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Nov 16, 2012

Author: John Bryja

Marc Schmid is the International Marketing and Team Manager at Airush located in Cape Town, South Africa but before this he spent a lot of time building his resume to get to where he is. At the age of 13, he was introduced to windsurfi ng and the business. Being a shop employee for some of the biggest shops in Massachuse s – he was able to learn the Windustry inside and out. A er working in retail, distribution, and kite and windsurf schools in the water sports Mecca of Cape Cod, Marc le for Perth, Western Australia. This is where he received his bachelors in Marketing and worked for Core Online Magazine. With his ample experience in the industry for over 10 years and his commitment to water sports, Airush International introduced him to the team in Mid 2009. From there, Marc lived in Thailand, experiencing Asia’s kite culture and production. One year later, Airush International design and marketing team moved their operations to one of the windiest places on earth, Cape Town, South Africa where he leads all aspects of Marketing and the International Team.

Airush International Team

Airush has made some big changes to its international team. What were to goals in this rebuild?
Yeah!  Over the past 3-4 years we have made some big changes and it has snowballed into what we have today.  Of course the goal of any team is to have the highest performing team possible, I believe we have achieved this.  As important as the performance is a team that works well with each other and with the brand. We want the riders to be a genuine part of what we do as a company, and to be stoked about riding together.
    Airush has strong US roots and I feel Bear Karry and John Perry play a crucial roll in letting people know about us on their local beach as well as internationally.  They fit our brand and share the stoke of strapless wave riding and wakestyle riding, what more can you ask for?

What opportunities are there for other US riders interested in working with Airush?
I tell any riders the best way to start is with their local shop!  Climbing the ranks is essential and is a great learning experience to help prepare for the big leagues.  Shops give riders the knowledge and understanding of what is expected of them in the future and this serves as a base for National programs and onwards.  

How do you find up and coming riders? Are event results more important, or is a good working relationship with the local shop?
We are really focused on developing the youth, cliché as it sounds; they are the future of our sport and we want to support that.  
    To find riders we talk a lot with our shops to find the next heavy hitter and see what support we can offer them.  A prime example of this is how John Perry came into our radar.  Dave Tyburski, Pepi Gerald of 2nd Wind Shop, and our NA Sales Manager, Kyle Flower were amped on JPs solid riding style and his solid connection to his local community.  That’s the type of rider we look for.

Action sports brands in established sports like snowboarding, skateboarding and surfing rely on athletes to set their brands apart from the competition. Are we seeing a change in the kite industry or has it always been a part of the sport?
I think as a younger kiter myself I always looked up to the professional riders, so I would say it has always been a part of the sport.  Naturally any sport I did, I emulated and learned from professional riders who showed what is possible beyond what you thought was possible.  Which leads me to believe that the rider has been a part of differentiation beyond products. We look to focus on both aspects where the riders look to set the brand apart but are also an authentic part of the brand they represent and the products they ride.  

How does Airush’s relationship with riders affect the R&D process at Airush?
This is a big question since I believe our team puts a lot of input towards the products that we have today. What makes Airush a unique brand is our integration of our team riders into the R&D process.  There is a very strong creative and technical process inside Airush to make great products, and the riders are a genuine part of that. Our kite designer, Mark Pattison, and board designer, Clinton Filen, work directly with our Pro Team to develop products that are not only great for our professional riders but carry the same performance level for everyday freeride and recreational riders.

Bear Karry and Bruna Kajia. photos Courtesy Airush

Where do you guys do most of your R&D?
Airush is extremely focused on Product Development.  Our board designs and testing are done in-house at our Cape Town office.  We are one of the few brands who can produce prototypes with available CNC and presses then drive a mile away to test.  All this is done in our own backyard, which is something special.
    Our kite designer, Mark Pattison, follows the wind in order to perfect each model from the largest to smallest size.  During the peak season in Cape Town, you will find Paddo at testing small kites until the season ends.  Soon after he flies over to Bali to start his lightwind and wave kite testing for the following year.  This allows an endless cycle of development.
    Beyond what our own designers test, each will send specific models to team riders or incorporate the local riders or schools to give feedback and test material.  Having designers, team riders and everyday riders test the products is absolutely necessary to have a blend of the perfect equipment.

How many team photo shoots do you do? Tell us about the 2013 shoot? Where was it and who was there?
We have our major catalog and media shoot inviting our Team Series riders, Alex Pastor, Bas Koole, Bruna Kajiya and Bear Karry.   Our up-and-coming rookie, Oswald Smith, also joins the shoot as he is a Cape Town local.  The team riders and photographers will tell you that the photo shoots are long days to get all the necessary shots.  Once we do the bulk of our content during this Cape Town shoot, we organize smaller, more independent shoots with other riders.  I think too many riders at a photoshoot becomes too complex causing a loss of focus on the individual.


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