top of page
Search

ONIX HYDROFOILS- A CONCRETE SHOWCASE OF HOW TO REORGANIZE OUR SOCIETY

Updated: Mar 22

Rainy days in Tarifa are rare enough to get comfy with a cup of coffee and take time for me Sam Carentz - Brand Manager of OnixFoils to throw on the paper why is Onix a very special brand and a concrete showcase of how the Watersport industry - but no only this one - should reorganize itself deep down. In this article I will present our vision and our concrete actions to manifest it. I will try not to repeat myself and compare too much with other industries and give real numbers that I know 100% true to be as impactful as possible, but I truly think that what we do at ONIX is already developing in other activities and should be the way to rethink society without moderation.


I) What is the current situation of the Watersport industry ? Which problems to solve ?


At 27, I've realized my dream of designing for a watersport company, ONIX Foils, founded with Ian Avera in Tarifa. Despite starting from scratch, driven not by financial motives but by aligning with my values and industry experience, I invested significant time and energy. My journey began as a teenage sailor and windsurfer, competing nationally and gaining a professional teaching certification. A gap year at Starboard's Bangkok headquarters broadened my perspective on the role of engineering in improving the industry, especially amid the challenges of COVID during the rise of wing foiling. Over three years at ONIX, I've engaged in all aspects from design to sales, also contributing to the Global Wingsports Association (GWA) as both a rider and judge, providing me with a comprehensive understanding of the watersport sector.



What issues experiences the Watersport industry and Why is the market dysfunctional ?


  1. Research & Development


R&D practices in the industry are often suboptimal, lacking efficiency, speed, quality, coherence, and environmental sustainability. Typically, gear is not designed, developed, and tested in the same location. Prototypes are usually produced in Asia and sent to riders in Europe or America for testing, a process that has persisted for decades. This disjointed approach raises concerns about efficiency, carbon footprint, and the geographical optimization of the development process, especially considering the significant distances involved, up to 10,000 kilometers per journey. This is particularly pronounced for foils, which require precision not always achieved in separate locations for design, manufacturing, and testing.


2. Production


75% of the brands have been using many intermediate businesses to distribute their products. The classic chain features dealers (for one country or a small group of counties), commercial agents and shops. Whereas the material and labour is relatively a small part of final public price when made in Asia, it costs more and more money to transport products to dealers, then to shops. Obviously every part of the train needs to get a proper margin to be able to work efficiently and cover « european » type salaries. This long chain brings many problems to the end customer and brand:


  • Product quality is often assessed by producers rather than designers, leading to discrepancies between intended and actual production. Rushing lamination can cause delamination and internal weaknesses in composites. Consistency is vital for product integrity, emphasizing the need for meticulous attention to detail.


  • Relationship between the brand and end customer is not close enough. This means it’s difficult to get back and fourth between a customer who wants to return a physical part for warranty or get it back to find another customer that needs it more, in good condition. Large scale production also means that it’s very difficult for a customer to find the very appropriated gear for his level, environment and body shape. In a word, customization is not possible. The shoe industry exemplifies this issue well. It's evident that everyone's foot is different, highlighting the impossibility of a single model fitting the entire population.


  • As a result, products often can't be returned for repairs or refurbishment. Instead, they often end up broken or stored in garages, becoming obsolete once new yearly models are released. In better scenarios, they are sold second-hand through social media or retailers. Returning gear to the producer becomes economically unfeasible due to distance or large quantities involved.


3. Marketing


Water shootings of products often occur in distant locations from where riders reside and gear is manufactured. Few individuals both live in places like Tahiti or New Caledonia and are involved in both riding and producing watersport goods simultaneously. This necessitates significant expenses and carbon emissions to transport materials and riders to the same location, typically via costly flights and far from where end customers would use the products.


The marketing made on social networks is also using most of the most developed capitalism tools to incentive people to buy new gear and over consuming while no effort is made to get closer to the individual customer need and what happens to a product after its first life. We can also question the decision to privilege « negative » influencers ( I classify them as people that influence the society not in a good way: for example « I need to travel all the world all the time and get as many planes as possible, to be having fun all day long, to be successful » or « I need to be fit, beautiful and show my ass to make people believing this is the only way to succeed ») and positive influencers that take care of the environment and value the transmission of the passion with local riders.


