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TheKiteMag 51 Splash Down   Alina Kornelli9 copy 1200x800 - Tested and True  (AND A BIT TIRED)

Tested and True (AND A BIT TIRED)

If you fancy chucking in your job and finding employment in the kite industry, read on to find out more about a year in the life of a kite pro turned product tester, Brandon Scheid. The fringe benefits? A lot of travel – Brandon’s 2022 included trips to Maui, Chile and Fiji, as well as testing and snowkiting in his home spot of Hood River. Any negatives to the job? Your knees might not thank you…

PHOTOS: Andre Magarao (Hood River), Cameron Petersen (snowkiting), Eric Duran (Chile) and Stu Gibson (Fiji)

“All great changes are preceded by chaos” – Deepak Chopra.

I think this quote really resonates with me when I look back on the past few years of my life journey within the windsports industry. In 2019, as the global pandemic solidified, my “job” as a pro kiteboarder was thrown a bit askew. Due to a bunch of unforeseen circumstances, Liquid Force rapidly closed its kiting division, essentially ending my decade-long professional career with the brand. I used this downtime as an opportunity without commitments to find what really drove my passion. Funny enough it wasn’t necessarily being just another “pro” athlete and winning contests. I desired to give back to the industry that has given me so much, and I decided I wanted to pivot my career and delve into product testing and design. Luckily around the same time, Slingshot kites, based in my home town of Hood River, was looking for someone to come onboard to help bring clarity and clout to the development team. Nervously, I had a quick meeting with founder Jeff Logosz, and I onboarded in my new role with the Design and Supply department. I would take the reins as the head of product testing, working closely with the product designers to close the test / design / redesign loop, while simultaneously helping the marketing department create captivating and informative customer-facing collaterals… A long winded way to say, I landed my dream job.

With the pivot to a more traditional style of job, there came a lot more responsibility, timelines, spreadsheets, budgets, and all the other fun stuff that comes with a “big boy” job. However, I found the work extremely engaging, and three years in I can confidently say I’m thriving in my newfound product-based role. Our team is delivering world class products like the Machine, UFO and Code, and not just in kiting. I couldn’t be more proud of the team I work with and the fruits of our labors. While kiting and “testing” all day may sound ideal, I can tell you firsthand it is not always white sand beaches and warm water. Being that I live in the Pacific Northwest, I spend most of my testing hours in a 5/4 wetsuit. I thrive in the cold, and it takes dedication to make great products, the kind that don’t balk at hours of water time and endless long hours traveling to chase conditions. Working in product development also takes some resilience – there is constant failure and redesign, and sometimes it can feel like you are just spinning in circles getting nowhere. We often don’t have time to celebrate fully in our product wins. Once they are done, we are off to the next product or problem to start working on.

However, amongst all of this there is still the capacity for me to travel and rigorously test product worldwide, with our diverse team of athletes. Slingshot knows the importance of this and enables our team and I to work where it’s windy, giving us a lot of freedom in our day-to-day. This year was no exception and we kicked off with wing testing in Maui. Harsh conditions, big waves, and an epicenter for all things wind, Maui is one of the staple testing locations for our equipment. Its wind and wave seasons align well with the Pacific Northwest wind season, making it an ideal location for winter testing. Maui was quickly followed by a marketing shoot trip to Chile with Gary Siskar (Ride Engine’s Brand Manager) and the RE team. As resources are always limited, most of these trips serve multiple purposes – shooting, marketing, testing, retail relations, social media creation – and certainly feel all out. Chile was amazing, offering daily strong wind of 30 knots and cold water environments. We used most of the time to shoot the product line and have brainstorming sessions for marketing and product development ideas. These trips also allow the athlete side to intermix with the development side, often resulting in better and more well-rounded products.

TheKiteMag 51 Splash Down   Alina Kornelli11 1440x754 - Tested and True  (AND A BIT TIRED)

After a few weeks living it up in Chile in March, I spent the spring in The Gorge riding our spring nuking winds, logging some desk time, and finishing up some work on an upcoming kite release, the Machine V2. As the spring began to thaw, I got a random email from kite legend Ben Wilson, asking if I would like to come to Namotu, Fiji, as a watersports coach. As this location has been on my bucket list for a while now, I booked tickets as soon as possible. In addition to coaching on the island, I was tasked by Slingshot to test and shoot our upcoming surf-related products with Ben Wilson, making sure our surfboards, surf kites, foils and accessories can stand up to the test of the pumping Fijian surf and harsh UV environment.

After leaving the dreamy South Pacific it was time to head back to Hood River for our summer season. Tons of events, demos, shooting, testing and riding culminated in the AWSI industry trade show. Summer is the busiest time, there is never-ending wind and work, and the days are long. It always seems to fly by in a blur of wing and kite sessions with all my windsporting friends. As the fall begins, the temps in The Gorge start to drop and we enter product crunch time. Our team starts getting close to final sign-offs on a ton of products, and on-water time is essential. That means getting back into the 5/4 until the snow starts falling. The fall is one of my favorite times in the Pacific Northwest – there are always a lot of windy days with river swell and great conditions for testing right in my backyard. Once winter sets in, Hood turns into a snow globe and we are able to do some of our product testing while snowkiting – a minor perk of the job, but one I relish. Snowkiting always involves a ton of effort chasing wind and suitable snow conditions. Luckily the stars aligned this winter and I was able to score a session I have been scouting and dreaming of for three plus years. Snowkiting high up above the treeline on Mt. Hood seemed like a great way to cap off the year.

With upcoming ‘23 product in the rearview mirror, it’s time to take a deep breath and collect myself before the plunge back into the gear development. It’s always a bittersweet time of year – the things you’ve been intimately working with go on to the marketing side of the company and start their path to market. You then immediately get a fresh batch of crazy ideas to flesh out and the cycle starts anew. As I write this, overlooking the Sea of Cortez, I am on another testing cycle in southern Baja. I can’t help but feel extremely grateful for the lucky life I am able to live within the windsports industry. It is not always an easy industry – you’re constantly forced to change hats and adapt. And I won’t lie, my job and years of sending certainly has taken its toll on my body. However, I wouldn’t trade it for anything…

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