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Interview with Slingshot Board Shaper Doyle

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Raf Sonck Interviews John Doyle on the Morph concept 07/18/2002


1. What does kiteboarding mean for you in life?

Jumping, lifestyle, and expression; I came from a windsurfing background, and I see kiteboarding more as a mutation between windsurfing and wakeboarding but with more freedom and much more possibilities to express yourself. It is a very light feeling; the wave riding and jumping are more magnified.

2. How many years have you been kiteboarding?

I started kiteboarding in 1999...so 3 years ago now. I started shaping windsurf boards in 1986 but started shaping kite boards immediately when I learned it in 1999.

4. The mutant concept was developed by you together with Adam Koch; when did the first ideas of the concept arise?

Yes, that board was my creation; the name was not mine but the concept was. The name was given by Naish when Adam Koch was signed onto the international Naish team, they copied the custom I had built for him, and called it the Mutant.

The concept itself evolved when I was working with Adam 2 years ago. It was just a basic surfboard with a directional rocker about 5'1", no mutant type just tailfins. Adam was trying to ride it backwards which INSTANTLY gave me the inspiration for what I needed to do to push the limits of this board.

The first real mutant was a 5'2" with twin outline; it had a square tail and nose with a directional rocker line and fins on the nose so that the board also worked backwards. This was the start of this concept. When Naish copied this board they said it was their development and they called it the mutant.

5. What is the next generation of that concept?

After the mutant concept, I continued to push the development further because I saw that the world was evolving beyond the mutant concept; the board still needed to be jibed most of the time, even though it could be ridden backwards. The world was going twin crazy so I developed the Skate Series, giving me the vision to further develop the mutant concept.

I pushed the development further than anybody else, not like some who took an existing board and drilled extra holes in and added some foot strap plugs, or fins; for example, like what Cabrinha is doing at the moment. The point is, the performance that this category needed required an entirely new R&D effort, with an entirely new end result.

6. What is the idea behind this new concept and what will be the name for it?

The idea was to still keep the directional qualities in a board that was pushed way into the Twin category. It should have the possibility to ride it back and forwards like a real twin tip without the feeling that you were riding a directional rocker. Just by changing the fins and foot straps positions you will be able to ride it like a directional board as you can on a mutant, but with much more freedom to ride it fakey or backwards like a twin tip. This gives the rider much more freedom to mix in a different style without the need to have another board.

7. For what brand were you developing at this moment?

After the Naish affair I worked for some time in complete secret with some of my local riders. Then Slingshot, who I knew already for some time, gave me the freedom to develop in complete secret some new concepts.

They gave me full confidence and respect, this was really important for me to work without any stress. They respected my ideas and matched it with a construction style that I approved of. So buying a Slingshot Doyle series boards is the real deal in design and feel. Not a watered down production version of what I would ride. I ride stock molded boards just like everyone else. In fact my son Mark has competed world wide, and recently won the Gorge Games on a stock Zeppelin.

8. Do you use your new concepts already in the development of this brands board range, and which model has this concept?

Yes, the new 2002 - 2003 Slingshot Morph surf is completely this concept and is one of my babies. The final prototype fulfilled all my needs and ideas on that concept. It can be ridden 100 % like a twin tip and at the same time it can be changed it to suit anybodies needs; the board adapts to you, not you to the board. You can ride waves without, riding fakey it is so easy, you have so much more potential to do an unlimited number of transactions.

9. Who is this new concept developed for?

The public is almost general, with all the different setups it can be used everywhere and by anyone; it is the easiest board but holds more performance quality than any other existing board in that concept range. It will be made in two lengths, a 157 for light winds and heavier riders, and a 150 for the experts and lighter riders.

10. Why these lengths and why not shorter?

I felt that shorter boards were loosing the qualities of a directional board and that shorter boards need to be a twin tip. When you ride fakey you need the longer rocker line of a directional to be able to surf and jibe better.

11. How many prototypes do you make before constructing a final product?

We are making prototypes all the time, it is very difficult to say how many. I start on average making 10 boards, which the team and I test. I analyze their reactions and based on the results of those tests, I continue to make more proto types. These new boards have all the experience in them as the previous boards. I combine the positive features from all those different shapes and incorporate them into the final board, ensuring that every one of my riders is happy with it.

12. Do you work close with your son Mark Doyle and other team riders in your development team?

Like the rest of the Slingshot team riders, is Mark pretty focused on his riding. I use all of them, but they don't have the vision beyond their small focus, so I use them as my eyes because I have that wider vision. For example, take wake style riders like Justin Souter and Ben Wilson; they are really focused on that style. They always use two line setups, even on four line kites.

Mark has the pure skate style of the team unlike Jeff Tobias who is the directional chief. All these different styles complete the circle, but I use Jeff's feelings of a directional rider to make the final product.

I have also a lot of help from local riders who are testing my boards also, which I think is essential because it gives me the possibility to test boards by normal riders and not only by the top.

In total I think I use around 20 riders to test the prototypes before the final board. This is really the best way to work to expand my vision and to be able to have a product which can be used by different kinds of people all over the world.

14. What is your day schedule during the season?

Through the summer months, I am up late in the morning, around 10 to 11 am, doing a little bit of work in my workshop. Then at 1 pm I go kiting wherever the wind is good; sometimes I drive over an hour to find the best spot. I am on the water until the evening, I go home, my wife and I have dinner together, and then I start working around midnight and go until 4 or 5 am. It is the same everyday, and I'm very happy with that. In winter I work more in the daytime.

16. Are you going to continue shaping the rest of your live?

Yes, that is the plan; this is who I am!

17. Can you tell me something more about your next ideas, can we see some proto types?

No, I really can't tell you in detail, but I can tell you that I have been working on a completely new line, the SX Division (as it is called at this stage), which should change the whole wakeboard sceneřř.

Raf: Ok, Thank you very much for this interview and good luck with your further developments and also with kiteboarding.

Copyright 2007 Chicago Kitesurfing, Inc.