Interview: WSUK in partnership with Foilshop.co.uk
Pics: Alex Mallalieu.
Among other duties Alex Mallalieu does the rounds on the ground with Tahe’s (formerly BIC) windsurfing wares. Attending demos and events whilst visiting prospective and existing retailers he’s the one, working for Lyon Watersports, putting the hours in. We caught up with Alex to find out more.
Note: since this Q&A BIC Windsurfing was bought out by Tahe Outdoors. The successful BIC Techno range, and associated products, is now renamed Tahe Techno. Still the same gear just with a different precursor. You can read that news item here –
Tell us when and where you first started windsurfing. What appealed and what’s made you stick with it?
I had a go when I was 9 or 10 but was sailing so much at that age it was all I wanted to do, so I never really got into windsurfing then. I was then working at Rutland Sailing Club, as a Dinghy Instructor when I was 17 and a group of us found an old Mistral board and an old Tushy rig lying around, so we taught ourselves to windsurf in the evenings after work during the summer. This was when I started to get the bug and when I started University in Swansea a year later I joined the windsurf club. There was only about 7 of us doing it at the time but we were all quite keen and went out as much as we could. I bought some of my own kit so I could go out whenever and managed to improve enough to become and instructor. Over the past 5 or 6 years I’ve found myself windsurfing more and sailing less, I think mainly due to the accessibility of it and I also find the speed element of it more exciting. That being said, I’ll try to get out on the water as much as possible, whatever the sport!
As we understand it you did a few overseas seasons as an instructor. Give us some goss about that.
I did! As soon as I finished University I went to Rhodes in Greece for 6 months as a sailing and windsurfing instructor. It was meant to be just one summer and one winter season… but that quite quickly escalated into 3 years of seasons in Greece, Sardinia and France! Being out there really progressed my windsurfing, being able to get out as often as the wind would let me, and having kit rigged and ready to go on the beach it’s super easy to get hooked and progress quickly. Being around a group of other windsurfers who are just as keen as you are, we were constantly pushing one another the competitive element sneaked in to try to be the first person to do a move.
Did you get more time on the water then or do you get more now?
I definitely got more time on the water out there, maybe it’s the warmer water temperatures or maybe life just gets in the way in the UK! Like is said earlier, having the kit ready to go on the beach is a real luxury and would allow you to just jump out for quick 20-30 min sessions whenever work was quiet. I try to get out as much as I can here but trying to find the time and conditions can be a bit trickier! Again I’m also not a massive fan of the cold…
Talk us through how you ended up working for BIC (Lyon Watersports).
I came back to the UK at the end of 2018 and was looking for jobs in watersports and saw a job at Lyon Equipment advertised. I wasn’t really sure if I had enough experience within this side of the industry or within sales, but the role is different to what I thought it was going to be and it’s mainly customer service rather than selling, which suits me well. However, selling products you really believe in is easy! Anyway, here I am 10 months later really enjoying being back in the UK with a “real” job.
What are your main responsibilities as far as promoting and getting the BIC message out there?
BIC has obviously been around for quite a long time and is still going strong. It’s got a good reputation within the windsurfing world so that makes it relatively easy to sell! The BIC Beach boards are hugely popular within the teaching market due to them being almost bombproof and really stable to learn on, so they sort of sell themselves. They’ve recently developed more performance kit, their new foil and foil boards for example. I’ve been promoting them this year, which is a case of going around centres and shops and showing them the kit, alongside what else we offer at Lyon. On the Techno racing side of things, we work closely with a handful of really great windsurf shops around the UK who do a fantastic job of supporting the Techno racing scene.
How have the new Tahe Technos been received? In particular the Wind Foil 130L which is quite a departure when compared to other Techno shapes in the range.
The Ace-Tech version of the WindFoil 130 has gone down great, particularly with centres teaching foiling. It’s a lot more durable than other foil boards out there, perfect for learning on, meaning that beginners are not going to take the nose off a more fragile and expensive board during a catapult (I’ve seen it happen!). The ability to also be able to stick a fin on it and use it for an intermediate clinic shows its versatility and can come in handy. It is definitely different to the other Technos in the range, which are all skinnier and longer. But boards, and particularly foil boards seem to be getting shorter and fatter, which is what they’ve done with the Techno Foil range.
