State of the Industry – Robby Naish – Naish

COVID-19 has impacted all of us and our families. Kitesurfing Magazine publisher John Bryja caught up with some of the leading CEOs to find out more about the impact of COVID on the kitesurfing industry. 

ROBBY NAISH: OWNER/ATHLETE NAISH INTERNATIONAL

In the beginning of this COVID mess it was very unclear how bad things would get and how long various restrictions would last. During the initial global lockdowns we had a GKA meeting with most of the major kitesurfing brands to discuss thoughts and plans with team riders etc. Plans were very mixed from brand to brand. For some it sounded like the sky was falling. I think that we were very lucky to have gone through all of this living on Maui compared to what most of the world had to deal with. Maybe because of that, for Naish, I decided to be optimistic, cross our fingers and hope for the best. I have kept all of our team riders at full commitment through the pandemic, as well as never laying off or cutting back any of our employees. In the end I think what goes around comes around, and although we had no idea where things would head in terms of demand from the market, availability from our suppliers or what our income stream would look like, we kept everything rolling as close to normal as possible.

At the end of the day it all worked out. We had finished off this season’s designs and gone into production earlier than most of our competitors, so we had at least a reasonable supply of product available when most others had nothing. Although global sales were pretty much dead in most countries during the full lockdowns last spring, once things began to open up people began to buy equipment. With extra time on their hands and not being able to travel, many people looked at getting new gear and riding near home. 

There have more recently been supply issues throughout the industry that have caused a shortage of available equipment. It has been a very long time since kite demand in our industry has outpaced supply, but we are certainly seeing that now. The inability to travel to factories and to personally implement designs into production has been difficult. Lead times and availability of raw materials have been challenging and COVID has greatly impacted most factories ability to keep things rolling in Asia. Once you do have product, finding containers, space on ships and eventually getting freight out of port are also new challenges. But again, we saw much of this coming early on and tried to set ourselves up as best we could for what looked like potentially choppy seas ahead. Both from a material supply chain standpoint and from a manufacturing standpoint, we made some critical decisions early on that have helped balance and stabilize our production of product. As a result, although I wish we had a bit more product on hand to sell than we currently do, we’re doing great and demand for our stuff has never been higher. That’s not a bad position to be in. Although COVID sucks and I hope things for everyone around the globe ‘get back to normal’ soon, I’m very thankful for how the Naish brand has weathered this storm and how things look for the foreseeable future. For now we will continue to sail ahead, cross our fingers and hope for the best. Especially in times like these with so much doom and gloom around, a bit of optimism can not hurt. And without question every day on the water is a good day!