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INSIDER: North Kiteboarding’s Dan Schwarz

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Industry Profile: Dan Schwarz
Company: North Sports
Job Title: Sales Rep for West Coast, Baja, and Canada
Years in Industry: 5ish
Words of Wisdom: Eat a lot, sleep a lot, brush ‘em like crazy, and never try to argue with someone on a public internet forum.

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Years Kiteboarding: 10ish
Kite: Vegas in the flats, Rebel in the waves
Board: Team 135 in the flats, WAM in the waves

How would you describe what you do at North Sports?
Surprisingly, it’s a real job. I sit at a desk most of the time and try as hard as possible to fight the disorganization that constantly tries to creep in. Demo tours take up about 50 days a year. Fortunately the office is in the middle of the Gorge, so when I’m not on tour I can usually slip away for a lunch and/or after work session.

What did you do before working in the kite industry?
I was, in turns, a student, short order cook, sailing/windsurfing instructor, bouncer for a women’s fast pitch softball team (go Durham Dragons!), model, photographer, landscape architect, engineering draftsman, and options specialist.

How did you end up working in the kiteboarding industry?
I was working on Wall Street when my brother opened up a retail shop/school in San Diego. It sounded like a whole lot more fun than trading options, and as I was living on a sailboat, I didn’t even need a moving van.

As a former retailer, do you have any advice for shops on how to survive and thrive in this economy?
Lots. Of course, service is the key, but the thing I see that most often hurts the industry is poor communication between retailers. If I was Steve Martin doing that skit on SNL about Christmas wishes, my wish would be that all the kite retailers would get drunk together. Can’t we all just get along?

What is your typical day at the office like?
My day generally starts with an oil rubdown from our Swedish masseuse/intern. Then I answer emails -lots of them. I spend a decent amount of time running down to the warehouse to check kite colors. At lunch time I try to get out for a bike ride, a kite session, or some Greco Roman wrestling with the other guys in the office. Then, more emails and phone calls before wrapping things up with the rest of the office, doing the standard synchronized swimming practice in the company pool. Like I said, it’s a real job.

Is working in the kiteboarding industry all it’s cracked up to be?
In some ways yes, in others no. It’s cool to meet the designers and ride new gear with some of the world’s best riders, but a lot of the time I could be working at Initech.

What is the best part of your job? The worst?
The best part is the people and the attitude. Though it’s an office job, it’s pretty standard for people to take their lunch breaks to go biking or kiting. The customers are all kiters, so they get it and there’s a good personal vibe to the business. The worst? I’m really not sure. I guess it’s the need to be organized because I’m juggling a lot of things every day, and organization is not my strong point.

What do you think is the most common misconception about working in the industry that the general public has?
Some people think that working in the industry is amazing and exciting and that our days are filled with testing gear in exotic places where women lie around in bikinis. Other people think that working in the industry is selling out and that you must be a douche. I don’t think either is particularly true. I think the industry draws in people that really love kiting and they’ll do whatever jobs they can to be involved in the sport.

What do you see as the biggest challenge to the kiteboarding industry as a whole?
The internet. Support your local retailer. Without them, you have nowhere to get gear information, send beginners to take lessons, spearhead campaigns to protect launches, etc. Plus if they’re any good they’ll have demo gear, bring manufacturer tours to town, organize trips, and have a good couch for a post-session beer.

What advice do you have for someone that wants to work in the kite industry?
Be easygoing, don’t burn anyone, and never wake a sleeping Gimp.

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