Firstly Sam, on behalf of NSW Wavesailing Association I’d like to thank you and WindSurfnSnow for the long term support of the Association and wavesailing in NSW. Your support of the NSW Wavesailing Association goes back some 20 years and is really appreciated.
Most people know you as not just a business man but someone who is heavily involved in watersports. What are you specifically involved in at the moment?
At the moment I wish I had more time to go wavesailing as that is sort of what got me hooked way back in the day. And then time constraints got in the way and I got into the racing side of things and I always liked going fast so that was addictive but these days with kids and time constraints I find when I do go windsurfing I’m spending more time on foils. It’s a whole new buzz and it keeps me fresh and it’s fun to feel like a kook learning a new sport again.
Are you still SUPing ?
Yeah yeah I’m doing a lot of surfing and racing where I can – it’s easy to get on the water and doesn’t require such a time commitment I suppose. But I hope to get more time to get back to Gerroa too.
OK, getting to WindSurfnSnow (WSNS) where does the business fit in Sydney/NSW and Australia and Internationally?
We have been through the full range of watersports, starting as a windsurfing shop and snowboarding back in the day. Then into kites also as a nice part of the business and as things developed stand up paddling came along led by the same sorts of people that had pioneered windsurfing – people like Dave Kalama and Laird Hamilton and all that crew. And that’s become a nice compliment to the windsurfing that we still hold as our original passion. We’ve seen good growth these year in windsurfing perhaps spurred along by the foiling but there is good energy coming in with good beginner programs with Dave Bell, Brett Morris and others helping people get back out there and learning.
Do you get much traffic from the rest of Australia or Internationally – you go to international conferences don’t you?
Yeah we catch up with conferences in good parts of the world – the last couple of years they.ve been held in good parts of Australia which is kinda cool. We are just at the time of year that we are getting sneak peeks of what is coming round the corner with the Severne crew there is some good stuff there, and we’ll see the Pryde and North and others really really soon. Yeah it’s always exciting actually when the season winds down we start to see what is happening around the corner.
OK so where are we headed in the future, particularly in wavesailing gear?
We haven’t seen many images but we’ve seen a rough outline of some of the ranges – but I have to keep some of that under wraps. But if anyone wants to call me at the shop I can talk about some of the gossip!! It seems like nice subtle improvements and evolution nothing really revolutionary at this stage with gear. One of the nice touches last year was seeing a brand like Severne gravitate into the board ranges and we’ve seen some really nice boards come out of them. They have about 4 board ranges all offering something a little bit different from the norm lots of fun. From the Nano wave board to the Fox fun fast freeride board which does everything you hope for, fun fast turns well and jumps well So I think we’ll see more evolution in fun easy to use gear.
How buoyant is the Industry at present in Australia?
Look as I said we seem to be finding that second generation of people coming through at the moment. You know I have kids who are 7 and 8 and lots of friends with kids between 6 and 12 years of age and they seem to be not too scared to follow in their parents footsteps and trying to learn something whereas maybe 10 years ago it wasn’t super cool and there was a downturn. But now people are back enjoying it. Some of the schools around are running programs and there is good energy around from some people who are volunteering their time outside the retail world.
We are pretty confident as we are seeing good sales of entry level gear and also kids rigs which is always a good sign. I think we are in a good position for the next few years and we have some god people around and involved.
Given the range of options you sell (SUP, Kite Windsurf, Foils, Boards, Sails) what are the big sellers in the shop ?
This year was the year of the foil in many ways. Many people whether on kites, windsurfers, SUPs they all wanted to bolt foils onto whatever they could. And in most cases people are really enjoying it. You know there are some great boards around the Naish group have in particular. Such as a SUP board – it SUPs well throw a surf foil in it and it foils well and you can throw a windsurfing kit on it and windsurf foils as well. So there is one bit of kit that can take you 3 sports – so that’s really cool and it’s a good light wind option too. That’s one of the big things that the foiling has offered to all the sports. You know if there’s bad surf a foil makes it easy to have fun, if there’s bad wind a foil makes it easy to have fun. I think generally to get out and have fun whatever you’re into is easier now.
So we are all wavesailors, how big a part of the business is wavesailing these days ?
Yeah, what we saw last year was one of our main brands Fanatic streamline their board ranges a little bit instead of having an onshore board a down the line board they sort of ran it into one range of boards called the Grip which are really good products. So streamlining the ranges seemed to cut out a bit of the confusion for some of the customers. Instead of thinking they wanted a down the line board when they needed a cross-shore board or an onshore board it made it easier. This range transformed from larger sizes that planned well in light wind down the sizes to boards that performed well in onshore and down the line conditions. So small changes from the manufacturers are making it easier for the wave crew to access great gear.
What is the role of social media in the business?
It’s a growing part – we are trying to get a handle on it more and more, and how to work better with it. Actually a lot of the images and video coming out of the Wavesailing Association has been amazing and really gets people excited both in Australia and overseas. The feedback we are getting from the events is that it’s getting people frothing. We are trying to find the best systems to use it better for our business – it helps us get information out there easier, faster and in real time, you don’t have to be a weather expert anymore to take advantage of it all.
As I said the Association really appreciates the support of WSNS, what does WSNS get out of the sponsorship?
For me personally it’s an easy way to give something back to the sport that we all care about, and by doing something to help to try to keep it going well – the sport has been good to us over the years. When you see what the Wavesailing Association puts into their events and see their growing numbers of people in the sport, including the photos of the kids getting involved it makes us very happy to support and be involved. If it means extra sales for the shop well that’s great and to be honest that’s part of the goal but we want to help reward people doing a great job and that is the Wavesailing Association and the quality of the events and people behind it.
Do you have any good tips for wavesailors for care and maintenance of their gear?
I’m probably bad at this myself! My gear can be messy at the end of the season. Sun and UV are not your friend, try to minimise the time your gear is rigged up and left in the sun. Try to keep the sand out of sail seams as well. So mostly common sense.
Who is the wavesailor that brings in the most damaged gear into the shop ?
Actually one of our staff members – Sam Green! Actually there is a good mix really – but Tim Williams was good at damaging gear when he lived in Sydney. Though I must say there is not as much damage these days most gear and particularly the masts and booms seem to deal with the conditions really well and they back it up with 3 yr warranties on a lot of the products. Maybe some gear was not as durable 5-10 years ago but the durability is good and gear is not getting so trashed these days. One thing I have definitely noticed is that board warranty returns are way down, no one is really coming in with trashed boards, the gear is well built.
Well that’s about it Sam, thank you for your time, is there anything you’d like to add?
Yeah, thank you to the NSW Wavesailing Association and its members for all they do and for making the events so great. I am so keen to get down and do some more wavesailing I just have to find some time and try to get to the some of the events. I look forward to catching up with everyone soon. If anyone has any feedback on things we can do to help give us a shout we’d be happy to hear it.