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Details on Industry Insight.
The two companies said yesterday that Lost will make a limited range of Lost surfboards with Firewire's Future Shapes Technology.
As explained to me by Firewire CEO Mark Price, FST allows boards to flex, which generates increased speed and a tighter turning radius.
Having a legendary shaper like Matt Biolos of Lost collaborate with Firewire gives the new FST technology a big boost, Price said.
I asked Mark and Matt a little more about the collaboration.
Q & A with Mark Price
What is revolutionary about Future Shapes Technology?
Mark Price: Eighty percent of all high performance surfboards are built from polyurethane resin and foam with a wood stringer down the middle of the board. This basic construction technique and raw material mix has not changed in decades. What has changed over the past 20 years is the shape, and performance has improved as a result. However exponential improvements in performance are no longer possible through shape alone (only incremental). The next leap forward in going to center around new materials and construction methods.
FST takes the center stringer and moves in onto the perimeter of the board and thereby allows the board to flex, generating increased speed and a tighter turning radius. In addition, the sandwich construction allows for a lighter stronger board, thereby increasing performance even further.
How will this alliance with Lost help Firewire?
MP: Matt is one of the most respected shapers in the world and LOST is a premier high-performance surfboard label. For them to come out and say they believe in what we're doing adds to the credibility we've been able to generate on our own. Because Firewire has the potential to completely change the way most surfboards are built, there has been an understandable effort from some of our competitors to discredit the technology. LOST's endorsement will help defuse those efforts. In addition, we're a vertical board manufacturer with our own factory so the added production output is also helpful.
Why will this be Firewire's only alliance with a shortboard manufacturer?
MP: We believe that our technology gives us an edge in the market and is an integral part of our brand DNA. LOST has always pushed the boundaries of surfboard design and construction. This partnership is truly strategic in that it gives LOST access to innovative technology and gives us a valuable endorsement. Making our technology widely available to all surfboard brands would not bring with it that same delicate balance of interests. It would dilute the value of this joint venture for both partners.
Is the ultimate goal to sell/make Firewire brand surfboards or to make boards for others using the technology?
MP: Our goal is to develop Firewire into one of the preeminent surfboard brands in the world with an absolute commitment to new and improved technologies. It is far more about the Firewire brand than a manufacturing effort geared towards building massive amounts of surfboards for any company in the hardgoods market.
How has Firewire been accepted in the marketplace?
MP: The evolution of our company has been significant. I've been in this industry a long time and cannot recall a new product or brand that within two years of its inception has challenged the market position of the leaders in its category. That normally takes 7-10 years.
What kind of sales growth does Firewire expect for 2009?
MP: While we're not immune to the current market conditions, we've also have a number of options for the right type of growth. Through disciplined expansion in our product range, a new technology to be launched in January 09, and the evolution of our international business, we're expecting solid growth in 2009.
Q & A Matt Biolos
What do you like about Firewire's Future Shapes Technology?
Matt Biolos: I like the fact that it was originally developed simply in the quest for a better performing surfboard. Not to be stronger, or more profitable. But in its simplest form, it was created by someone with a vision for a better board.
What market niche will the Lost boards with that technology appeal to?
MB: I think it really appeals to the guy who trusts our (Lost) designs and is interested in riding the latest technologies. I can see customers ranging from guys who already like the FST technology and never bought a Lost before, to guys who are devout Lost customers now stoked to have another construction available in the favorite brand.
What other surfboard manufacturers has Lost partnered with in the past?
MB: Yes, We have had a good run with AVISO, hollow carbon fiber boards, and we were actually the most successful (sales wise) brand worldwide with our partnership with Salomons "S Core " technology. The S Cores performed well but were plagued with durability problems. The AVISO boards are fun to ride, but are made domestically and use very expensive materials that keep them priced way above the average surfers affordability.
Do you envision this partnership expanding in the future?
MB: The surfers (customers) will decide that. In the end, they always make the decisions.