We can see you do a bit of foiling. Do you prefer that or standard windsurfing these days?
I think if I had to pick between the two I would still choose standard windsurfing as I enjoy the waves and trying the odd bit of freestyle, I like how diverse it is. However, I do find foiling massively exciting and I’m enjoying the new challenge. It’s such an insane feeling being out above the water in silence and the ability to get out foiling in 10-12 knots is great.
Do you have much to do with the Techno 293 class? If so, what are you doing to promote this as part of your work with Lyon?
As I said previously, we work with windsurf shops within the UK to help the class as much as we can. Looking to 2020 I’d like to try and get to some of the Techno events and also some of the UKWA events to try and help promote the class and maybe provide some prizes…
What’s your favourite piece of Tahe windsurfing kit (if you had to choose) and why?
I’d probably pick the Ace-Tech foil board. I love the fact that it’s super versatile plus you don’t need to be too precious with it. Coming from an instructing background I can see the benefits of that compared to teaching with a much more fragile and much more expensive board! I don’t feel as though the performance suffers too much as a result of being a bit bulkier and heavier either!
Now you’re back in the UK where are you based and what’s your local windsurf spot?
I’m currently based in Hove and my local spot is Shoreham, although there’s quite a few to pick from around here!
What does it offer the everyday windsurfer?
A pretty savage shoredump at high tide! On a SW it’s nice and consistent, good bump and jump conditions and there’s a good crowd that windsurf there.
How often do you sail here?
Not as much as I’d like, but if the wind is nice, the tide is right and I’ve got a few hours off I’ll head down. I’m quite lucky in the fact I get to travel all over the UK though, so this means I get to try loads of different spots.
Where’s your fave windy location – home and away?
Being at university in South Wales was fun as it always seemed to be windy there, and there are some amazing beaches along the Gower. So I’d probably pick there for Home. And for away, I’d have to pick Prasonisi in Rhodes, it’s a great spot with a spit so you have flat offshore one side and waves on the other! That was our go-to spot if we wanted some wind on a day off. I’m excited to travel some more and find some more windsurf spots around the world.
Do you get much overseas travel as part of your work? If so, any trips in the pipeline?
A bit. I went to PaddleEXPO in Germany in September which was great fun. None planned as of yet, just lots of UK events!
Tell us about your other areas of responsibility for Lyon Watersports.
At Lyon we distribute a massive range of kit across 10 different brands, but the majority of what we deal with is Paddlesport and Windsurf kit. My role at Lyon is looking after our accounts in the south, which are a range of outdoor centres and schools and watersports shops. I visit my accounts, selling, demoing and promoting the kit. I also attend a lot of events to try and publicise our brands as much as possible, which is always fun. A lot of my time is spent out on the road but I do have the occasional office day. I meet a lot of great people and love working within the watersports industry, I feel very lucky!
Any specific windsurfing goals for the rest of 2020?
My aim for 2020 is to land my front loops! I’d love to get a Vulcan too but we shall see… I’m also going to try and get out on the foil more, and make more use of that demo kit I’ve got! I’m pretty close to fully foiling gybes, so I’ll make that an aim for 2020 too… going to be a busy year!
Any final thoughts on Tahe Outdoors, Lyon Watersports or windsurfing in general?
I’ve enjoyed the past 10 months working with BIC, it’s good to see them progressing with new designs and revamping their current ones. It’s exciting to see where they are going and I would love to see them get back to being a windsurfing powerhouse like they were in the 80s! That goes for windsurfing on the whole too I suppose, it’s amazing seeing how foiling is being pushed by guys like Balz Muller and the future looks pretty exciting.
Thanks and praise?
Thanks must obviously go to Lyon Equipment and BIC for the support and work they do to help me. Thanks also to Mark Warner who I worked for out in Greece and Sardinia, for an amazing few years! Shoutout to Swansea University Windsurf Club too for igniting my passion for Windsurfing!
If you’re interested in learning more about the Tahe Techno Wind Foil 130L then hit up the following links –