Photos by PWA/Carter
Starboard won the prestigious PWA Constructors Title this season, meaning their riders on their boards did better at PWA events than any other team. It’s a title that brands relish to win. We asked Starboard main man Svein Rasmussen and Starboard designer Tiesda You what it meant to them.
Questions for Svein
What does winning the PWA Constructors Title mean to:
a) The Starboard brand
Svein: The Starboard brand will continue to be recognized as a brand that develops and makes available great products for everyone from entry level to the PWA. But it is also clear to see that Starboard supports competitive windsurfing as we believe that competitions and events are great way of marketing a wonderful sport.
b) To the bottom line (ie do you sell more boards in the years that you ‘win’ this title?)
Svein: I believe that we may see no actual sales feedback from this title. It is more of an inspirational theme for us at Starboard.
c) To you personally
Svein: I live and breathe windsurfing, always have done, and will probably keep on for as long as I live and breathe! Winning is a big part of my drive. I enjoy seeing sailors getting on our equipment and then being able to unleash their true potential. When a sailor then wins an event on our gear, I feel really happy on behalf of that sailor and believe that we, to a certain extent, have been able to help the sailor fulfil their goal. I used to spend an enormous amount of time on my own gear during my time as a competitive sailor and I remember how nice it was when the gear I raced on was competitive.
Winning the PWA constructors title makes my competitive dreams come true. Knowing that some of the best sailors in the world have chosen to use our gear and then go out and, for instance, place 1st, 2nd and 3rd in slalom is an incredible feeling. I will always remember the awards ceremony at Sylt this year, it was quite a day for me.
"Knowing that some of the best sailors in the world have chosen to use our gear and go out and place 1st, 2nd and 3rd in slalom is an incredible feeling"
What do you think sets your company apart from the other brands that you have beaten?
Svein: I believe that Starboard has a few unique sides. Both the owner and management have one goal that sits beyond all other goals; namely develop the best possible gear and make it available as soon as possible.
At times the development costs and time frames make little sense, but we are more of a product, result and service driven company, where bean counters and marketing crew need to wait in line. Our opinion is that a good product will speak louder than a big marketing budget, thus you will see that our advertisement often is single page, whereas our competitors are double page.
It’s probably just a matter of priority. I have never gone to marketing school, neither has anyone else in our company, so we are all agreeing on the ‘development priority’.
Who played the biggest part in winning it (in your opinion)?
Svein: I think the team spirit played the most important part. We are a winning team and people on our team know that nothing is impossible.
Look at Antoine; he had never won one single slalom final before he joined Starboard, then he won 11 in a row in the first competition.
Bjorn is another case; he had not won events for several years then he got some boards from our German distributor which he tried for an hour before the PWA Turkish event and then he went out and won that comp and Sylt. Sarah Quita; she is a natural born winner, she would most likely win on any good gear these days. She is also the best off the water as a spokesperson for the spirit of our sport.
"People talk about Antoine and Bjorn and how good they are as racers, but there’s been little talk about how good the boards are and therefore the designer too!"
Kevin has always played an important role, he has arguably been the best overall PWA sailor over the last 5-6 years. His ‘overall title’ used to be awarded by the PWA in the past and if it still was Kevin would be the champion of this century! It’s hard to be extra competitive in both wave and slalom. He has won the world title in wave, slalom and formula. But then talking about versatility....Antoine Albeau was the first PWA freestyle champion!
Interesting to note that most people do not quite understand that the slalom boards our team uses are 100% identical to what is available in stores worldwide. Our team has no special lay ups or shapes, just simply standard production boards.
Which brand do you think will give you the greatest competition for the 09 title?
Svein: I will need to say that there are so many good brands and designers out there, now more than ever. Fanatic have been doing a great campaign for many years in Freestyle and I predict that they will put a good challenge up in 2009.
Questions for Tiesda
To win this title, you’ve obviously got to have good boards in all three disciplines (wave/freestyle/slalom). Which discipline is your biggest strength as a designer and which provides the most challenge to get ‘right’?
Tiesda: All three designs have their own challenges. Wave is very subjective whereas Slalom is totally objective; you either have the fastest board that can win races, or you don’t. Freestyle would be in between. Personally, I’d say that slalom is the most challenging. I grew up on slalom boards and always wanting to go faster and faster. The other thing about slalom designs is that you can use more hydrodynamic theories to come up with new ideas no one else has thought of before. So here the engineering background is a big plus. Basically, knowing some theory gives you the hints you need to make a planing surface more efficient and the rest is up to you.
How close is the relationship between you and the team riders? Do you meet up with them regularly?
Tiesda: It’s really close. We have team riders coming to visit us all the time and we go visit them all the time too: test trips, photoshoot opportunities, hanging out etc. Keeping in touch with everyone is very important to the team. Sitting behind computers and emailing all day will only get you so far and it’s not exactly inspiring, so to keep an open mind and be in touch with as many people as possible from as many different backgrounds as possible will always be important. Because almost all our team guys use production boards, it’s very important that the team riders are always involved in the R&D of our products. A lot of people still don’t believe that the team is using off-the-shelf kit, but they really do.
"At the end of the day there are hundreds of ideas and suggestions, including my own, that need to be filtered down to finish with a shiny new board in a shop"
How much are you involved in the R&D of the kit, ie. are you on the water most days AND which is your favourite discipline?
Tiesda: I guess I oversee the R&D from the very first ideas through to the product sitting in the shops. There’s all the peripheral activities too; distribution, the timing of each product launch, the marketing and promotional campaigns and so on. But the core remains R&D and there I get involved in as much details as I can from the position of an insert to the diameter of a screw, from the listening of feedback or new ideas from everyone and everywhere to testing, testing, testing. That part is so important because at the end of the day there are hundreds of ideas and suggestions, including my own, that need to be filtered down to finish with a shiny new board in a shop. So listening, understanding, testing and following the right decision is probably the biggest part of my R&D side. I spend almost every weekend testing products with the crew, almost all models in all sizes except for the freestyle boards and some wave boards. I don’t really have a favourite discipline, but my favourite boards to test are the firsts of their kind. The first Serenity for example or the first iSonic. That’s always exciting.
What board are you most proud of in the current range?
Tiesda: From the current range, I’d say either the Serenity or the iSonic. People talk about Antoine and Bjorn and how good they are as racers, but there’s been little talk about how good the boards are and therefore the designer too! On the other hand, the Serenity is something I’ll always be proud of because it was a design that I put together really out of nothing, there was no history to start from and it all came together within 12 hours. The idea came late one night; I refined the details in my mind through the night and shaped the board the very next morning. It doesn’t happen often, but when that kind of inspiration comes, it sure is a great feeling.
For more on Starboard go to www.star-board.com