Saturday, June 8, 2013

Blame yourself!

When I bought a sailable SUP last summer, one of the main reasons why I picked the Exocet WindSUP 10 were many enthusiastic posts about the Exocet WindSUP on the iWindsurf forum by John Ingebritsen (jingebritsen).

When the WindSUP broke the second time I took it out into the waves, I went back to the dealer, and he contacted Exocet about the warranty. He reported back that Exocet had declined to take this as a warranty claim, and we went ahead and had the board repaired locally. The US distributor for Exocet, Steve Gottlieb, later sent me a check for half of the repair cost, after I had contacted him directly in response to a forum post he had made. I thought this was a fair solution, although I was not happy about having a board that had gotten even heavier than before, and lost a lot of its value due to the repair.

So when some WindSUP sailors posted enthusiastic reviews with titles like "Exocet Wind SUP Saves the Day", I thought I should warn others about the problems that I and others have encountered. That, in turn, provoked several responses by jingebritsen. On the forum, he stated:
"there's another side to this story. too complicated and unfortunate to share online, publicly."
"suffice it to say the circumstances with that case had not allowed the normal warranty procedures to unfold."
The second statement is plainly false. Here's what happened:
  • September 2012: I buy the WindSUP 10 at full price from the local dealer, Sailworld Cape Cod.
  • Dec 2, 2012: WindSUP breaks while light wind sailing it in waves. I describe it in a brief blog post.
  • Dec 3, 2012: I bring the board to the dealer, who says he will contact Exocet about the warranty.
  • Dec 7, 2012: Sailword Cape Cod sends me a message that starts:
    "Hi Peter, Exocet says that there is no warranty when the board is damaged in the surf." After getting this response, I post pictures of the broken board and additional information about the day on my blog.
  • Jan 11, 2013: When another WindSUP owner reports structural problems with his board, and that the Exocet owner had sent him a ridiculous response, I add a link to my blog entry about my board breaking.
  • Jan 14, 2013: The US importer for Exocet, Steve Gottlieb, suggests to contact him directly about any Exocet warranty issues. I do, and he agrees to pay 50% of the repair cost.
I think most windsurfers would consider going through the dealer to be the "normal warranty procedure", and all that got me was a denial of the warranty claim, which seemed to be perfectly in line with Exocet's warranty ideas, at least according to the words of the company owner. I ended up with some warranty coverage only after board problems seemed to develop into a public relation night mare for Exocet.

John Ingebritsen seems to take his role in promoting Exocet very seriously. He send me a private message on iWindsurf with the subject "please stop it with your hard on about the exocet".  Here's a screen shot of the message:
I do admit that I find the title offensive, but maybe he is just projecting. But some of the statements he makes deserve a closer look. Perhaps the most telling is hidden in the middle:

"if you blithely ride into mauling waves and don't have the experience or foreknowledge of what to look out for, how can you blame anything/one but yourself?"
Not only does he know that the waves were "mauling",  but he also knows that "rode blithely into them", without any "foreknowledge of what to look out for". Quite amazing for someone who was not there, and heard about what happened third-hand! No surprise he knows that I am the one to blame!

But once again jingebritsen is plainly wrong. It is true that I have little wave sailing experience, but I have some experience in getting out through shore break at least as big as it was that day (which was not very big). I have sailed in Cabarete many times, including during the fall when the shore break was so high that equipment breaks trying to get out was the norm; I have sailed from Old Silver Beach in onshore 20-25 mph winds several times, when getting out was a lot harder; I have watched Peter Hart's wave sailing videos, which deal extensively with getting through shore break; and I had just recently heard the ABK SUP sailing lessons, and gone to practice SUP sailing with Andy Brandt in Hatteras. I certainly do have a basis to state that the damage was way out of proportion to the conditions.

Ingebritsen goes on, reporting that "your story and performance on the water did not ring true". In one sentence, he accuses me of lying as well of "poor performance". Maybe part of my problem was that I was not lying about this. The first board repair guy I contacted advised me to say this happened in flat water, to have a better chance of warranty coverage. Instead, I was truthful, and ended up hearing "not covered by warranty". His ideas about "performance" are also quite wrong. At the last East Coast Windsurfing Festival, which also happened in light winds, I placed 3rd in the freestyle contest, riding a very similar board. The contest level was quite high, with about 15-20 participants. Duck tacks and back-to-back was not good enough for more than 3rd place, the top two did some rather amazing combos.

jingebritsen apparently thinks he knows more about this entire incident than I do:

"i've gotten the dealer perspective about what happened. he never thought your case was worth taking beyond his level."
He seems to know this from talking to the US distributor for Exocet:

"when discussed by your dealer with the distributor (after your public posts)"

I did contact Jim Ballantyne, the dealer in question again about this, and he responded:
"I absolutley contacted exocet, spoke to their manager Curt, and explained what happened to the board and how the damage happened, he told me under those conditions the warranty did not hold, and the answer is what I expected" 
The dealer did not speak to the US distributor when the original warranty claim was made in December; he spoke to him more than a month later, after I had contacted the distributor myself, who stated that paying for half of the repair costs was what they commonly did if no obvious manufacturing defect was found during the repair.

Most of the responses to this incident have fallen into one of two categories:

  1. "You did something wrong, so the board broke. Get over it and don't even think about warranty claims."
  2. "Exocet markets the board for wave sailing, so it should not break this easily. They should honor the warranty."
The first categorie is somewhat self-confirming: if I had not done anything wrong, how could the board be broken? As soon as I mentioned the word "waves", it got the impression that the dealer also was in this category. Nevertheless, I do believe his statements that he had contacted Exocet.

Ingebritsen ended his message with:
"please refrain from blaming your gear, from any brand, on any inexperience you may have in the future."
Seems he is mixing what he so expertly diagnosed as the cause of the problem ("inexperience") into his sentence, but he clearly wants me to stop blaming gear. That's not going to happen - if I think the gear is faulty, I will say so. I have damaged lots of windsurf gear - broken masts, torn sails, bent booms, dinged fins and boards, broken board noses, broken harness hooks, and more. I usually knew what the problem was, be it gear getting old, running aground at full speed, or practicing loop catapults onto the nose, and would never blame the gear. But if I do encounter gear that does not live up to it's marketing hype, I will certainly say so. And if I see completely one-sided forum messages hyping specific gear that I have had a bad experience with, I will continue to point out the bad things that might happen if you just believe the hype posted by jingebritsen and others.


  1. Nice venting there Peter.
    As far as your board breaking the AST layup is something you may want to stay away from as it's just fibreglass on EPS core. It's NOT a sandwich construction like our windsurfing boards. Although the AST is quite durable on impact it has no structural integrity.Wood veneer are a bit better but not perfect. Once boards get longer than 9' the force put on to them is quite great, my 11'2" *board ultimate blend vibrates over chop like crazy.
    The board repair shouldn't have made the board that much heavier,I've have fix boards snapped in half maybe gain a 1/2 pound at best.
    Good luck with the BIC as they "seem" indestructible and stay out of that shore break :)

  2. Thanks for your posts! I purchased the BIC WindSUP 10.6 and am very satisfied with it!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Bryn. I am not sure if the BIC would have survived this incident, although I'd hope so. I know, however, that the thermo covering on the BIC works great for protecting the board from dings. I have had the boom hit the board at full speed many times when working on ankle biters. It left marks, but nothing that needed a repair. Just about other SUP would have needed multiple repairs from these impacts.