Shop Talk with Matt Aiken

We catch up with President of AWSI and North American General Manager of North Actionsports Group Matt Aiken after the August 2019 AWSI Trade Expo in Hood River, Oregon.

The AWSI Hood River Trade Expo in August 2019 was North Kiteboarding’s first Model Year 2020 Trade Show. How did we do?
We put a lot of time and effort into creating an exciting look for the brand at the event, and our stand certainly made a statement. The show was great; we had almost every new North dealer attend. Conditions were excellent and gave our dealers lots of time to test the gear. 

How did the US market receive it? Did any of the products stand out in the popularity stakes?
The immediate response on the kites is they have great “out of the bag” flying characteristics and performance. They’re tuned well and perform awesomely. The immediate reaction to the Orbit and Carve have been exceptional. The Atmos Carbon looks like the clear top board in the twin tip line, and we’ve been getting a great response to the Carve. 

Check out The Kiteboarder Magazine Product Previews with Brand Director Mike Raper from the AWSI Trade Show

Check out The Kiteboarder Magazine Product Previews with Brand Director Mike Raper from the AWSI Trade Show

North Kites Product Preview | North Foils Product Preview | North TwinTip Product Preview | North Surfboard Product Preview

Can you tell me about the AWSI event?
This is the second year the event has been held in Hood River. The event serves as the trade event where windsurf and kiteboarding retailers can meet brand representatives from the top brands, preview, test and pre-book the product for the next season. The goal is to find one place where retailers can plan out their next season buy.

What is Hood River like for testing? 
Hood River, known more commonly as The Gorge, has extremely reliable winds all summer. Wind conditions vary from light wind good for foiling to full-on cranking 35knot winds. The variety of conditions make it a unique spot to test a big range of gear. Hood River as a host town is a great spot to hold the event. It offers an excellent range of accommodations and lots of options for dining and socializing. 

Were you impressed with the growth of the show to 26 exhibitors this year? What do you think that says about the wind and watersports industry?
At this point, there are very few notable brands missing from the event, which suggests the AWSI has found the right formula in terms of timing and location. For a long time, the windsurf and kiteboard industry was tied to a stale feeling traditional conference-style trade show. The success of this event has shown that its the right type of venue and format for the industry.

The people shaping this brand are an essential part of our success, in a nutshell, what’s your story Matt?
I’m a lifetime waterspouts enthusiasts that started working in a windsurfing shop in my teens. I’ve worked in the industry my entire life, and to be a part of re-launching North Kiteboarding is incredibly exciting. 

And what is your vision for North KB USA?
For the US market, we are focusing on working with a minimal, limited dealer network. We want to identify the best shops and schools and support them with all-out effort. We are looking for shops and schools that are true professionals, that can adequately represent the brand, and allow us to become #1. 

The Prime Freeride TwinTip and Navigator Control System in action at Hood River, Oregon. AWSI 2019. Photo by Adam Lapierre.

Matt Aiken is the North American General Manager of North Kiteboarding and Mystic, and President of the Association of Wind + Water Sports Industries (AWSI), a non-profit trade association dedicated to representing Windsurf, Kiteboard and SUP companies in the outdoor sports world and to bringing retailers and manufacturers together in the same place in the most efficient and economical way possible.