As a group leader it should be considered as important to educate the customers to positive values: Respect the environment, Respect the people you love, Upcycle as much as possible to reduce wastage.



Finally, as most of the brands externalize production, they have to focus on selling and that means big expenses on marketing that can’t be matched by other smaller brands. This means that a customer, as much as he’s willing to find a local shaper or supplier will struggle to do it as he gets conditioned by medias and shops that only a few brands can deliver the products he’s been looking for. In a word, it’s a big propaganda towards bigger entities to catch the most visibility and giving customers the idea that only these choices make sense.


What are the brands answers to these issues ? 


Many brands, reflecting broader societal trends, opt to address environmental harm through initiatives like tree planting and trash collection, which are commendable. However, tackling the issue at its core by producing only what is precisely demanded to minimize excess gear remains elusive. The prevailing economic model prioritizes continuous production to sustain income, making it impractical to reduce production quantities and optimize product upcycling. This approach fails to address the root of the problem and is incompatible with a forward-thinking approach needed for a truly sustainable future.


Conclusion



When we put all the elements togethers, we can clearly identify that the whole system is not healthy but can’t be fixed by itself. Watersport industry acts like a mass consumption industry but the demand is not big enough to support this model, unlike other goods like car, phones, clothes or food for examples




II) What are ONIX’s goals and why are we different ?


Our goal is to solve all the problems that have been exposed before, by offering local production, local suppliers and materials in the most visited spot in Europe: Tarifa.


By setting our office AND production center in Tarifa, we are statistically as close as possible from the biggest demand of gear in Europe. Indeed nearly all water sport enthusiastic use to come to Tarifa to experience incredibly reliable wind conditions and epic landscapes in famous and authentic Andalucia.


  • Efficient R&D as eco friendly as possible

Gear is been designed, developed, tested, modified, shot, marketed, produced at the same place.


This means we are able to develop a new product in about 2 weeks and it can be ready to international market in less than a month.






We use high end engineering softwares, 3d printing with bio-sourced materials, wooden CNCd molds are cores to develop prototypes. The person behind the design is also the one making the prototype which is something out of value when developing high end tech gear. We make sure to create a new product only if it answer a valid need from the customers that we meet in person every day in Tarifa, the goal is not to release a new model every year but to make continuous improvements to make sure not to create fractures between our offer and our demand.


Once a prototype is born, it only takes 500m by walk for the same person to test the gear with consistent wind forecast nearly everyday.




Concrete example: our latest 145cm2 stabilizer; We started to design it 2 weeks before this picture.


Onix Colibri Tail Wing - 145cm2

As soon as the product is been validated, shooting can be done  the incredible landscapes of Andalucia from 500m to 50km from our office you get a full range of conditions, landscapes, waves, wind more than enough to make the perfect shooting. As Tarifa is fully of local riders AND media contenders pushing the sport to the max it’s easy to get all the actors coordinated quickly, at low cost and with the highest quality as possible.


Concrete example: our latest shooting with local riders Nathan, Marco, Benji and Marie.


Nathan Berger having fun during Onix Eco shooting realized in Tarifa

  • On demand, customized high quality production

Once the product is ready to be produced, we simply develop a few tools to monitor the production with our printers and engineers. Most of all we don’t build necessary stock and we actually function on demand, which means that all the parts are produced for someone already interested to buy it. A direct consequence is the possibility to customize the construction and graphics. We offer to the customer the products that matches the best his level and the way we pushed the gear by modifying the layup if there is a need for added stiffness or weight.


The way we produce the parts makes it easy to change graphics as we use our CNC laser to cut stencils to paint the parts using logos provided by the customers.


Materials are high quality and suppliers are as close as possible. We use wood whenever possible; Replacing incredibly polluting aluminium molds and foam cores by playing with the different type of woods to make strong molds and light cores. Resin comes from France and carbon from Germany while our bio sourced filament comes from Austria.




The gear is made by local workers / interns coming from European schools, but the most critical parts of the production is made by the designer itself. This means that every product that comes out of our workshop has been designed, (partially) built and approved by the same person.



This brings a significant increase of quality in the production.




  • Local partners & local community

We have partnered with many different collaborators to offer as much locally made offer as possible. The idea is to create benefit and work not by killing our neighbors, but on the other side to give them more work and revenues.



  • Covers are made 100m away from the shop by our friend Kuba, an experienced sale maker.

