With us today are Ryan Evans the North America President for Pure Action Sports, Sam Medysky the man, the myth, the mustache, and Joel Hillard who is the founder of Humanoid. Humanoid snuck up on the kite scene, they went from a relatively new wake brand to being carried and pushed by Best seemingly overnight. Our first look at Humanoid boots was actually at the most recent Surf Expo. We decided to do a bit of digging to see what was really going on with this partnership.
So guys, how did this all happen?
The rough overview, Joel and I have a mutual best friend. He was Joel’s best friend in grade school and my roommate throughout college! Our friend introduced us via LinkedIn since we were both working at water sports brands, and that’s where the collaboration was born.
Sam Medysky has been integral in the testing of the product and current and future development of brand collaboration (of which there is a lot).
You see a lot of different companies rebranding boots and calling it their own, why did Best decide to go with Humanoid instead of developing something with some better known brands like North’s previous collaboration with Ronix?
I think that we decided to work with Humanoid for several different reasons. A large reason for us leaving our partnership with the other wake brand, was the quality of the boots. We had some team riders warrantying boots after just a couple sessions. Humanoid boots have proven to be far better built and are holding up to the wear and tear that kiteboarding puts on the boots. The noise around Humanoid right now in the wake world is beginning to turn heads. This is something I think we as a kite brand would like to be part of and grow with. Speaking with Joel and the team at Humanoid they have some big plans for the future and as a kite brand we’d like to be the first in the kite world to offer these innovations to our team and clients.
To build off of what Sammy said, we simply just really like the guys at Humanoid, their brand personality, and their product. Joel and the guys at Humanoid genuinely want to see kiteboarding grow and believe in the crossover of the two sports. Other “wake” brands we’ve worked with treated, and looked at, kiteboarding as the red-headed stepchild of wake. Joel wants to see the sport of kiteboarding succeed and for that there needs to be collaboration. Hence the reason we want to support, promote and increase notoriety of their young, but innovative brand. You don’t do that by slapping a logo over theirs. Sure we lose out on the “marketability” of having our “own boot”, but we’d rather see the Humanoid name and brand grow.
What sets Humanoid boots apart from some of the more familiar names in the industry?
I’d say that Humanoids are the whole package. Solid built boots with a simple entry and exit system. Not to mention they look like a pair of Vans kicks. So far, everyone who has seen them while I’ve been kiting has said “those look sick, who makes those boots?”
Being such a new brand in wakeboarding compared to our competitors, we’ve had to fight through every part of the binding development process. I think that is a testament to the team we’ve put together and the final outcome of the product.
Since the team & product line is so small and focused, it’s forced us to come up with a design that seems familiar & functional, accommodates a range of riding preferences, yet still highlights different details that make the binding look fresh. We’ve developed our own custom binding chassis and tried to improve on parts that we liked from other brands. Having a stylish product at a good price point that can take a beating is a great start but is really only half the battle. Now it’s getting it into people’s hands.
What in the Humanoid construction is supposed to make it last longer than other wake brands?
Our philosophy with respect to durability is to keep it simple. For us, innovation is a reductive process. We try to source the highest quality composites from the most reliable suppliers. We then work with our engineers to figure out where the weaknesses might be. Introducing new materials is very exciting, but it must make sense for us – whether thats aesthetics or functionality.
I’ve also seen the mounting hardware for Humanoid. Those are some beefy brackets. Any reason you guys chose to go that route instead of the more traditional mounting options?
As we looked at competitors bindings, the most common point of failure or stress is found is in the chassis. In order to create something visually pleasing but still functional we knew we had to reduce the imprint of the standard binding chassis that surrounds a binding upper. This led us to design a component that surpassed the rigidity of other brands chassis’. We tore through every major competitor’s chassis. We then gave a few of our prototypes we built to our team. We went with a design & material we knew would outperform the impacts and abuse from our team.
Now, as people who are familiar with both the wake industry as well as the kite industry, do any of you guys see the need for kite specific bindings?
I’ll let the kite experts handle this one…
It seems that wake, cable, and kite riders have a tendency to like different features of boots… Wake you’ve got a transom to tighten the boot on, two hands, and you’re going into fresh water; some cable/winch riders like to have foot protection when walking back to the start; kiters are often putting boots on in sand, with one hand, with a kite pulling on them. So, with regard to “kite specific” I think that really means having features that benefit kiters. They could easily benefit cable riders as well. Features like: really simple one-handed entry/exit; elimination of heel lift; durability, etc.
Building off of what Ryan said. I think the “easier to get in and out of” while not comprising any “hold or security” benefits kiteboarders. Wakeboarders can take their time and stand on the dock, or the back of the boat while doing up their boots. Kiteboarders are getting yanked around by the wind while we are trying to do them up. Also I believe, we as kiteboarders, ride longer sessions than most wakeboarders because we have the harness to take the load off of our arms. This combined with kiteboarders being “heel side heroes” (always edging against the kite to stay upwind) forces the boots to break down much fast than in wakeboarding. In the past, I’ve chosen boots because of how stiff they were, because I knew they break down slower than a softer boot would.
Joel is a super creative guy who has great foresight with regard to product and rider needs. In having such a great relationship with Joel and his team it has allowed Best (Medysky, Sabo, myself) to work with Humanoid and brainstorm some awesome concepts and ideas for current and future collaboration.
In the future I think we’re likely to see these product attributes and features come together in the same way the Humanoid and Best brands have… for wake and kite boots that work really well for both sports. I’d say this is one goal, and the other would be the continued growth of the crossover market between riders of both sports.
For more info on Humanoid please visit their website.