Navigating the Seas of Change with Brendan Healy, Cabrinha's Sales Manager

Navigating the Seas of Change with Brendan Healy, Cabrinha's Sales Manager

Pat: This is Pat with here this morning with Brendan Healy from Cabrinha.

Brendan: Good to be here. Thanks for having me, man.

Pat: No problem, Brendan. So you came from a background of sailing, right? Is that how you got into wind sports?

Brendan: Yeah, exactly. I grew up in Annapolis, Maryland. The Chesapeake Bay is almost like an inland body of water, more or less, so there are no real waves of any kind, and the breeze is pretty frontal. I grew up sailing; it's a pretty sailing-based community. I sailed in high school and did junior sailing before high school. I went to the College of Charleston and studied business there, but they had a pretty strong sailing team and that was really my biggest motivator to go there, and Charleston's insanely awesome, if you haven't been there. I sailed there for four years and was an All-American on the sailing team there. We won a couple national championships, and then I went to pursue some professional sailing after that. I still do a little bit of that every now and then; I'm actually doing some this weekend. We won a World Championship in 2016. Then I started to migrate into the water sports areas doing something totally different and new. I've been doing that for six years now, and I absolutely love it.

Pat: Had you been kiting before you got into the kite industry itself, or did you get into the industry and then start kiting? How did that come about?

Brendan: I started kiting in 2009, I believe, so I was kiting quite a bit while I was sailing, and long before I got into the industry itself. I got into foiling relatively early. My first foil was a Spots One Original, which it's hilarious to think that we learned on that thing. I had dreams of doing some foil racing, and I did do a couple events, but then I realized quickly that I just couldn't quite afford that level. It was fun, though. We mixed both worlds and it was great.

Pat: I've seen that you guys have been getting some wing foil racing going on down in Miami. Looks like you guys are starting to organize some of those events.

Brendan: Yeah, it's been awesome. We have a pretty strong wing community here in Miami. It's pretty crazy, actually. On a typically windy day with 15 knots or so, there are probably 30 guys out in any given location, so there are a lot of people doing it. It's a little spread out with different areas that people ride. There's a lot of traffic in Miami, so it's hard to get around and people go to their spot and stay there. The wing racing thing is an effort to bring everybody together and make it not terribly competitive, but just fun. So far we've been totally striking out for breeze. We started it in late October and we've only been able to do it twice because there just hasn't been any wind.

Pat: Yeah, they say if you plan a kite event or plan a wing event, there's not going to be any wind.

Brendan: Yeah, exactly. What are you gonna do? But it certainly hasn't stopped any enthusiasm. All the guys are all fired up every time. This past Wednesday we got like 6 knots, and everybody's pumping up sevens and eights and they're all fired up.

Pat: That's classic. I grew up sailing a little bit. Is this a sailing thing, where it's Wednesday nights? Because I feel like all the local sail races around here are on Wednesday nights.

Brendan: Yeah, it really is, man. I think it's just a classic midway through the work week. It's to break up the work week, but you're totally right. There's really no reason for us to do it on Wednesday nights; we just landed on that. Right down the street in Coconut Grove we have a super accommodating club and they're really excited to host any foil events. I asked them, "Hey, is there a night during the week that fits?" and they were like, "Just pick Wednesday and you can do whatever you want." It was great.

Pat: That's so cool you're doing those events. You've been with Cabrinha for six years now?

Brendan: Yeah, it's six years in January. I've been the sales manager now for three-and-a-half years. I was with the company running the RSX One Design windsurfing sails for the Olympics for a bit. I did that for two-and-a-half years, and then Todd Greaux, who had my job previously, became the VP of Sales globally, so I just took his position and love it.

Pat: That's awesome. It seems like there have been a lot of changes there in Cabrinha. A lot of good changes, but a lot of this stuff flipping around the last three years has kind of been crazy over there, it seems like.

Brendan: Yeah, it's been great. Honestly, you literally could not ask for a better leadership and ownership team. Obviously, everybody has their own roles, but I would say that, for the most part, our organization is very horizontal. Everybody contributes; it doesn't matter what role you're in, everybody contributes to product feedback, there's very open dialogue, and everybody talks to everybody. There have been a lot of changes recently with new team riders coming on and new products in the works, and I think this is where we want to be. We're looking forward to 2023 and we're pretty happy about it.

