There are few names in our industry as legendary as Ben Wilson.
He is easily one of the most influential, if not the most influential, kitesurfer ever. Ben changed the primary source of inspiration from twin-tip based wave riding to actual surfing and riding traditional surfboards strapless in the waves. Widely known as the original spark in kitesurfing, Ben and his vision are responsible for the progression of surfing with kites. He created a movement for how kitesurfing should look that garnered respect from kiteboarders and surfers alike. His videos and movies changed the sport forever by displaying progressive turns, raw power, and the first barrels ever ridden with kites. As one of the first team riders for Slingshot, Ben’s legacy is synonymous with the brand. He was instrumental in product development as he helped bring to market some of the first true Kite Surfboards and wave-oriented kites. Simply put, Ben is an icon that changed the trajectory of kitesurfing forever.
Now, after a decade-long departure, we are proud to welcome Ben Wilson home.
When you closed the doors of BWS, did you know that you were going to sign with Slingshot?
Ben Wilson: No! I wasn’t looking at working with any brands moving forward, my goal was to focus on my kite weeks in Fiji and Mexico and just love and enjoy kitesurfing again.
How does it feel to be back on Slingshot officially?
BW: Honestly it feels amazing, it’s just like I never left and it’s the most excited I’ve felt about kiting and the industries in years. It’s amazing how the world goes around, who would have ever thought that after 10 years we’d reconnect. Life lesson right here – never burn your bridges.
What was it that brought you back to the brand?
BW: I released a social video clip mid-2020 announcing I was stopping building products for BWSurf and immediately a number of kite brands reached out to me to see if I was interested in working with them, I honestly had no idea this was going to happen so it wasn’t on my radar nor was I really interested, but through a chat with one of my good friends Mauricio Abreu the conversation with Slingshot (Alex Fox and Jeff Logosz) evolved and was just starting to make sense on so many levels and really felt right. I have so much history with Slingshot, plus I also consider them a huge part of my life especially between 2000-2010 which was an era in my life/career that I’m incredibly grateful for and will never forget. Obviously, a lot has changed between those early days of kitesurfing and now and I wanted to get to know the brand again and try the products etc and when the crew at Slingshot shared with me their vision moving forward and I spent time on the products I was 100% in as it felt this was another opportunity of a lifetime to work with them.
What are some of the things you remember most about Slingshot?
BW: Innovation, family and life experiences! Slingshot was always at the forefront of development and Tony and his development team were the leaders in bringing new things to the market and it was incredible to be a part of this! Once you were part of the slingshot community, you were a part of their family no matter where you were in the world and this honestly created some of the best life experiences ever through my years of traveling with them. Slingshot overall made you feel like you were a part of something special
How did it feel to ride Slingshot Gear after nearly a decade of riding something else?
BW: I always ride and try all products out there, partly for testing when we were making BWSurf products, but mostly for my kite weeks as I wanted to always know what my clients were using so I could always help them progress best, so using different gear isn’t new to me, but when I started riding Slingshot gear again I was instantly connected and pleasantly surprised, I already knew the kite’s were sick, but the bar was a huge stand out for me in its functionality and simplicity and the boards didn’t feel like a production boards at all and more like a surfboard which I was super excited about.
What is your preferred gear set up for kitesurfing now?
BW: Simplicity is key for me, especially here in Fiji where I’m packing the boat or ski to either surf, kite or foil and perhaps all in one session. I like to have 2 boards in my quiver, 1 for every day average conditions like the Sci-Fly XR and then 1 for when the waves are pumping and/or more performance riding like the Mixer XR. 3 x SSTv5 kites (7, 9, 12) all set up with Sentry V1 bars for boat launching and a Momentum Ride Engine harness.
We know you are super involved in Slingshot product development already, care to mention what you are working on?
BW: Yes, I’m so honored and excited about working with Slingshot on their future product visions in the surf category. We are already working on the iteration of the SST and it’s insane. I don’t think I know of any company that has put as much R&D into a new kite and for me in the waves it’s untouchable and I cannot wait for it to hit the market. I’m also heavily involved with the future board programs for both kitesurfing and foil and like always Slingshot wants to be the leader in everything they do so we have teamed up with Al Emery from Emery surfboards in Australia to work with me to create all the future designs and the best part about this besides the fact that Al is a legendary surfboard shaper he is a frothing surfer, kiter and foiler so all the new shapes we are working on are in the best hands possible.
What part of this new collaboration are you looking forward to the most?
BW: Honestly just working with people I love to work with, is the most important thing to me in life these days. If you work with people you love to work with and you’re passionate and committed then good things will come and this is truly the best part about Slingshot, it’s one big happy family.
How does Slingshot’s involvement in foiling and other water sports pique your interest?
BW: Massively, I live and die by the ocean and love every sport within it and I always let the ocean dictate what sport I will do on that particular day, so whether it’s kitesurfing, surfing, foiling, etc I’m happy and the best part about Slingshot is that they do it all.
What are the plans for the future?
BW: Currently I’m stuck in Fiji due to travel restrictions (not complaining at all) so plan to spend most of the year here looking after Namotu Island while hopefully surfing, kiting and foiling my brains out in anticipation for my annual kite weeks (https://www.benwilsoncoaching.com/namotu-island-kite-weeks) to get under way. Also testing all the new Slingshot products we are working on, there isn’t a better testing ground than Namotu Island in Fiji!