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INDUSTRY PROFILE: Bruce Johnson

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Company: Bay Area Kitesurf
Job Title: VP of Operations
Years in Industry: 5
Words of Wisdom: Try not to take yourself too seriously. Remember to breathe.
Years Kiteboarding: 7
Kite: F-One Bandit 4
Board: F-One 5’10” Bamboo Signature and Trax 5 TT

How would you describe your job at Bay Area Kitesurf ?
Representing F-One through demos and expos and taking care of local vendors, customers, team riders, and kite school operations. Community support at local sites, shipping, inventory, and warehouse maintenance!

What did you do before working in the kite industry?
I started my own tile contracting business 16 years ago which is still operational.

How did you end up working in the kiteboarding industry? What led to Bay Area Kitesurf becoming a distributor?
After growing up in Cape Town, South Africa, and surfing for the better part of my youth I continued this passion after moving to the Bay Area in the early 80s. Six years ago I started teaching after getting my PASA and IKO certifications. I met my good buddy and business partner Nico at a local kite spot and we found out through Arnaud of Kitemasters that F-One was looking for a new distributor for the US market. Both Nico and I decided to take our passion for the sport a bit further with the hope of a few kite adventures in the mix. We jumped at the opportunity and five years later we are on an upward trajectory working side by side with some of the bigger and most respected names in the business. Our initial plan of kite adventures has evolved into a full-time kiteboarding dream!

What is your typical day at the office like?
When I get to the office I usually have a long list of items to be handled: Orders that need packing and shipping and customer care by phone and internet. We also have our local customers dropping into the shop for some F-One love! We discuss equipment, future trips, the upcoming season, new gear, and watch F-One videos. Midway through the day I head to the water for continued equipment testing and customer care at the beach or parking lot. It’s amazing how much gets done during these spontaneous meetings. At sundown I go home, answer a few more calls from our website and call it a day. There really are no typical days, but rather a constantly evolving traveling office.

Is working in the kiteboarding industry all it’s cracked up to be?
I recently returned from the Island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean where F-One hosted their annual distributor meeting, and I realized that our industry consists of a variety of characters sharing the same passion that come from all over the world. Being in this industry is truly a global experience humanly, geographically, and collaboratively.

How old were your daughters when they began kiteboarding? What do you think of kiteboarding as a family activity?
Ella, who just started college at Cal Poly, started when she was 12 and our youngest daughter Zola started when she was 11. She is 14 now and “shreds the gnar!” Zola has been a driving force inspiring her classmates to take lessons and pursue the sport. Ella became a PASA certified instructor when she was 14 and has been teaching every summer since! Kiteboarding is highly recommended as a family activity. I could not have asked for anything more. I get to share my passion with the kids and in return they share their passion with me. Talk about quality, healthy family time! Of course without the support of my wife Sylvie, none of this could be possible.

What is the best part of your job? The worst?
The best part is the travel, discovering new kite spots especially where waves are involved and meeting local foreign kiters and their culture. I also get really excited teaching kids and sharing the fun of kiteboarding with them and sometimes their parents. The worst part is that you can’t make everybody happy all of the time, only most of the people most of the time! At BAKS we thrive on achieving our best for our customers.

What do you see as the biggest challenge to the kiteboarding industry as a whole?
One of our challenges here in the US is to introduce and make our sport more accessible to the younger generation. Kite schools should consider camps/clinics for their summer program. For the industry our biggest challenge is to maintain our originality and integrity!

What advice do you have for someone that wants to work in the kite industry?
As a newcomer, bring your energy to the table but remember to listen and learn from those of us who have been around for a while. Be patient and make sure to spend as much time on the water as you can. That’s where you keep your finger on the pulse of our vibrant kiting community!

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