2011´s most talked about freestyle windsurfer and current PWA and EFPT champion changes his sponsors. JP/Neilpryde secured the deal. We talked to Martin Brandner (brand manager of JP), Marco Leconte (brand manager of Neilpryde) and Steven about his move, the R&D process of JP/Neilpryde and the importance of still looking after the market.
JP/NeilPryde were the first dominant brands ever in freestyle windsurfing. Josh Stone ignited a whole discipline with the first Spock and Brazilian prodigy Ricardo Campello (JP/NeilPryde) - PWA Freestyle World Champion in 2003, 2004, and 2005 - initiated a new era with the Funnel - a switch-stance back-winded Flaka named in memory of the late Andy Funnell. Kevin Mevissen (JP/NeilPryde) was the very first European Freestyle Pro Tour Champion in 2003.
Now-a-days, the team riders of JP/NeilPryde dominate in other disciplines of the PWA and set two of the top 3 riders in the overall wave ranking and two of the top 10 in slalom. It appears like the team of JP and NeilPryde grew out of freestyle as time went by.
The Freestyle World- and European Champion Steven van Broeckhoven himself, is known as the driving force behind Gaastra´s Pure - currently the most renowned freestyle sail on the market. Additionally he got his own Pro Model of the F2 Rodeo, a board which influenced the shapes of freestyle boards probably more than any other in the last years.
EFPT: How much is (or will) Steven (be) involved in the development of new freestyle sails and boards respectively and how much say do the existing team-riders have in this process?
Martin Brandner: 'Steven is certainly our No1 Rider so he will have the biggest input - while the rest of our team (Andy Chambers, Tilo Eber, Maarten van Ochten, Yegor Popretinskiy and Youp Schmit) will still be involved. He is currently working with Werner Gnigler on our 2013 Freestyle boards and is already very happy with what they have so far. Werner has been in touch with Steven for a while already and knew exactly what Steven wanted. They speak the same language and had a very good understanding of what needs to go into the boards.'
Marc-Olivier (Marco) Leconte brand manager of TeamPryde says: 'Steven is spending a lot of time with Robert Stroj to develop our next generation freestyle sail. We didn't ask Steven to join our team for titles only. His input and knowledge is super valuable to help us develop the best freestyle sail ever made. All our riders are involved in the development process. This is why they are part of TeamPryde.'
Steven himself adds that: 'Working with shaper Werner Gnigler and sail designer Robert Stroj is like a dream. I really believe we will make the best gear. What I saw and tried so far really made me stoked!'
EFPT: This year some brands released their 2012 board-shapes already at the first PWA event in February. What do you think about this trend and when will the new gear be presented?
Martin: 'It sounds a bit strange to introduce 2012 products in February 2011. Sounds like someone realized that their 2011 boards were not working so well so they thought they need something new urgently. JP will certainly not follow that trend as we think this is not good at all for our partners (national distributors and shops) and end-consumers. How would you feel if you buy a brand new freestyle-board in October - thinking you have a new board for the coming summer and then a new one is already offered in February/March.'
EFPT: The air at the top of the PWA Freestyle is very thin, as there are a lot of riders sailing on a very high level, which makes the heats always a good battle. How will you (Steven) particularly push JP/NeilPryde in the upcoming season?
Steven: 'I will focus 100% on the PWA Freestyle and I will train more. For the rest I will just try to do the same as last year: giving my best, push the level and keep having fun which is the most important thing to me.'
EFPT: One final question: in other action sports industries, in particular winter-sports, video-parts play a huge role in the promotion of brands and team-riders. Lately, we started to see this trend also fall into windsurfing- primarily by individual riders so far. Do you as a brand/individual consider this as a part in the future of the sport and should riders be rewarded for their appearances?
Martin B.: 'Video is certainly becoming more and more important. We are already rather active in this area and have some special ideas with Steven in mind.' Marco L. adds that: 'NeilPryde is already investing a lot in video editing and are planning to carry on next seasons.' Also Steven is convinced that 'videos are really essential for our sport. For the upcoming year, there are some good ideas around, so I believe there will be some pretty good productions.'
One more time it appears how important it is for a brand to have a number of great riders to improve the quality of new board-shapes and sails. JP/NeilPryde shows that not only the quality, but also the quantity of outstanding riders helps in the development of the future gear. Which will not be only used by one, but a number of windsurfers all around the world. Nevertheless, the brand-manger of JP points out how important it is for the market and the industry itself, to hold back the release of the shapes for the following season. With riders like Steven, who is pushing the sport and genuinely enjoying every second of it, and a brand that is investigating in progression and style, without forgetting about the end-consumers, the future seems bright.