North Kiteboarding Dealer Meeting: Innovation and Consolidation

Words by: TKM Editor Alex Hapgood heads to Mauritius for North's 2016 product pow-wow

North Kiteboarding’s Dealer Meeting at Le Morne, Mauritius, gives North’s network of dealers the opportunity to explore the 2016 range of kites and boards (and also windsurfing kit and SUPs if that’s your bag) and to find out what’s changed, what’s new, and the reasons why their customers are going to want to buy North kit this year.

It also gives them a chance to test them… And there is surely no better place than Le Morne for this – with the expansive lagoon providing plenty of space and opportunities for checking out the freestyle kit, and arguably the world’s best wave set up with Manawa and One Eye breaking over the reef right off the front.

Photo 8 - North Kiteboarding Dealer Meeting: Innovation and Consolidation
Office for the week

Technically this is work though (and there is surely no more impressive office on the planet), so there are also presentations of the new range as well as specific sessions focused on individual products. So what do North hope the dealers get out of the meeting? Head of marketing at North, Philipp Becker, explains that, “In general I hope they will have a lot of fun and feel a part of North Kiteboarding, and additionally that they will come away with a good understanding of the products and especially the ‘segmentation’ of the kites. Especially with years like this when we have a new kite like the Mono, we need them to really understand who the kites are aimed at.”

Photo 7 - North Kiteboarding Dealer Meeting: Innovation and Consolidation
There’s quite a lot of this…

Over the course of 2 weeks, distributors from all corners of the planet pass through Le Morne and receive presentations about the new kit. To the outsider, these may seem a bit ‘dry’ but for the dealers this is their bread and butter and understanding the finer points of the range is what enables them to go back and persuade their customers why they should invest in North equipment. And on hand to talk about specific elements of the line are top team riders and designers, so Aaron Hadlow takes them through the Vegas, Hadlow Team Series and Gambler, and Sky Solbach gives a detailed run down of the design process and the current range of directional boards. So you get to meet some of your heroes too…

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Aaron talks, the world listens…

Photo 4 - North Kiteboarding Dealer Meeting: Innovation and Consolidation
Sky Solbach, a man happy with his surfboards

Out of the lecture theater and the lessons continue on the beach where there are regular ‘kite comparison’ sessions where small groups of 5–7 people work their way through the range of kites. So all kites are rigged up on the beach then dealers go out for a few minutes and then they come in and the team are on hand to tweak some of the settings – like a well-tuned Formula One pit team – and they can then head straight back out and immediately feel the difference. This is then repeated with different kite models of the same size. So over the course of a couple of hours the dealers can really appreciate the differences in the kites and in the tuning options.

Photo 9 - North Kiteboarding Dealer Meeting: Innovation and Consolidation
Another satisfied customer. (Note the ‘check in/out board’ on the background to ensure no dealers get lost at sea…)

But it’s not all one way traffic. Philipp explains that, “The feedback is really important with us because every time we do a meeting like this new product ideas come out. In fact the idea for the competency center – where we go into the shops and actually do the training – came out of one meeting. A lot of the time we are sitting in our ivory towers so to get the feedback from the people who are actually with the customer and at the beach every day makes a big difference.”

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The main presentation

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The new North Whoopee Cushion. Not really, this is a funky thing for shops to show off the new valve with…

And for North this year, what is the headline news? “Our biggest new innovation is the Mono,” explains Philipp. “For us this has been the winner of the dealer meeting and everyone has been talking about it. It’s a one strut kite for freeriding and in the waves, and it’s also a good kite for beginners. Then we have the Light Team construction in the surfboards which feels very similar to custom PU boards, and we’ve tweaked the Compact Surf Concept boards where we have changed the sizes and shapes a little, so there are some smaller sizes which are even easier to ride. Then we have changed the valve system slightly – we have made 3 or 4 changes that have now made this an even better valve.”

There are a few other ‘top secret’ innovations that have been blowing a few minds over here, but the general vibe is that the North equipment is working exceptionally well at the moment. The core equipment continues to be refined, and the new products continue to demonstrate an innovative and progressive brand hard at work. Well, as hard as you can work when you have One Eye calling at you from across the lagoon… Alex

Photo 1 - North Kiteboarding Dealer Meeting: Innovation and Consolidation
And in the afternoon, why not go and kite with Airton?

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