This winter, I travelled to El Medano and had the chance to meet with Mark Shinn, founder and designer of Shinn boards. If we want to summarize in few words Mark’s goal is to design boards with the following characteristics:
- and off course a personal touch of beauty
Find here below my interview with some interesting info about his future projects as well !
Morning Mark, for the one who still doesn’t know you, can you present you briefly?
Good morning, well, my name is Mark Shinn and I’m the designer and main tester of Shinn kiteboards. I’m British by nationality but have been basing myself in Tenerife, Canary Islands for the last 18 years or so. After a brief and not very successful career in windsurfing I switched my attention to Kiteboarding when the sport was first becoming popular (around 1999) and was fortunate enough to win 2 world freestyle championships and some other notable events including the Mondial du Vent in France and the Red Bull King of the Air in Maui.
After being a team rider for Naish Kiteboarding I retired from competition in 2005 and was Brand Manager of Nobile Kiteboarding until 2010 when I decided to focus all my attention on the Shinn brand.
When & Why did you start designing twintips ?
During my early kiting days I was working with D’light, a custom board company here in Tenerife and though I wasn’t shaping I enjoyed all aspects of the creation of boards. During my time with Naish I worked closely with the R and D team testing and designing boards came as a natural progression when I moved on from there. At that time the “snowboard” technology twin tip had just started to be developed and the possibilities looked very good indeed. Twin tips in this technology aren’t really shaped but are designed in CAD programs but the fundamentals of all board design is the same.
For Shinn our focus is clear, we want to make the best performing yet easiest and most fun to ride boards on the market. High performance is useless if you board is constantly spraying you in the eyes with water and shakes you around until your teeth come loose, on the other hand no one wants a board that is comfy to ride yet doesn’t go upwind and is travelling at half the speed of their friends rides! It’s all about compromise and where you make the choices defines the type of rider and riding style that the board is aimed at. In all my designs I aim for the 20 second test…. Meaning that when someone
When we look at your boards, they are incredibly thin and super resistant!
It’s a common misconception that boards need to have thickness to be strong, in fact thickness in a TT causes it’s own problems including excess weight and difficulties in controlling the flex accurately. In fact in most cases the thickness of the board is controlled by the inserts in the deck used to attach the footstraps but this is the only area which needs so much thickness and careful design can eliminate a lot of material without effecting the strength at all. Thinner boards edge better and are lighter – what’s not to like about that?
Of course the over all strength are not the only factors that go into board design, boards are an expensive part of your kiteboarding equipment and it’s the Shinn philosophy that they should not only last but also last looking as good as the first day you rode them and we put a lot of focus into our materials and construction techniques in an attempt to make this happen.
When we look on the market, lots of new boards are coming with massive channels ! When we look at your boards, only ADHD has thin channels on the tips, Why?
Well to be honest the Ultrasonic also has some tip channels! Channels are certainly a trend feature right now but I think they are widely mis-understood. From a Shinn perspective creating channels means we firstly would have to make the board thicker (and that means heavier) and secondly the channels would bother the flex pattern. You simply can’t create a channelled board that flexes in the same way as a non-channelled version. The Hydro-Flo channels in the ADHD and Ultrasonic are designed to help align the water flow in the tail section of the board and focus the flow around the fin area. This allows a smaller fin to be used for the same level of grip – a great help in hard wakestyle landings where a common problem is the front fins catching and causing you to crash.
Shinnster was an incredible success this year? No other brands are having such a product, how did you think about it?
The Shinnster is a fantastic board and in fact is the only board in the range not designed by me. This board was created by the designer from Boardriding Maui, Greg Drexler. Greg was the team manager of Naish during my time there and has remained a friend. He sent me a Paipo to test some years ago and after one day on it I immediately made a deal with him to put the board into the Shinn range too with no changes at all. The Shinnster is a board designed for strapless kiteboarding…. It’s no a surfboard and it’s not a skimboard and it’s this clarity of mission that makes it so good at what it does! Shinn is a brand dedicated to kiteboards and the lack of other distractions means we can focus on what we love to do. We don’t have board meetings to decide our product range 12 months in advance and we don’t look at other brands to see what we should copy.
On what are you working now? / Did you already try Kite foiling?
Since August I am a little obsessed with kite foiling. I’ve been looking at it for some time but somehow never found the time or motivation to start but now I have begun I can’t stop! It’s a feeling un-like any other I have encountered. There are loads of too often used phrases to describe it but in essence you are flying. In a twin tip you are essentially working with 2 dimension but foiling adds a 3rd (pitch) and that’s a lot of fun. What’s really fun about foiling is the amazing wind angles it let’s you ride at… so much so that upwind or down simply become other directions you can ride in. I’ve been playing with a huge selection of different boards and foil settings and it certainly has my design interested tweaked!
Having said that last week we had some strong winds and nice waves here in Tenerife and there is still a whole load of fun to be had on surfboards and twin tips! A lot of people are asking is foil the future of kiteboarding and I think the answer is pretty clear – it’s a future of kiteboarding but it’s an addition to the sport, not a replacement (except for maybe the Forumla Race class which seems a little pointless now foil racing is with us!).
Your favourite drink: I am partial to a beer and in general I think the local beer to a spot is always the best beer!
Your favourite kite condition: I love kiting. I love 6 knot foiling and I love 40 knots wave riding….. my favourite thing about kiting is the ability to enjoy such a huge range of conditions.
The best session you ever had: The last one….. I have a short and selective memory!
You favourite trick: The last one I learned. For me the joy of kiteboarding is progression…. I don’t get a great deal of enjoyment from doing the things I can already do so I always have a new move in mind and achieving it makes it the best trick ever (for now!!).
Thanks a lot Mark for your time and I think it’s time to go on the water !!