CATEGORY: WAKEBOARD HARDGOODS
INTERVIEWEE: JEFF MCKEE (WAKE BRAND MANAGER)
What are the main 2018 trends in the wakeboard hardware market, in terms of categories: wake park boards, boat boards, hybrid boards, boots, wakesurf, wakeskate? Which sector are you mainly focusing, which sector have you seen the biggest growth in 2017 and expect the biggest growth in 2018?
The longboard category has grown exponentially in the past few seasons amongst all silos of the sport. Cable, boat, and crossover. We are seeing riders of all ages and sizes re-think the length of their board and size up at least one level if not more.
The wakesurf line continues to improve with fast rocker lines,FCS II tool-less fin systems and more. We re-invented the boot closure system in 2017 with the introduction of the Gummy Strap, and have also created yet another category in the towed watersports market with Wake Foils.
Learning to Hydrofoil is easy with our graduated mast length program and the Foil Academy (www.foil-academy.com). It’s safe to say we have A LOT to look forward to in the 2018 season.
What was successful for you in 2017 in terms of product technology, or changes in product you implemented? What is new for your wakeboard construction and design for 2018 and are there any trends in terms of design and construction that the entire industry seems to be progressing towards? It seems the biggest growth of our sport over the last decade is wake park riding. What are you doing to combat the wear and tear that the wake park style of riding puts on equipment?
In 2017 we saw more and more riders “sizing up” to longer length boards to reap the benefits of the added surface area. More Stability, more, pop, easier landings and a whole lot more fun in terms of the overall “feel”. In 2018 we’ve added larger sizes to existing model boards and are introducing NEW MODELS – The Contrast (Carro Djupsjö), The Coalition (Quinn Silvernale & Wes Jacobsen) and the signature Aaron Gunn Terrain.
11 of the 12 models in our line-up feature the Ballistic base built specifically for park riding, all models feature Slingshot Fusion Sidewalls made from high durameter urethane to protect the core, and we also introduced the rail base to our Nomad model – The original longboard wakeboard (150cm, 155cm, 160cm) now available to wakepark riders worldwide.
Which of your boots sold well in 2017 and why? What is new for 2018 in terms of boot design and construction? Are you bringing in any expertise or creating partnerships with footwear brands from outside our sport, eg snowboard boot companies, etc?
Slingshot boot design is at an all time high after the complete re-design we released in 2017. The all new platform features our K9 mounting system eliminating heel lift entirely. The Gummy Straps allow riders to tighten their boots like never before and trust that they will remain secure throughout ever session.
In 2018 we reduced the weight of the boots overall through new material choices and hardware materials and also extended the life of the boots through strategic reinforcements in the overall construction. The Option boot received an overhaul for 2018 and is now proudly flaunting the full gummy strap closure system as well.
Aesthetics / Pro Riders
Any stand out new graphics or artwork collaborations, etc? How important is it to your brand, to have Pro Model Boards and how much freedom do the pros have in term of board graphic?
We look forward to the artwork / graphic process year after year at Slingshot. The athletes have a MASSIVE amount of input when it comes to their boards. Team Rider Wes Jacobsen has designed several models again this season: The Coalition, The Shredtown, The Super Grom, and the Windsor.
Artist and wakeboard Athlete Kim Kirch took complete control of the Valley graphic for the 2nd year in a row, and other standouts include the Whip featuring the photography of Stephen Vollert, the New Contrast designed by Carro Djupsjö and artist Zach Johnsen, and the New Gunn Terrain graphic is simply the BEST!
We also have all new finishes this year when it comes to the graphics – mixtures of matte and gloss, different textures and sheens, foil stamping, natural wood core visuals and more.
Over the last 3 years, we have seen delivery of next season’s kit coming out earlier and earlier. Traditionally the new season’s equipment was delivered to shops just before spring. It is now being delivered as early as September and October, almost 5 months earlier than what the industry is predominantly used to. Will you be releasing any of your 2018 kit to dealers this fall, how important is this early delivery to your brand, do you see this as a benefit to the industry?
For the last 3 years we have launched in September (usually right after Surf Expo). This timeline is working well globally and we will maintain the same schedule this year.
Tell us about your 3 key products for 2018 and why you think they will be great sellers / important.
The Nomad – With the addition of the rail base to the Nomad the door is now open to ride this board ANYWHERE. It’s our 4th season with the Nomad after it’s introduction in the Fall of 2014, and as riders continue to demand bigger boards we are confident that this board will become a wake park favourite in 2018.
Gunn Terrain – The Terrain has been one of our most popular park models for years, and now with the added Carbon through the belly and endorsement of the 2X Plastic Playground and 2X World Champion Aaron Gunn’s endorsement, it’s sure to be a hit – Sizes 140cm, 144cm,148cm,152cm
The Shredtown Boot – With the lighter mounting hardware and new colorway, the Shredtown boot matches up beautifully with so many of the 2018 Slingshot boards and it’s removeable liner makes it an all star at cable parks when your taking those long walks back to the dock.