K2 Global Brand Director Hunter Waldron on the White Wave Movement

From Transworld Business:


At SIA in January, we had the chance to catch up with K2 Snowboarding on some of the brand’s big initiatives moving into 2016 and beyond. A highlight for the snowboarding brand for next season is its Carve Air and Cool Bean boards, two shapes that the brand hopes simplify the way its consumers think about snowboarding and brings them back to the basics, explains K2 Global Brand Director Hunter Waldron.

The boards are part of the brand’s “Seek and Enjoy” campaign, which is in its third year. For 2016, the brand has been playing with the volume of boards in their collection, much like what the surf industry is seeing at the moment, and the result has been several shapes that excel in powder but can also do well in mixed conditions. The boards are “all about riding for what riding is” and creating the soulful vibe that initially inspired many to get involved in the sport.

“It’s our way of saying no matter what you seek, no matter what you are into, K2 supports it,” explains Waldron. “There is no bad way to snowboard as long as you are being yourself and having a good time. The White Wave subtitle we’ve added to that message this year is our way of highlighting a style of riding that is gaining momentum and has potential to become the future of the sport in some way.”

The philosophy opens up a new category within the market that we’ve seen a couple major snowboarding brands leaning towards, and K2 hopes to be at the forefront of the movement with a dedicated effort at retail. We caught up with Waldron to hear more.

Why does K2 see this soulful, surf-inspired snowboard movement as relevant and how does it speak to the brand’s roots and history?

It’s relevant because it is what we are having the most fun doing lately. Our team, our in-house crew, friends, people we look up to – everyone seems to be on this idea of getting back to basics. I think it’s a logical next step for a lot of riders. The pace of trick progression is so intense and a lot of people are stepping off the wheel and looking to a more soulful source of inspiration – that being the beginning of the sport which was about turning and emulating surfing. Also, there is a larger trend towards authenticity and getting back to your roots happening in the world with people giving up fast fashion for heritage brands with long-lasting product. I think it’s the backlash of the pace and flash-then-gone mentality of the internet. People want to act with deeper meaning and this snow-surf vibe K2′s embracing provides that.

This is taken directly from our roots. K2 started back in 1987 when board shapes were very surfy and turning style was measured on how well you could carve, essentially emulating a deep bottom turn. We have always been focused on turning performance and today’s surfy energy is a natural extension of that.

“They make you look at the mountain in a different way that makes riding feel fresh and new again. It’s all about offering a new riding experience.”—K2 Global Brand Director Hunter Waldron

k2 global brand director hunter waldron on white wave movement

K2 team rider Tim Eddy on the new Cool Bean board.

Explain the reasoning behind how K2 has played with the volume in these boards to make them ride well in both powder and mixed conditions?

The Volume theory has its roots in riding a wider, shorter board in soft snow. But, we quickly found out how fun they are on groomers. The extra width gives you more toe clearance for confidently laying it down without toe drag, and the short length makes them easy to redirect and push around. So, of course, they float well in powder, but I am more excited about how these new Volume-shift models turn an average day in the resort on non-fresh snow into some of my favorite days. They make you look at the mountain in a different way that makes riding feel fresh and new again. It’s all about offering a new riding experience.

Can you detail the technology that goes into the Carve Air in particular?

The Carve Air is a wider Happy Hour with a chopped tail. So, it is the first step out along the Volume shift spectrum. By squashing the board to make it wider and shorter you get carving clearance and a board you can redirect faster. The chopped tail gives you a small bit of clearance for handplants and also just looks fast and fun. Really there is more tech built into the Cool Bean. It takes that Volume shift even further, and as a result we had to do some interesting tuning to the shape to amplify the non-powder performance. For example, when you make a board that wide the torsional stiffness of the tail gets crazy big. So the swallow tail is actually a functional way to elevate that torsional stiffness. So it isn’t just for style. It’s a functional thing we tested and developed so that the Cool Bean truly is a board that excels on harder snow.

What sort of retailers are you targeting with the White Wave boards?

K2 offers it to everyone as we believe it is a future segment that all shops should support or will soon. But, we are seeing the more core retailers picking up on it as they are there with us on this mindset and have the customers that are engaged in snowboarding and see this emerging.

Have you seen the boards gaining traction at specialty retailers in more coastal regions than previously?

That is hard to tell yet, but we are excited about how universal the appeal of the White Wave models are. It’s not only about powder. The harder snow regions are stoked on the groomer and mixed conditions performance. As a kid from Michigan originally where the mountains are not as big, I love the fact that you get more fun per vertical feet on these boards. So, we are expecting to see them sell into all regions.