper; it was all crafted with our own hands! We really made our own custom boards. It was a craft at the time. I was around twenty and the world was opening up in front of me.
It was six months Maui and six months the rest of the world. I was sustaining my living through shaping boards. I wanted to travel, develop my own boards and do my own thing, so I quit Drops and started going it alone. Cesare Cantagalli was a good friend at the time and was a big influence and help. Doug Hunt rented me a space in the Cannery in Maui and I was really into learning how to shape boards to suit Cesare’s style. At the same time, I was windsurfing professionally myself. I qualified through the PBA racing trials in Maui in 1987. I was never the best racer, but I was part of it, and learning all the tricks of the trade with the top sailors in the world. This is how I learned to improve the designs for my boards. The world cup was my university! I quit my real studies at home in Italy because I preferred my university on the beach. My real desk is a beach desk! It was a natural spontaneous choice which helped me get to where I am today!
The year I really started the brand was 1989. I felt like I had to go my own way. I started out calling it H2O designs. My friend Mickey Eskimo eventually persuaded me to change the name to RRD. He liked the way my name sounded and from that point on I my life was all about the ‘R’s and the ‘D’s. My name was to become my trademark. I was not really sure about using my own name, but my friends persuaded me. At that time anything was possible. I really started to think about the future of my own brand. My passion would be my job. It was a dream come true. That is still what I am doing today. Designing something, go test it, improve it! That is my ticket. I love my job. I am very happy that I decided to choose my life path this way.
in your face. That is how we started off; it was really a great milestone moment.
It was a very positive vibe. The next rider I sponsored was Finian Maynard. I loved his approach of being technical, talented and crazy at coming up with ideas. I also sponsored Josh Angulo who was an inspirational wave rider at the time and still is. It was myself, Anders, Josh and Finian, and we all had a desire to express ourselves through the brand. After that other riders came along. Our board designs, graphics and colours were very unique; we brought custom boards to the public. The next step was to move to Cobra. The current CTO of Cobra, my friend Olivier Schnerb, called me and invited me to see Cobra and its potential for custom/production boards. I was also good friends with Svein Rasmussen at the time and still am. Svein told me that things were happening in the Far East and that I needed to check it out. He stayed in Bangkok and of course started Starboard and did his own thing. He was one of the guys that pushed me to see the potential of Cobra. That is how RRD started to grow.
I want to express my personality through all of my products, and that is why everything is under the umbrella of the name RRD. We approach
watersports with a very open mind. We have so much soul in the brand already. We have amazing designs, classic style, awesome performance and we are not just about windsurfing or kitesurfing alone. This is my way of looking at things, my message, my story. I want to tell my story to the people and what is behind this little 7-year-old kid that dreamed about Jaques Mayol diving underwater. That is why I keep doing everything in RRD under one umbrella.
Foiling has changed the way many people think about riding the ocean.
Foiling gives us a completely different perspective on our riding. Now we have wings! Now our boards can lift out of the water and we have that crazy beautiful feeling of being on a magic carpet out of the water. The fact that you can apply foiling to virtually every watersports discipline is also amazing. It is like a new undiscovered world evolving. Who knows where we will be in ten years’ time? Foiling brings all the watersports together under the same roof. With one foil you can do it all, from our universal foil range you can learn on it how to windsurf, kite, SUP and surf. The same wing, same fuselage and same mast. We have a huge collection of foil toys coming out in 2021. I am fully hooked on it and so are all of my team. Everybody in the company is foiling, foiling, foiling! We don’t have much wind in Tuscany, but we can foil every day! It is simply crazy how good it is. I feel like a little kid again. I think foiling is the best thing that could happen to watersports.
I would like to do this job for the next thirty years or as long as I am alive. I love working in my company and making these products come to the market and the people. It is such a great satisfaction. It would be great to make money and sell the brand to potential investors, but in the end, what would I do. I have my passion already. I foil, kite and windsurf as part of my job and my life. Just like Svein and Robby, it is our heart and soul. We all still do the sports. What really drives the industry forward is the passion and the heart and soul that goes into it. Thanks to social media you can really see which companies have the passion and what they are really about. If you are credible, passionate and true to your heart, then you can never go wrong. I think the image and future of RRD is very bright. Combining watersports with fashion gives us huge possibilities. We are proud to bringthe ocean to the fashion world. The potential of RRD is huge.
My heart and soul are in watersports. What else can I do? The other day I was trying new Firemoves with our marketing manager Matteo out there on the water. I had been foiling all week. But foiling does not give you that feeling when you are fully powered up on your 6.7m! It was balls to the wall twenty knots and we were having a blast. We were flying at 30 knots of speed across the water, downwind reaching. What a pleasure it was! Every particle of my body was just happy! Windsurfing is the mother of all watersports for me. My passion started with windsurfing and I still love it. Windsurfing is the best. I really love it!