Pat: Yeah, it seems like you guys finally have gotten, I'd hate to say, "back to where you guys were at in the industry," but it's--

Brendan: No, it's true. It's really true. It's funny- we brought Pat Goodman back and that happened about a year-and-a-half ago, but the market still has not seen a single product that's touched his hands. That's just how long it takes. We really started working on our 2023 product range in 2021, so we've all been eyes forward on 2023 since the beginning of this new ownership, knowing that it's going to take us a bit to get there. But when we do get there, it'll be a testament of everything that we've been working on. The new stuff is just a wild difference, when you see what Pat is capable of. It's pretty dramatic.

Pat: Yeah, I think it's designed to speak for itself. Pretty much every top kite in the industry seems like he's had some influence on it, at this point.

Brendan: Yeah, exactly. The stuff that he's done for 2023... he's taken some of our existing kites, done a couple light modifications, and when you get on the water after he's made some adjustments you're like, "Wow. This is significantly better." He's a wizard.

Pat: That's awesome. Adding new members to the team again is pretty awesome, too. Are you involved with that in any way?

Brendan: Yeah, for sure. Like I said, we all contribute. Lucas Arsenault is our team manager and also our Canadian rep, so being the sales manager, I obviously work with him all day, every day. He's responsible for adding team members and seeking them out, but so are Dave Hastilow, James Boulding, and Kent, honestly, so we all kind of look around and see if somebody shows some promise and see what we can do. I specifically have tried to focus on bringing more youth team members into the group, and we've added four or five guys 15 and under over the past two years, so we're always trying to build the brand up from the younger age.

Pat: That's something I think the industry's lacking a little bit, is that younger crowd. Sometimes we have the parents who are involved, but it's really rare to see a kid get into wind sports without having either a parent already involved or somehow having that know-how hookup already. It'd be neat to figure out, as an industry, how we can get more youth involved with that and make it more accessible.

Brendan: Exactly, man, and I think it starts from the retailer level too. If retailers reach out to us and say, "Hey, this local kid is shredding," then of course we take a look at them.

Pat: So I saw you and Daniel were chasing some American Cups boats a couple weekends ago. What were you guys doing with them?

Brendan: Yeah, coming from the sailing background, I'm fortunate enough to know some of the guys on that team. It's a really impressive operation to have. American Magic is the United States' America's Cup Syndicate, and they were in the last round but didn't win, and now are focusing on 2024 in Barcelona. We happened to bump into a couple of those guys that work on the team in Pensacola. We were there teaching a youth wing clinic at the Pensacola Yacht Club, and their base is in Pensacola. It turned into us creating a little bit of a team deal with them, and I think at this point they've bought about 30 complete wing packages. So everybody goes out on the water. They invited us up there to give them a little wing clinic and take us out on the boat, and it's impressive, man: a 75-foot foiling boat. And we were chasing them around all day in about 8 knots of wind, and downwind they're doing like 42-43 knots. It's insane.

Pat: Going back to the wing foil racing, do you see that continuing and growing in the industry? Do you think that's going to be one of those aspects of the sport where you're going to see more casual Wednesday night wing foil racing sessions?

Brendan: Yeah, I really do. It's funny; we've been focusing on a lot of sailing-related channels as an ancillary sales objective, and through that, coming from a sailing background, I definitely have a lot of pretty decent connections with yacht clubs and yacht club staff and membership around the country. Ironically, it starts with the St. Francis Yacht Club. Those guys were pretty much in it first with kite racing, and they did the same thing with wing racing. They contacted us last year and they were developing a youth learn-to-wing program, so we supplied them with equipment and it really snowballed from there. I think we've probably had six or seven clubs now that we've outfitted with gear. It starts from the youth level, but the clubs are getting into it, which will push it from the youth side, which will help to develop the whole thing. I think you'll continue to see grassroots efforts of people all over the place putting little events together for fun. It doesn't really require any logistics like kite launching where you need pretty wide open spaces. If the breeze dies, you're just sitting there floating on your board, so you just paddle in. It's a pretty mellow environment, and I think people are pretty stoked on it. So yeah, I would definitely expect it to grow. I think the powers that be in the Olympic range are keeping an eye on it too, so I wouldn't be surprised to see it head in that direction.

Pat: It seems almost a little bit easier to adopt in that realm than kiting. Kiting is its own weird animal in that aspect, where winging seems a little bit more closely tied to sailing.

