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Expert advice from real kiters
Spreading The Smik - Flying With Wing Foiling
“You know this is a pretty special sport when you see the older generation of kiters and windsurfers light up like they used to back in the day. It’s given them a whole new energy, and no wonder; this is so incredibly unique. It’s like flying, and boy, are they captivated.”
Having commenced his professional windsurfing career in 1992, now retired former World Wave Champion and three times Australian Wavesailing Champion Scotty McKercher has never seen a sport take off quite like wing foiling. Advances in product technology and a rapid uptake among the world’s water sport adrenaline junkies have seen wing foiling go crazy-huge worldwide. The surge has been so intense that Scotty confides his wing foil, and board business, Smik, is currently struggling to supply demand. Winning the 2021 SUPboarderPro Wing Test for best wave/surf wing (and scoring mega high in other disciplines) has only fanned the fire.
We believe him.
Here at Kitesurf Warehouse, we’ve already taken pre-sale deposits and even full payments from customers keen to make sure they can get out there and Smik it up sooner rather than later.
So, we poured a coffee in Northern Ireland, Scotty poured a glass of Margaret River red in his home turf of Western Australia, and we caught up to shoot the breeze on a wind-loving life before Smik, post-Smik’s foundation, and to find out what lies ahead.
Scotty, wind and water are in your DNA. How did you get into professional windsurfing?
Water sports were a way of life from the day I got out of the maternity ward pretty much! Dad was a yachtsman, and so that’s where I started. Then windsurfing came along, and I was about ten or 11. That took over everything. It pretty much-dominated life. After high school, I had an opportunity to go and work around Europe promoting a West Australian brand to bigger markets.
That was not a huge success, and so I came home and started teacher’s college not because I necessarily wanted to become a teacher, but because I thought it looked like fun, and I was after the funnest course I could find. My family were all teachers, and dad seemed to have a particularly good time, so I thought it was a safe bet I would, too. But I was still windsurfing all through that period, and I was sponsored. Two years into college and life forced me into a black-and-white crossroad. Either I continued teaching, or I packed it all in and went pro windsurfing. There was no half-half.
I told myself that if I could win enough money in the summer circuit that lay ahead, then destiny would decide for me. She did, and I managed to make a career out of windsurfing. I even picked up a World Title along the way. I followed the fun and had a delightful time.
How did you transition from pro windsurfing to being a business owner?
Whilst I was competing, I was also working in product development for one of my sponsors. When my pro days came to an end, I just transitioned full-time into shaping windsurfing gear. Stand Up Paddling was in its embryonic form at about the same time, so I got into designing and shaping these boards, too. It was in this job that I started to hear rumours about me founding a new business. That was all news to me, but it’s funny how serendipity comes into play so much during life. All these other signs started appearing - films I watched, photoshoots I attended, people I began to meet… The swell was pushing me in that direction.
Tell us about the design and development of Smik boards and wings
Our boards factory is based in Thailand, and I have to say, the level of quality is incredible. The construction is rock-solid. I was flying over there from Perth every other week before coronavirus, but obviously now I can’t go at all. It’s made no difference to the product. I send files over, and they are reproduced with pinpoint precision. The success has, in a way, made a rod for my own back, though. Word got out about this particular factory and their work for Smik, and now they’re flat out.
Smik launched five years ago now, and in those early days, I was really hands-on. I would fly with my product and make deliveries in person. It wasn’t unheard of for me to load 15 boards into extra luggage and catch a flight to Spain. Or I would land in the Netherlands, drop a bunch of goods, hire a car and then drive to Germany delivering more along the way. It was a great way to meet people and to start building relationships.
How easy is it to wing foil?
For guys and girls already into water sports like windsurfing and kitesurfing, it’s straightforward. I would have thought it would be more challenging for newbies to pick it up, but I’ve been proven wrong. It’s all about the mental block. Some of them can’t quite compute that whole concept of a wing to begin with. Once they lose that block, they fly.
You’ve mentioned the production, but what makes Smik stand out?
If you look into the tech specs of any brand anywhere in the world, I think you will find one full PVC wrap board. Everyone else does EPS with PVC reinforcements. Smik’s structural integrity really makes us stand out head and shoulders. That flows through all our products, including the Wing Dings. Smik won the 2021 SUPboarder Pro Wing Test for a surf wing, and was highly recommended in the freeride and getting started categories, which was a real nod towards our drive for excellence. I also want this to be as inclusive a sport as possible, so I try to keep the costs as low as possible. Our products are the highest quality build for the fairest price possible.
What is it about wing foiling? Why is it such a great sport?
This is hands-down an incredibly unique sensation. That feeling of flying is effortless. It’s turning old windsurfers and kiters into kids again. Winging is taking over. To be honest, I have to pinch myself at the speed at which this has all happened. If I sit back and think about it, I am flabbergasted.
What’s the future of wing foiling?
Well, things are moving at a whiplash pace. People are trying to develop specific holiday tours around the sport. The pro side is shaping up. I just hope it doesn’t do what windsurfing did, which has become super tech and expensive and, therefore, a pretty elitist sport. If things go super high tech like full carbon and batons, prices will skyrocket. I hope things stay blow-up simple.
I hear Smik Wing Dings are also fire-tested? That’s pretty original for a water sport.
Yeah. I was with my van in Exmouth, West Australia. It was packed with all my stuff, and I was around the back of it making a coffee. It was bloody windy, and so I shut the back door so that the wind wouldn’t blow the coffee around. Then I jumped to the front of the van as I was trying to get a signal to make a call. Suddenly, there was this whoosh of explosion from the back. One of the gas cylinders had caught fire. I ran to the back of the van and started trying to beat out the flames. One of the wings caught fire, but I managed to put the whole thing out. So, yeah, you could say they’re fire-tested just in case anyone’s wondering!
Keen to get your hands on a Smik wing? Browse or shop Smik in our store now.