Words: Tiesda You
Tiesda You’s whole life has been about design and coming up with on point products that look great, have huge amounts of user appeal; all without losing sight of the key ingredient: functionality. Having been indoctrinated into the Starboard family Tiesda has been able to bring many of his board shaping ideas to fruition and now with Shamal in the mix he’s crossing over to complimentary accessories. Windsurfing UK caught up with Tiesda to get the gossip.
I’m of a French nationality, grew up in Qatar and did my uni days in the UK. Shamal is the local wind in Qatar. My custom boards were called Shamal and that’s where the name for my sunglasses came from. I guess I just grew up with an interest in design. Aren’t we all a little bit obsessed with it?
Quality is definitely the key ingredient to good products. I know it sounds generic but it’s true. When you start with quality, you can always filter down and cover other value propositions, but quality is always a good place to start.
At about age 15 I figured I wouldn’t be able to make it as a professional windsurfer, so I decided to be a designer instead. I started to orientate myself in that direction, shaping my first boards, studying engineering at uni and then doing internships. It worked out really well and looking back, I’m glad it went the way it did. I’ve been incredibly lucky.
Performance is objective, and good design is mostly subjective and emotional. The two together makes the whole.
My favorite product would definitely be the Starboard Formula 147. It was the board that gave me confidence to push the envelope. At the time I was 22 and we were looking to develop a board that would replace the Formula 186. Phil McGain and Kevin Pritchard were on hand to develop the new board and I did my own little thing in the background. Eventually, my prototype made it to the final test and won, and was selected to go into production before going on to win quite a few races. There were lots of groundbreaking ideas that went into that board: it was really thin and it had a really wide tail. I introduced those innovations with that board and it worked!
Every year seems to bring something new and exciting for me. Foils are something that’s really making me excited right now though.
As far as getting on the water myself…It depends on the season. When it’s windy, I can be on the water almost every day. When it’s not windy, it can be two or three weeks just catching up on emails… that’s not so much fun.
I’m not in the shaping bay much anymore. We have four shapers who are incredibly skilled, so I would typically design on my computer and leave the shaping to them. We are also four designers now, so the team offloads a lot of the work depending on the category. Right now I personally am looking after Starboard’s new foil designs. Besides design, there’s all the other aspects of running the business, from pricing, production issues, working with our customers, making catalogues and tweaking the website for example.
Starboard’s foils and planing inflatable boards are two growth drivers. The trends we’re seeing are that planing inflatables, that started with our AirPlanes, are definitely here to stay and perhaps grow more than expected. Foils are also making a big buzz and it’s bringing some renewed interest – from windsurfers and more interestingly renewed interest from non-windsurfers in windsurfing too.
When and how people windsurf has maybe changed but I don’t agree that windsurfing has necessarily gone down in participation levels. But I do believe that windsurfing needs to do more to promote itself to the world. Windsurfing is a wonderful sport: we windsurfers know this but outside our bubble, people have barely heard of the sport, let alone visualized how amazing it is.
To help with windsurfing’s promotion sailors should buy Shamal Windsurfing sunglasses! Seriously: I created Shamal Windsurfing sunglasses because I see windsurfers spending money on sunglasses brands like RayBan or Oakley that do virtually nothing to support or promote windsurfing. When you buy a pair of Shamal sunglasses, the money goes back to supporting and promoting windsurfing.
The idea is to create marketing arm for the windsurfing sport. There are lots of windsurfing hardware brands, but not so many fashion brands. Looking at most other sports, they have fashion brands that generate revenue by promoting their sport’s lifestyle. We’re missing that so that’s why I wanted to start Shamal Windsurfing. It’s a cross-industry brand that I hope can represent windsurfers and the windsurfing lifestyle. Shamal Windsurfing reinvests what we make from sunglasses sales 100% back into windsurfing and windsurfers.
I’m starting with sunglasses because it’s something that can complement the hardware brands and can be a part of the windsurfing lifestyle. I mean, all windsurfers wear sunglasses right? Next, I’m not quite sure. It needs to be an item that complements hardware brands, not create any conflicts. Maybe windsurfers’ watches?
If you imagine the total sum of money windsurfers spend on sunglasses, it’s quite a lot, right? With this revenue channel, we can boost our sport with what you can call a ‘marketing budget’ to promote windsurfing to the general public. When I look at surfing, I can see so many surf fashion brands that promote surfing. Windsurfing needs that type of mechanism too.
I’m very much indebted to the guys on the team because they believe in the idea, and what it is that we can achieve. These guys are superstars and here they are, helping a start-up brand get traction. They get what I am trying to do and what could be a cool thing for windsurfing. I’m really happy and thankful for their support. Shamal team riders have to want to be part of what we are doing: that’s the key attribute…