It’s reasonable to say, there’s never been a greater choice of water sports on offer, but with it, comes confusion and the very real possibility what’s on offer might just be a fad, a short term craze, even a step too far, more for the benefit of brands who are attention seeking in attempting to show you just how innovative they are. One thing is certain, the more choice we have, the greater the dilution process of existing sports.
‘Over-shooting’ the market, is a well known commercial formula that essentially begins with an innovative idea, pioneered by what we call, first-of-type innovators and ultimately, end-users who buy into the idea. The innovators make things in their garage, experiment with kit and somewhere along the line, it ends with a brand investing or the pioneers do so themselves through venture capital and creating their own brand.
The idea and skills develops along with equipment, but at some point, the symbiotic relationship between what team riders and high end-users demand, elevates the sport on an assumption, everyone wants what they want. Prices rise as exotic materials are introduced, research and development costs have to be recouped, the media focused only on this new high end performance oriented zenith of the sport and all else is ignored, more importantly the very pathway that elevated the sport to such heights.
At this point you have an ‘over-shooting’ of the market, where the ‘original’ idea has outgrown the original idea of simplicity, complicity and affordability. Windsurfing fell victim to this, if you are of an age to remember.
In recent years, SUP has dominated the headlines of water sports, growth accelerated by social media and hype so as it expanded not in a modest manner, but rather exploded onto the scene in a rather messy, fractious way, which seemed to leap frog much of the pioneering process, after all, it’s just a board and paddle?
Meanwhile, windsurfing brands alluded to understanding the dynamics of paddling and even the design of such boards in what was an obvious black hole in their knowledge bank, whilst cashed up entrepreneurs, founded no-name brands to produce sub-standard, low cost ‘Alibaba’ kit in the hope to cash in on the craze and pretty soon, everyone was an expert.
With the development of the foil, this has created a contentious conundrum in water sports which has advocates wanting to bolt a foil onto anything that floats in the name of progress and the way of the future. While it has merits, it does deny you some of the sensory pleasures in not being in direct contact with water; indeed, while the sensation of flying may well be ‘groovy’ you could also argue the case, there is some level of sensory deprivation at the same time. Oh and its a little bit dangerous, especially in crowds or in close proximity to others at high speeds. Make no mistake, foiling over-shoots the market of normality, however you look at it.
On the face of it, those pushing hardest for this innovation, are largely acknowledged, male, sponsored, paid up, seasoned and accomplished water athletes, who have learnt their skills on conventional equipment and spare little thought for the big picture, in nurturing complete beginners across both genders, of all ages and abilities and all the while, they may of course be failing to acknowledge the merits of non-foiling equipment, what it teaches you and the experiences it provides for the price point. This will always be the biggest market and the most important in terms of nurturing board sports.
‘Wing Surfing’ is now the latest must do, revolutionary diversionary idea, seen as the best thing since bottled beer or sliced bread. But already the jokes have sprung up about it, with images of umbrellas being used, bed sheets and other amusing anecdotes. Add to this a foiling board and we have ‘Wing Foiling’, accepting you have to wonder if the evolutionary steps are in the correct order and as to whether those who can foil, will be satisfied with the lower limits of speed and elevation when compared to their option of Kite Foiling?
Confused? Sure why not and you would be forgiven for thinking, some brands have an attention deficit disorder, in failing to nurture one concept at a time – and it’s not that we think any of these ideas are without merit, far from it. Meanwhile, here at Mistral we’re focused on bettering what exists, rather than going off on tangents and over the come months we will be revealing some of our new innovations that will not confuse, simply enhance some old school concepts without the need for new skill sets.