Early January 2010, me and my fiancée spent ten days under the sun of Barbados to warm up our bones, tan and for me to score some kiting
time in the middle of the British winter. A few days before leaving I learnt from Mark Shinn Twitter page that he was also off to Barbados.
Therefore I decided to meet with him to talk about his latest project (Shinnboarding.com) and kiting in general around a couple of Banks (Barbados finnest beer)after a good day spent in the water. (My life is so difficult indeed ) Credit: Lianne G
1. So Mark, what is this new company all about?
Shinn is not a new company as some people believe; we have been creating premium boards for a while. Back in 2009, I decided it was time for me to develop the Shinn brand further and go more main stream by spanning the entire market from beginner to pro rider. In fact, there will be a board for pretty much any type of rider. I believe that the market needs more focus on dedicated board development.
2. Can you let us know a bit more about the construction of your board?
The board construction varies across the range but features a predominantly wood core. In particular, I worked on the flex response to make them as playful as possible. When you go kitesurfing you fly a kite in the first place and it is important that the board you ride enhances your time on the water and the performance of your kite!
Riding a board with too much flex or which is too stiff is not the answer. The ideal board should be stiff in the right place and have flex where necessary. The Shinn boards have this. Credit: Lianne G
3. You have developed this new TT skimboard the “Waterbird”. How did you come up with the idea?
I have always loved playing around with skimboards, wakeskate and ride strapless in general. Of course they all have pros and cons. For example, you need to be powered to ride a wakeskate whereas you don’t need as much wind on a skimboard. The idea with the “Waterbird” is really to use the pros of both a wakeskate and a skimboard with or without fins. We have put a large EVA pad with a kicker on both sides, so that you can get a better contact with the board when getting some tricks like shove it, varials and ollis. Anybody with the minimum of kitesurfing experience will be able to ride this board with or without fins.
In fact, strapless is really accessible and easier than it looks. It is also really good for developing your kite flying skills. There are a few things to know like making sure that you and the board are traveling as fast as the kite, have plenty of flex in your leg and a stiff upper body, or keeping your kite down when hitting a wave to stay stuck to the board.
The other great thing about strapless is that as long as you are motivated you will be able to progress and learn new tricks. There is little risk of injuring yourself as if you fall you are not stuck to the board like you would if you were riding bindings for example. Credit: Shinnboarding.com
4. A few people on the internet have been making comments about your board’s unusual graphics compared with the rest of the market. Where did the inspiration come from?
Well we wanted to make something different to standout from the other boards on the market and for people to recognise as a Shinn board.
For example, nowadays if I go into a kiteshop I find it impossible to tell which brand is which when I look at the boards.
So to come back to your question, we worked with a design consultancy in Belgium and that’s how it all started. I also really like the French artist who drew the Pelican on the waterbird. In the long term, I want Shinn boards to be recognised for their performance but also for their look and the artistic side of them.
5. Surfing waves is getting more popular nowadays. Here in Barbados, I have seen more people riding directional than Twin Tip. Can you tell me a bit more about your surfboard?
Indeed, surfing is getting bigger and bigger every day and I believe this is something positive for kiteboarding. Surfing waves with a kite is more accessible than surfing as you do not have to spend hours paddling back to the peak each time you catch a wave. Using a kite also gives you the chance to use small mushy waves which can not be done when you surf. After, you can ride with or without straps, hooked or unhooked and with and without the kite power. With all of this in mind, we have developed 3 surfboards that can be ridden with different fin set ups and with different performances in mind.
-The 5‘6 is a thruster that requires a bit of power to get going unless you are really light of course. It is the perfect board to start surfing waves especially if you like to be powered with your kite.
- The 5’10 this is actually a copy of my own board and the one I use most of the time. The board has a quad set up and his quite easy to ride. It will satisfy most of the people out there. After if you want to push your surfing to the next level, it is your own decision and once you start to push the board it performs really well thanks to the quad fin set up.
- The 6’. This board is a fish and his aimed at heavier rider, or for people who kite in light winds ad hence don’t ride super powered. It is the perfect weapon in mushy waves and those light summer breeze and yet performs well in cleaner waves.
Construction wise, the boards are made in Bamboo and IXPS foam to be super resistant yet very light thanks to a hand made finish. Credit: Lianne G
6. Back in the day you were famous for riding Mutant boards. Are you planning to develop such a board?
Simply no. I think that Mutants were the right board at the time (a few years ago) but would be totally wrong today. Today, a standard Freeride Twin Tip is as performing as a Mutant use to be. TT’s are easier to ride and you will get much more fun using them. It would be like stepping back in time…
7. Can the Player be ridden with boots for all the people who like to use them occasionally?
Yes, the Player can be ridden with boots. However, it is not a board specifically designed to be ridden with boots. For the people who ride bindings occasionally, it will be ideal. We have done a great job with the flex repartition so it is not too soft for boots. The stance is quite wide as well with 51cm in between the inside of the rider’s feet. Credit: Shinnboarding.com
8. Any team rider yet? Are you looking for some young guns?
Officially no… I have got a famous rider ready to sign for me; there is no doubt that everybody out there will be aware of it as soon as the time is right. Of course I am also looking for other riders to represent Shinn. Personally, I think that the time of sponsoring any rider who can do the latest handle pass trick is well and truly over. In my opinion, it is more important to invest in youth who have a lot of talent and who will develop the sport tomorrow as well as giving a positive image. Kitesurfing Competitions are essential as I said earlier but pushing the up and coming riders is just as important.
