Editor’s Note: Issue 9.2

I must admit, as the publisher, I’ve resisted the idea of moving to the Gorge

american_windsurfer_john-chao-photoWE FINALLY DID IT! We established a West Coast office in the Columbia River Gorge. In fact, our new office is so close to the action that it is only a stone’s throw from the famous Fish Hatchery.

I must admit, as the publisher, I’ve resisted the idea of moving to the Gorge for the past 10 years. The fear was that we would be sucked into the radical side of the sport and seduced by the many distractions in the area and not get any work done.

So we held out. We maintained at arms length from what many considered to be the heart of the sport. Why? Because, the magazine felt a fundamental distance between where the sport is, and where it should go (I’ll explain this in more detail later).

Our “lifestyle” publication certainly got it’s fair share of criticism for maintaining this distance, and we weathered the alienation of brands who chose not to support American Windsurfer because they felt we had little to do with windsurfing. We were perceived to be out of sync with the trend and we were not afraid to voice our opinion.

Times have changed as we have changed. In the past 10 years many of the “hardcore” companies have faded, and many of our critics have either evolved out of the sport into kitesurfing or, uh, golf..! We, on the other hand, through some karmic resource, still find ourselves singing the same tune, but, on a different platform. While we continue to preach the outreach message and strive to link the sport to the outside world, we have begun to notice that the choir—which the sport tends to preach to—has either burned itself out or found another church (golf?). The wave of attrition on an industry who is losing steam on both sides of the pulpit is dramatic and alarming.

Thus, one rationale for moving to the Gorge was to fire up the “stoke” for a sport that needs to be . . . well, stoked. Some may call it a Xtreme move or a Xtreme about face. We, on the other hand, are excited by the challenge and the possibility of creating a fresh twist, a new look, that only we can provide. Undoubtedly you will see more action from the Gorge, as evident by this issue and by our new feature called “Hatchers” (See page 62). Easy to do when your office is 100 yards from the action.

But! While our new office gorges itself in the heart of the Gorge, our main office (yes we are now bi-coastal) in New Hampshire will continue to search for the gentle breezes that spawn the hopes of a windsurfing revival.

Ahh…the vision of a windsurfing revival!

That, I must say, is why we are here. The growth of windsurfing has been the goal and the driving force of this magazine since its inception. This vision has not changed. What has changed is the infrastructure that supports this publication.

There are three sources that are the lifeline for American Windsurfer. Top on the list is the subscription income from readers like you. Second is the endemic advertisers or revenues from industry related companies. The third are the non-endemic advertisers, out of the industry giants.

Whether by design or consequence, AW has always played well on the first and the last links. Getting support from the industry has always been elusive. For one, the industry has been winding down and many were forced to place their advertising bets on short term gains. AW, with the long-term lifestyle concept and lack of editorial push to help sell products, did not fit their need.

Because of this trend, AW began spawning a fourth link that created companies such as WindWear, Speedsigns, and Skimbat, and eventually began importing and distributing products to supplement and complement the magazine with industry related advertising images. This concept took hold and began to grow as more and more companies, realizing the need to consolidate expenses, rolled together under the sponsorship of American Windsurfer to form WindMALL.

The basic premise is this: your local dealer has to be able to maintain a viable business in selling windsurfing products. His financial risk has to be lowered and his margins have to be increased. At the same time, windsurfing products have to be affordable to consumers. One solution is to cut out one layer of markup, and yes, being affiliated with the magazine also takes out an added layer of marketing expense.

With the integration of the magazine, the ads that you see in this publication are leveraged to encourage the manufacturers to place products into WindMALL’s distribution warehouses on a consignment basis. This spreads the risk while lowering prices to everyone.

As of today, WindMALL has a total of twenty-three brands. Five are sail brands, three are board brands, three mast brands, and we have a number of accessories or ancillary products. This collection is our effort to redefine the future of windsurfing. This will be a model that promotes better business practice, profit, and service. A new commerce that we hope will give the sport a fighting chance. For it is largely due to the breakdown of the “business” aspect of the sport that has contributed to the creation of WindMALL.

But the bottom line is the local dealers
In a technically oriented sport like windsurfing, they are the backbone of the sport. Mail order houses and Megastores will never help grow the sport. Without your local shop, there is no future. We have striven for years now to set a foundation that will empower these dealers and propel them onto a level playing field. With solid products, marketing, service and a fool-proof system that protects their investment, whether it be in a brand or in their territory, WindMALL’s role is to support a nation-wide dealer network and not compete with it
John Chao

by John Chao

Publisher / Editor is a former photojournalist for GEO, National Geographic and Time-Life Magazines