Following tree years at Starboard International HQ in Bangkok, Thailand where she learnt all the ropes, young Spanish communication and marketing enthusiast Rocio Tarodo, is climbing up the ladder and has just come back to her home country to embrace a bigger role, Southern Europe Marketing Manager for Starboard and all its sister brands. Like many people who work for the Tiki brand, Rocio is an accomplished waterwoman with a strong windsurfing background, and being now hooked on wing foiling makes it even easier to promote FreeWing, Starboard’s Wing brand which was born last year. Her recent arrival in Barcelona gave us the perfect opportunity for a catch-up with her in order to get a glimpse of her Tiki Life in Thailand as well as an understanding of FreeWing + Starboard’s plans in Europe.
Hola Rocio, can you tell me how you got to work for Starboard in the first place. What have your different roles been until today?
Salut Mathieu! It all starts with my father. He is a lifelong windsurfer, and still going strong to this date. He has been working with the Starboard brand since the early days as the Spanish distributor. While I was studying, I worked with brands like Red Bull and after completing my studies, I worked at L’Oréal – but I also have been connected with the watersports business the whole time by attending Starboard distributor’s meetings and other events. All combined, these experiences lead me down the road to where I am now.
Before, I was living the fast city life and long work hours. But I always felt connected with the ocean, and the Starboard brand. When Svein from Starboard offered me the opportunity to get involved with the brand, I didn’t hesitate…and here we are three and a half years later.
I started in the SUP marketing department, working together with K. Ping our Marketing Director, and a really fun and dynamic marketing team. I was initially involved in international marketing and started becoming more involved with events, media communication, organising photo shoots, and coordinating team riders, so a bit of everything really. About a year ago, I became more involved with the distributors in France, Spain, and Portugal; helping with the development of the brands (SUP, Windsurf, and Freewing), marketing, and sales.
Yeah, intense huh but good – I mean, I enjoy working in a fast-paced environment, so I can’t complain.
Tell us about the life of a Starboard marketing manager in Thailand?
Work, work, and more work haha! Oh and lots of snakes! Jokes aside, Thailand is wild.
I believe most people think working for water sports companies means doing sports all day long, but the reality is very different. Living the Tiki Life is such an experience, but you got to be ready to put in the work because innovation never stops.
Starboard is part of a big group called Sestar, which includes brands such as Severne Windsurfing, Airush Kiteboarding, Starboard and now Freewing. Within each brand, there are different departments, with different teams. Each brand or department can execute actions independently from the others. This is what makes this brand different – and at the same time, allows you to learn more from other areas.
In Thailand we have the R&D, logistics, purchasing, and the accounting team in the house too, so you can see where the magic happens. From shaping a board in the workshop, pre and post-production processes, logistics challenges to loading boards into containers, etc. (I may have grown some white hairs here). However, it is so great to get the scope of Tiki Life behind the scenes.
It is also very interesting to see how each country works, what the trends are, and which products are successful in one place or another. Working with different cultures helps you to be more open-minded, whilst seeing business opportunities that you might not otherwise experience.
On top of that, our office is amazing. On one side we are chasing innovation constantly but there is a balance, with a huge focus on sustainability, and still being informal and fun. Dogs come and go as they please. You can paddle on the lake, and wakeboard after work. If only offices in Europe were like this!
By the way, did you know that Thailand is wild? You’ll see plenty of monitor lizards cruising the neighborhood and the occasional sea crocodile.
You’re about to move back to Spain. What is your new role going to be?
I’m happy to be back in Spain! I am starting a new role as Marketing Director for Southern Europe. This time I’ll be working with all the brands in the group; Starboard SUP & WS, FreeWing, Severne, Airush, AK… (already sweating just thinking about it, phew).
I will be based in Barcelona but will travel around these countries almost every month. I’ll be attending as many events as I physically can to really connect with our friends and customers while helping to develop the brands, wherever we can.
We’re now 5 years into SUP foiling and 3 years into Wingfoiling. How has Starboard embraced these 2 revolutions?