Brendan: Exactly. I think that the kite equipment is pretty advanced, especially the kites. To be honest, I always equate the wing equipment to something like tractor racing. It's a terribly inefficient thing that you shouldn't really be racing, but why not give it a shot? It's pretty fun, so why not?

Pat: That's awesome. I'm sure you've been all over the place at this point with kiting, sailing, and everything. What's your favorite travel spot to kite or wing? If you had one spot to pack up and go tomorrow, where would you go?

Brendan: You know what? I was actually down in Tobago last week. I was there for two or three days visiting Brett Kenney. He runs Radical Sports Tobago, and that was my first time down there. I used to live in St. Thomas and we spent a lot of time cruising around the Caribbean, but I'd never been to Tobago, and it's incredible, man. It's beautiful, and it's not terribly hard to get to, but it seems like it's off the radar for most people. The swell and the waves were insanely good. We spent two days surfing, just on a regular surfboard, and it was better waves than I've had in years. We did a lot of foil towing on the outer reefs out there, and it's just unreal, man. Put that one on your radar. Not to blow the whole thing up, but they might appreciate some extra tourism traffic anyway.

Pat: Yeah, the tourism board might like you for that one. All right, what personal gear are you running right now? What's making you choose that out of the Cabrinha lineup?

Brendan: I think on the wing side of things, I'm on a pretty small Code, like the 4'8" Code. It's the smaller one; I think it's 58 liters, so it's not quite a sinker. I'm 150 pounds, so I'm not a terribly large adult, but for me it's just enough that you can ride adequately powered, and you don't need the extra power for a sinker to get out of the water. So I like that board a lot, and the Cabrinha Mantis is pretty hard to beat. I love that thing. I've been riding our H series 800 almost exclusively in really any condition: winging, surf foiling, anything. But we just got a couple samples of next year's foil range that we're putting out, and we're making a 700. I can legitimately say without any fluff or exaggeration that it's hands-down the best foil I've ever ridden. So that's my setup for for winging. For kiting, I really just do a lot of kite foiling and kite surfing, and the single-strut Contra for kite foiling is hard to beat, with the Drifter for kite surfing. That's my go-to setup.

Pat: The Contra's even pretty good in the waves. I've had it out there plenty of times.

Brendan: Totally. People love it. It was specifically designed for kite foiling, but people love it for surf foil.

Pat: If you think about it though, all those things that make for a great foil kite, you also look for in a wave kite. A little bit lighter weight, a little bit more efficient.

Brendan: Totally. And it drifts pretty well. It doesn't weigh anything, so it just kind of blows downwind. It's pretty good.

Pat: Cabrinha is pretty heavily involved with the Newfound Freedom project. I know it's kind of Francis' baby, but do you want to touch on that a little bit?

Brendan: Yeah, she's like the poster child for the whole thing, but all of us are involved. Keahi's been to a couple of events, Lucas has been to a bunch of events; all our team riders get involved. Basically, we've partnered with a with Estuary Brewing based in Charleston, South Carolina. We've introduced a branded lager, "Cabrinha Drifter", and every penny of the proceeds of the sales of that beer go to directly fund this project, so that's how we raise money for it. It's an effort to get anybody with a physical handicap or mental handicap on the water, whether it's kiting, winging, or foiling. It's a three-year program we started last year with these events. We had one in Charleston, one in Miami, and one out in Hood River. We invite a group of 10 guys or girls to come do it, and it was tremendously successful; everybody loved it. It's pretty humbling, honestly, to work with these guys. They're all phenomenally stoked on life and it's genuinely impressive. So that's year one, and then in year two we'd like to develop specific handicap-related equipment. In year three, our attention is to identify individual centers throughout the world, donate this equipment, and then advertise that anyone with a disability or handicap can go to these specific areas and use this equipment and enjoy themselves.

Pat: That's super cool that you guys are getting involved with that at Cabrinha. It's nice to see you giving back with a sport that we all care about and love so much.

Brendan: We do these National demo tours. We have an RV that drives all over the US, and we just did one in Europe this past year. We have a QR code stamped on the side of the RV, and even if you're in a gas station, people will walk by and be like, "What's this?" We'll give them a really quick description and they're like, "Awesome!" They take a picture and are like, "Here's 20 bucks."

Pat: That's awesome. It's great to see so many people stoked on that.

Brendan: It's very humbling. It's very cool.

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24th Jan 2023 Pat Taylor

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