Pictures by Darrell Wong, except pic of James Cox by www.stinknp.co.uk
Sail Design: What changes do you see taking place in the next 5 years?
If I knew, I would do it! I know what I want to achieve, like all designers; make the sail lighter, stronger, faster, and easier to control. How I can do that? I don’t know, it’s like a scientific experiment, a learning experience, you change one thing and you see how it affects the sail.
Material is what we should be thinking about. It’s all petroleum based and it’s getting more expensive. We should be looking for another material and as far as I’m aware we’re not. What other material exists that’s not petroleum based? That’s the problem.
"Material is what we should be thinking about; it’s all petroleum based and it’s getting more expensive."
Talk through the design of a perfect wave sail.
An effortless feeling, so when a gust hits you don’t feel like you’re getting pulled. When you go into the gybe or the bottom turn, you want to feel totally balanced. You want a sail that doesn’t shut off. It keeps the power a little longer so it can be re-directed. I also want a soft feeling; I don’t want to feel a pull every time you go over chop. The sail has to have a big range, in fact an incredible range. Two of our wave sails rigged next to each other with differing outhaul - they don’t look like the same beast.
Shorter masts with compact sails; the Naish Boxer, the JP Fly, the North Ego – are Ezzy Sails going to go this way?
I designed the Zeta in 1989 (when I was designing for North) and it was a foot shorter than everyone else’s so it’s all been done before. The compact sails are a cool idea as long as they don’t give up anything in performance. Sails have to work on the water – that’s the bottom line. I could do it on some of the smaller sizes but across a whole range? A 6.9m, four batten sail? It’s hard. I need to look at it though.
"Every sail that comes off the production line gets rigged – no other manufacturers does that."
What’s the most fun part of your job?
I never know what I am going to do as I don’t have a set regime. Ok, I go to the office to work but I am usually free to design on what I want. If the idea is not there, it makes no sense working so it’s good to able to switch between freeride sails and wave sail design. Also I love doing accounting; it takes my mind off designing completely!
Do you feel under pressure to improve the sails each year and do something different even if you think a certain sail range doesn’t need it?
I always have ideas but whether they are the right ideas!! But I am always doing things to improve production, it can always be refined.
Who tests your sails?
Me firstly, I’ve got to feel it, I can’t rely on second hand information, I’ve got to get on the water. But saying that I do have a whole bunch of guys that test for me but I am the first one that gets to go out! It’s important that the sail is tried out by regular sailors. For example, on the 07 wave sail, it was too radical. The team guys loved it, I loved it but regular sailors didn’t know how to rig it. So this year the sail has lots of rigging indicators and I’m taking time to make sure people know how to rig it via demos, email communication etc.
What are the qualities that set Ezzy apart from the other major sail brands?
1. We own our own factory that employs 150 local people. That gives us a higher degree of quality control. Every sail that comes off the production line gets rigged, even the kiddy rigs. This is not just to check it’s got the right pulleys etc but also to analyze the shape of the sail. If it isn’t right, it doesn’t go in the bag. No other manufacturer does this.
Once I found this sail at our Sir Lanka factory; I wouldn’t sell it, it wasn’t right. I had the whole factory come and have a look at it, even the cleaners. I cut it up with scissors. The girls were crying but they got the point. They know how important it is to me - quality is the most important thing.
2. I’m sailing every day, making sails because I like windsurfing. I am the toughest customer to satisfy.
3. I’m obsessed with longevity and I provide a lifetime guarantee with every sail no matter how many people have used it. I stand behind my sails. Some people say to me that’s stupid, no one will buy a new sail. But I know people would rather buy a product that lasts and they also know they can sell it on after a few seasons and it will hold its price.
4. Anyone can email me with questions about the sails. Nothing that I can be doing is more important than replying to a customer email. I see my business as a pyramid with the customer on the beach loving his sail at the top. I don’t put a lot of emphasis on team riders, they don’t buy their sails, they sometimes want something a little strange, and I don’t pay up for the PWA so consequently they don’t list Ezzy as a sailors sponsor. Luckily I have my son competing and they can’t make him change his surname!
"Nothing that I can be doing is more important than replying to a customer email."
Finally is windsurfing on ‘the up’ or on ‘the down’?
I don’t take the ‘doom & gloom’ view of windsurfing that some folk take. People that windsurf love it; it’s a healthy drug that you’re addicted too. Our numbers haven’t dropped in ten years. I don’t know if the larger companies have been dumping product due to over production and now they are hurting but for the hard core windsurfers – they are still the same.
How to get more people into the sport? Windsurfing is so infectious, it’ so exciting, people will always get into it. Why do we want to be so big? Keep it small; less crowded on the water, you’ll always find a parking spot, you’ll know everyone!
For more information visit www.ezzy.com