Starboard is all about bringing inspiration and innovation to these sports, so always embracing new disciplines and products! Starboard has already created a full line of dedicated wing boards and crossover wing/SUP products and has been working full speed on the Foil and wingfoil categories.
Starboard Foils was founded in 2017 by Tiesda who was inspired by watching America´s Cup guys flying around up in the air at 40 knots. So with the foils, he knew there would be a lot of room to design with innovation.
We know since foils took their place in this world, it’s been a game-changer for wind and kite surfing and has enabled incredible innovations in the wing boarding space.
On the Wing side, we created FreeWing; a new brand specifically focusing on wings. This started as a collaboration between Starboard and Airush – but quickly became a stand-alone brand due to the success of the Freewing Air. The sport is growing at a fantastic rate and we think this may continue for a while like the windsurfing boom of the 70s and 80s. There is a wealth of knowledge within the R&D team from early product development through to refinement of the final products. As an example, we have been working on lightweight and stiffer kites for many years through Airush, much of this translates immediately into wings. Starboard has been developing the best inflatable boards for SUP for many years. With this comes a huge experience of new technologies with high-pressure seams and valves. This technology is immediately relevant, but that just scratches the surface.
The good thing about Wingfoil is that it attracts all kinds of users. On the one hand, kiters and windsurfers who already know how to sail in the wind. On the other, it’s attracting many other users who have never practiced any wind sport; including, people of all ages, complexions, and knowledge of the sea. Also attracting people who have been drawn in by the vision of seeing someone flying with such ease over the sea…
Foiling, in general, is visually striking, so it undoubtedly also attracts people who have been drawn in by the vision of seeing someone flying with such ease over the sea…
FreeWing presentation of the GO wing:
You’ve been spotted on social media trying out different FreeWing gear. What can you tell us about it from a technical and user point of view?
I’m still on my first steps, although I am really enjoying the progression. Flying at 10 knots – what else should I say?
This sport is so accessible and has low risks compared to kiting. In my opinion, it’s far less tiring than windsurfing, so it’s fantastic for people of all ages. Furthermore, the gear takes up very little space, all the equipment is super easy to transport. The foil, once disassembled, packs down into a very small, very thin suitcase. The board used for Winging is also relatively small, between 5 and 6 feet maximum. It makes for an incredible option for people who don’t want to be hauling loads of kit everywhere they go.
It’s relatively easy to learn. With the right equipment (wink wink), a bit of theory, and a few hours in the water we will be able to do the basic manoeuvres. It is a very new sport that offers a very different experience to the rest. The sensation of flying over the water holding a wing in our hands without having anything attached to our body, no strings, no bar in the middle of our feet. Making us feel a freedom of movement that differentiates other sports such as kitesurfing or windsurfing.
Any fun anecdotes Wing Foiling?
I still don’t know how to calculate the time to reach the shore without touching the ground with the foil and losing my dignity in doing so. But I’m positive I will get better at some point.
In Thailand, I keep hitting ropes, so I have unexpected crashes.
Also in Maui when I was learning, I came across 2 turtles, and in order not to bump into them I changed direction and hit the reef, so I had a funny crash. Worth the crash as long as no animal was hit though.
I flew steady for the first time 2 months ago in Maui so I got too excited and went all the way downwind. And I mean aaaall the way. Luckily, I had a good friend who came to pick up my gear, otherwise the walk back wouldn’t have been so much fun. It did remind me of my beginnings in windsurfing with these walks of shame you know…
It did remind me of my early windsurfing days 🙂
As a beginner what learning process did you go through to start wing foiling?
Firstly, I would say the learning curve is pretty steep. With my windsurfing background, it was all intuitive for me. But there are a few things such as figuring out my positioning on the handles that took me a moment to figure out. Also, pumping the wing and the board feels different than windsurfing, so a different technique is required. Finally, the tricky part for me is to control the foil at speed and find the right trim. But it’s all about time on the water to get the hang of it.
Once you get to fly over the water, the experience is surreal. I can’t wait to be practicing this summer.
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