I personally take the time to reply to all the emails sent to me, so if you think that you have what it takes you can always drop me a line through shinnboarding.com. Credit: Shinnboarding.com
9 So nowadays, what does give you the buzz when you go kitesurfing at your local spots?
Well, to be totally honest everything still gives me the buzz when I am out there. I have stopped pushing it in freestyle as all the spanking can be a bit too much sometimes, especially with new powered tricks. Nowadays, I mostly try to ride strapeless and to push it in the surf. Skimboarding is also great in any wind condition but is just so much fun when the wind is asthmatic. Whether I am ridding a twin tip, a skim or a surf. I really choose the way I am ridding according to the wind on the day and my mind. Credit: Shinnboarding.com
10. There was this great video of you a few years ago skimboarding in Tenerife which inspired a lot of people to give skimboarding a go. Do you actually ride strapeless most of the time? (Watch the video here)
It is 50/50 really. The great thing about strapeless riding is that it forces you to improve your kite flying skills as I said earlier. A lot of people believe that this is a light wind only thing but once you get the grip you can ride a skimboard or a strapless surfboard in any wind conditions and have as much fun as a twin tip.
11. Would you recommend less experience kitesurfers to give it a go.
I would definately. This is such a safe practice since you are not strapped to the board like you would be on a twin tip. If you crash the board just stays behind you. Worst case scenario, you will just have a long body drag upwind. Credit: Lianne G
12. Over the years you have been kitesurfing all over the world. What is your favourite destination?
My favourite destination… All of them really. I do not think that a destination can be right or wrong, It depends on a lot of factors like the time of the years and more importantly the wind.
You could go to Coche and have no wind for one week, yet the following week will see a perfect 25 knots. With kitesurfing we are lucky enough to just need wind to get going. With 15 knots and the right kite you will get a great time whereas Windsurfers would stand still on the beach. Imagine if you have just been travelling around the world! I think that as long as your kite is powered enough to get you on a board you are at the right place. Credit: Shinnboarding.com
13. Since we are here in Barbados, what drove you here? Is this you first trip on the island?
Barbados is a wicked place really and they do have great rum (Mount Gay) and beer (Bank Lager). It is actually my third trip . What I really like about this place is the spot variety. Within a few miles you can get flat water spots and great waves. As well as kitesurfing I am also really into surfing. So for example, if it is not really windy here in Silver Rock (one of Barbados main kitesurfing spot) I can just pack my kites and jump into my car with a surf board and be within ten/fifthteen minutes in Surfer’s Point or Soup Bowl surfing nice wave out in the reef. The Bajans are also really nice and welcoming people which makes such a difference compared to some other places I have been to in the past.
Dolphin Man owner of Silver Sand Beach Ltd Credit: Lianne G
14. You won both the KPWT and the PRKA in 2002. This was also the beginning of all those new rules on international kitesurfing competitions. 2009 has been another special year regarding international kitesurfing competitions. What is your opinion on all the things surrounding the IKA phenomenon?
Kiteboarding came very soon and you had some people who were in for the sport because they loved it and there were a few people who were in for the money. It took a while to find a way and in fact, I do not think that the sports found the right way yet. It is not easy because there is no right or wrong answer. There is various ways to do it. All the things taking place at the moment with the IKA and its surrounding are not funny at all and just come down to money it is not about the sport like in most things today. The competitive side of kiteboarding is shrinking so fast. There are less and less professional riders, less and less people at competitions. You now I have a hobby of riding bikes and every now and again I do a bit of bike racing in Belgium or wherever I am. It is strictly for fun. You can have a local event in a small village with 1000 people entered. But then you go to a national kiteboard competition there is 15 people there, you can go to an international competition and the event is not full with only 30 riders for example. That is the sign that something has gone wrong in competitive kiteboarding. In most sport people like to compete. If you play squash you join the local squash club and you play. The same with football and other sports. In kiteboarding 99.9% of people do not compete and don’t have an interest whatsoever in competing. Something is strange there. The organisations in most cases are making it harder. Credit: Shinnboarding.com
15. So you are English, you use to ride for Naish ages ago and somehow the 2 people at the top of the kiteboarding world have this in common with you (Kevin is sponsored by Naish and Aaron is English). So do you think there is a need for different categories and who is your favourite rider?
The world championship is to decide who the best kiteboarder in the world is over the year in a competitive environment. This year Kevin scored the most points so he is the world champion. He deserves it and worked really hard for it. For the last five years Aaron Hadlow won the world championship. You will find a lot of people who think that Aaron’s is the best kiteboarder at freestyle, but that does not mean he was the best competitor.
There is definitely no need for different categories in freestyle competitions to accommodate all styles. Kevin has trained to be world champion and has trained for this. Aaron prefers developing is own style now which is great. After 5 times as World Champion Aaron’s has got the legitimacy to do what he wants. He has survived since before the handlepasses and today’s freestyle. I have know Aaron since he was 12/13 and he is the first one to know that if he wants the crown back he will need to ride with a competition style.