Sunday, May 6, 2012

Spring 2012

Let's start you off with Long Island's own Mike B. and Jon S! Watching these two sail almost makes me embarrassed to admit how long I have been sailing. If watching Mike and Jon sail doesn't create new Windsurfers...I don't what will.

Let me start this off by saying YES, I LOVE WINDSURFING.
But windsurfing suffered a few injuries this year…

First we lost the last US National Windsurfing magazine. [We still have Canadian, Windsport Magazine, and the newspaper like New EnglandWindsurfing Journal]
This week we lost the Olympics to Kite Boarding.

So there has been a lot of talk about bringing new people into the ranks of Windsurfing.
I don’t care how many friends you teach.
It will not work without the support of the windsurfing industry.

In the 80’s and early 90’s I worked at a local windsurfing shop. We taught roughly 20 people a week to windsurf. [Now we were talking light wind longboard windsurfing.] We sold at least 12 new board setups a month; sometimes 20 or more! All of them light wind Long Boards.

Then the industry shot itself in the foot. The manufacturers demanded retailers buy for inventory a certain number of shortboards for every Longboard they would ship us.
THEN THE INDUSTRY SHOT ITSELF IN THE HEAD, as it continues to do, even today.
They started coming out with model years. Just like cars.

I’m sorry; does anyone here know what year their kayak is? Their bicycle?  Golf Clubs? Baseball Bat, Mitt? Barbeque, lawn furniture, .bathing suit, skateboard, Sneakers? Their Surfboard? Does it mater?

Well I can sure tell you what year my Windsurfing gear is. Each Board; and each Sail.

Why don’t Manufactures just upgrade to new models as innovation dictates?
The way the industry is structured now; I pay $X if I buy a current years Board, or $X/2 [a 50% discount], if I buy last year’s version of the exact same thing.

Let’s use Randy French as an example; [And his gear was great!]  …why doesn’t he make windsurfers any more? Well if you just buy license to a number of successful surfboard shapes and make exact copies over and over again…well you do the math. No retooling every year, and you’re building something with a consistent demand.
Now your dealers can count on a consistent profit margin; and you can still build a small amount of cutting edge boards if you wish.

That troubles me is that a 16 year old has no way of getting his windsurfing gear to the beach; unless he has the equivalent of a “soccer Mom”. When I was that age, one of the boatyards on the bay kept a shipping container on the beach. We would pay modest rent to keep our boards there. Those type of properties no longer exist on my bay. It’s all McMansions, or high end Yacht Clubs. And forget the ocean; it’s a half hour drive. How do you do that  if you are 12?

So, how do we save our sport? It’s a tough question. Windsurfing has a steep learning curve, is not simple, and requires a ton of gear. [a van full of gear does NOT look inviting for someone just starting out.]
My prescriptions…

Range, and simplicity:  My sailboat was designed 150 years ago, and it sails well in 5 to 105 knots.

Then maybe we can create the next generation of wind junkies.

Meanwhile…I launched Segue yesterday. I have been sailing her since 1986.


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