Interviewee: Andy Wirtz – CEO/Product Designer
Is the market expanding at the same pace than the previous years? (one or two-figure growth?)
Yes, the overall market is still growing, scratching the two-figure-growth with our brand.
What about the demographics of your end consumers? (kids, teens, adults, senior surfer, male/female…)
Our main market is the beginner and intermediate market, through all ages and genders.
Which areas/countries register the strongest growths?
All new surf countries are growing strong compared to the big surfing nations. We are experiencing the strongest growth in Scandinavia for our brand at the moment.
The performance/hybrid shortboard is a staple design, but what are the subtle evolutions for 2018?
In Europe, the mid-length performance or retro designs haven’t really hit yet but you can see them surely but slowly getting stronger again.
Retro-inspired models are doing good as well, driven by the come-back of the traditional fish design in the last 2 to 3 years. Do you confirm?
Yes, they are doing well and we are selling these really well for a decade but the big trend in the new surfing countries is still yet to come.
Do you cater to the longboard user?
Longboards have always been a key product of our brand, we have a big variety of stock models available. Though I must say, with the big hybrid shortboard trend, the longboard got pushed aside a bit.
Fancy EPS stringered models are making much noise: is the traditional PU model (soon) dead?
The new EPS constructions are getting stronger but PU is still far away from dead. Check how many Pros are still riding PU boards. All retro inspired boards are made in PU.
Are top techs from the premium models trickling down to the lower ranges?
People are willing to pay more for a high tech product these days, thanks to the marketing tools the brands make use off. But the lower ranges are still and always will do the big quantities.
What’s your take on advanced constructions for 2018?
The EPS construction with different variety’s of carbon stringer lay out will be the design that will sell well with high performance and hybrid boards. But to be honest, nothing has proved to be the way to go yet and there will still be a lot of movement in construction methods. Which is good, for decades the construction of surfboards hasn´t changed and all of a sudden, there is something new popping up every month. I still believe though, the replacement of the PU foam has still to be found.
What are your top 3 selling boards? (Why those?)
Hybrids, Mini Mals, and Retro Boards. The Beginner and the Intermediate market is by far the biggest market, in we are well established there. We offer these boards in many different price ranges and constructions. The retro stuff is always coming back because people that live in land locked cities make also a big portion of the market and the by boards for the aesthetics, not only the performance.
The high-end shortboard is getting closer to the 1.000 Euros mark (well, at least breaking the 900 Euros): price isn’t an issue, quality/performance is?
HiTech is what you see, everybody markets that but the big quantities are still mid to lower range products.
Is the 600 euro segment (in shortboards) of any interest?
Yes, I think 600€ is still of big interest. If we want the young generation to be surfing, we have to make sure we don´t overdo it with high tech and high prices, otherwise, it becomes a sport for the old and rich.
What is the house politics regarding greener materials, wastes and safety conditions on the production line?
There is a lot of trying and testing of eco-friendly going on but nothing has proofed the way to go. There is a lot of greenwashing going on in the marketing. Longevity will always be eco-friendly, if a PU/Polyester Longboard is out in the water for 10 years it is eco-friendly. Some recyclable board, eco friendly-shipped-around-the-world-boards won´t less a season and there is no place to drop them to be recycled. Yes, we have to work hard to make eco-friendlier products and we will get there. But one must keep in mind, there is a lot of ways to improve in our daily consumption, from food to trash, to use of water, to driver car, to fly around the world. The surfboard industry on this scale is tiny.
What do you offer to shop owners so they can still have an edge on the sales pitch (compared to the online info)?
We offer stock ranges that are compact and easy to understand for the shop stuff. Our main market is the intermediate and beginner market which is not rocket science. A lot of these people still like to go the shops and get an advice. The last 2 years we see an increase of customers buying in surf shops again. The advanced surfer does not need or want any advice, he buys online. The variety of models, sizes and constructions of these performance boards is so big, how can a shop owner keep up with that? Impossible….
Take us through your two key products for 2018.
Softtop School Boards: Strong construction with 25kg EPS core, double layers of 6oz fibreglass top and bottom, double wood stringer. In-built nose and tail foam blocks under the EVA deck. Grab handle, striped colour teaching aid, which helps the teacher and the student to learn and understand where to lay on the board and where to stand.
Polyester Egg: Classic mid length board, which can be ridden as a single fin or 2+1, glassed with double 6oz top and bottom. Very popular in the US, in Europe this trend is still to come.
Performance Comp Longboard: high-density EPS core, biaxial fibreglass top and bottom, Epoxy Resin. Made light for turns but strong to live longer.