  • Boars are offered in 2 different constructions by local famous shapers Alex from Tarifa Foil Boards and Francis from Bilboa.

  • Riders and video makers taking part of the shootings are local people.

  • We buy our day to day production goods in shops than are located less than 200m away from the office.

  • We work with local schools such as International school of Sottogrande to transmit our values and knowledge to our youth by inviting them to workshops.

  • When possible, each rider and customer is invited to build his product with us especially the lamination part that can be made easily with together with one of our experienced laminator. This enables people to understand what is inside the product, what costs and efforts it takes to create such a high tech item and its value.  It also gives people the opportunity to put their hands in the fabrication of their own products, a truly authentic and pleasing feeling when riding and having fun on it afterwards.

  • Going back to hands on society. With this concept of industry, locals produce for locals and we get back to a closer relationship between the « production » and the « service ». This means hiring more people and workers putting their hands deep down in the product, not spending all day in comfortable conditions while some other people paid a misery work for us. It gives what it takes.


  • Upcycling and Reconditioning

Because our production is close to the customer without intermediates it’s possible to get the gear back. It’s even possible to make it economically profitable for the brand AND the customer at the same time. How’s that possible ? By proposing our Onix Exchange Program.


The idea is simple. When you buy gear you can either buy it as new (first life) or reconditioned (x life) at different cost. If the gear is damaged but still repairable and can be sent back to us to be repaired in less than 2 weeks at minimal cost. When the customer feels the need to change his gear because his level has increased in most of the cases, we offer him to « buy » his gear back and give him his new gear with a discounted price corresponding to the same value we bought it.


The better condition it gives it back, the bigger is the discount. This means customer is directly responsible of taking good care of his gear in order to get the biggest discount as possible. It’s a win-win.


This concepts also have some limits in the way it can be presented on social networks or on our website, and it’s truly by exchanging directly with each individual and particular cases that it makes perfect sense.


After the customer gave the product back and receive a new one, we take care of reconditioning it and make it basically as new as possible. As the quality is set to increase durability it’s easy to take advantage of the big lifespan of the product.


If we push the concept to the maximum in our imagination, it could be that at the very end of the concept we find a market functioning with a limited quantity of parts being produced with gear rotating between each customer. The brand would have less and less need of producing new parts and would function more like a dealer and repair shop while still making profit. It’s interesting to compare this scenario with the one of the current industry which has been described before as self destructive for all the brands.



Local partners & local community

We have partnered with many different collaborators to offer as much locally made offer as possible. The idea is to create benefit and work not by killing our neighbors, but on the other side to give them more work and revenues.


  • Covers are made 100m away from the shop by our friend Kuba, an experienced sale maker.

  • Boars are offered in 2 different constructions by local famous shapers Alex from Tarifa Foil Boards and Francis from Bilboa.

  • Riders and video makers taking part of the shootings are local people.

  • We buy our day to day production goods in shops than are located less than 200m away from the office.

  • We work with local schools such as International school of Sottogrande to transmit our values and knowledge to our youth by inviting them to workshops.

  • When possible, each rider and customer is invited to build his product with us especially the lamination part that can be made easily with together with one of our experienced laminator. This enables people to understand what is inside the product, what costs and efforts it takes to create such a high tech item and its value.  It also gives people the opportunity to put their hands in the fabrication of their own products, a truly authentic and pleasing feeling when riding and having fun on it afterwards.

  • Going back to hands on society. With this concept of industry, locals produce for locals and we get back to a closer relationship between the « production » and the « service ». This means hiring more people and workers putting their hands deep down in the product, not spending all day in comfortable conditions while some other people paid a misery work for us. It gives what it takes.

Upcycling and Reconditioning

III) Conclusion


David vs Goliath, Overconsumption vs Local production; Should we keep going in the same direction and try to solve problems after they manifested or choose to go deep from the root. ONIX is more than a brand it’s a project and a manifestation of a claim that our entire society needs to be reformed. Our values needs to change and we need to understand that as soon as we buy local, we care so much more of close circle and ourself. This is the main statement of all the religions that we giving brings more joy than taking, and our concept enables to take good care of ourselves and of the planet. Not everything is perfect, but if every business would try to get close from these concepts by at least 50%, there would be much less problems in this world.


Author: Sam Carentz





Comments