Kitesurfing Magazine caught up with Airush Marketing director Marc Schmid for a look at the changes at Airush for 2018. He did such a good job on this interview, he was hired away to another job. 🙁
Kitesurfing Magazine: You grew up as a kid on the US East Coast, and are now the marketing manager at one of the original kite brands, Airush. How did that come about?
Marc Schmid: My interest in sports marketing started at a very young age. I had insane opportunities working for windsurfing and kiteboarding shops, schools and distributors starting at 14-years-old. By the time I was ready for university, I already knew I wanted to be deeper in the industry than ever before. As I moved to Australia to complete my marketing degree, I was introduced to Toby Bromwich who was building Core Online Magazine and Core Jam at the time. This opportunity opened a ton of doors, really getting to know people in various brands. Airush was one of these brands, which was conveniently based in Perth, Australia at the time. I got to know the brand and learn their history.
When brand director, Clinton Filen, posted the job on the forums, I jumped at it immediately. In September 2009, I applied for the job position of assistant marketing manager. From there, I have been working with the Airush brand and building my knowledge and experience. Moving to Cape Town in 2010 really took things to another level with the brand. Being extremely connected to one of the meccas of kiteboarding gives us a growing competitive edge when developing innovative products and pushing durability.
Kitesurfing Magazine: What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Marc Schmid: In the kiteboarding industry, the brands have very small teams, so many jobs are wrapped into one person. This results in a substantial amount of multitasking with all aspects of marketing, advertising, team management and sales. Adding ambiguities like a photo shoot not going to plan because of wind conditions or a product launch shift forces you to improvise and adjust which becomes easier to handle through experience.
Ultimately it comes down to telling the story of the brand, its people and their products. It gets easier when the people behind Airush have a passion for making great products in a location like Cape Town. We don’t need to pretend to be something we are not.
Kitesurfing Magazine: Airush has been developing a more North American feel over the past five years. Is that an intentional direction of the brand?
Marc Schmid: That’s a tough question. We have always been a very international company with key staff being South African, Australian and American and of course an influence from our key European riders. We are pretty experimental with our visual design and try a lot of stuff, but I would not say we intentionally went for a North American feel.
Although we have a strong base in Europe through Spain and France, I enjoy spending time in the USA. I spend at least a few weeks each year traveling to each of our major retailers throughout the States to get a better idea of the landscape and reconnecting with friends and riders. The USA is definitely a different customer: level of riding, where they travel, how many days they kite, brand loyalties and other interests. This keeps our perspective and focus to connect with riders in North America.
Kitesurfing Magazine: You must be excited to have Canadian Champion Sam Medysky join Cape Hatteras’s strapless legend Reider Decker on the team?
Marc Schmid: We are always looking for riders who are a part of the fabric of kiteboarding in their regions and internationally. When you speak about North American kiteboarders both Sam Medysky and Reider Decker come up constantly. They are riders of different disciplines but they share a lot of the same values, extremely approachable and easy to talk to and all around great people to work with. All essential to being an Airush team rider beyond their high level of riding.
Kitesurfing Magazine: What defines your brand vision, and how to do you strive to reach it in your designs?
Marc Schmid: We honestly want to create something different in terms of product and riding experience. Our core brand values revolve around technology, durability and sustainability. Ultimately, we set out to innovate at every level and align and conspire with customers who are looking for that.
For example, this year we spent a lot of time developing the ECOBOARD project.
Kitesurfing Magazine: Airush invented the one-strut kite. Was the project too far ahead of its time?
Marc Schmid: In 2003, the Airush Trio kite was ahead of its time as the first three-strut kite but now the entire industry considers it the norm. I would say it was a combination of several aspects that would have made it a bit ahead of the game, but when riding styles and technology change, so does their demands of kite performance. Since foils and directional boards have become such a huge part of kiteboarding, the introduction of the Ultra has changed everyone’s perspective of what a single-strut kite can actually do. As some brands have only been focusing on entry-level performance with a single-strut design, we have spent the time developing a full-blown machine that handles above the expectation of riders. People who have used the Ultra are convinced they do not need a multi-strut design and wouldn’t go back. I will only say that the Ultra is only going to get better and better. Eventually, a good portion of riders will only need a single-strut kite.
Kitesurfing Magazine: Airush is part of the ECOBOARD project using plant-based epoxy resins. How did that partnership come about?
Marc Schmid: We have been very focused on reducing our impact on the environment through kite recycling, solar-powered headquarters,and carbon offsets through our One Ton For The Planet project. Naturally, we felt with the extensive work on new, sustainable materials, we felt the next step forward would be to follow a set of standards that all brands can follow to make a more responsible product. The team at Sustainable Surf has been nothing but fantastic for supporting us in this.
Kitesurfing Magazine: What are Airush’s goals in performance improvement for 2018? In what areas? Any plans and strategies that worked to achieve those goals you can share? Any future secret developments that might interest consumers?
Marc Schmid: Our exclusive Airush Dyneema Load Frame V4 featuring WebTech has been ground breaking. The Load Frame has been proving itself since 2013 by greatly reducing canopy failures and weight. We have introduced the 4th version of the frame with WebTech that decreases the use of heavy Dacron. This construction has been used in our Airush Ultra and now has been adopted into the entire range of Airush kites; allowing for an increase in durability while decreasing weight for a more responsiveness, especially in underpowered conditions.