Shannon Best the man behind the brand - BEST Kiteboarding.
As former Pro Wakeboarder who turned his attention to Kiting in the early formative years of the sport, Shannon Best is often regarded as the rider who put the "Boarding" into Kiteboarding.
In the middle of 2003, while traveling through Florida, Shannon had the opportunity to meet with Alex Shogren, a budding kiteboarding junky. The meeting was arranged by Jeff Beige, Shannon’s old kiteboard friend from Florida. Shannon, with his nonchalant style, arrived at the meeting late but within twenty-four hours Best Kiteboarding was born.
It's been a wild ride to the top against stiff competition but nothing seemed to slow this guy down. Shannon's brand BEST has become arguably the largest kite brand in the World.
Shannon a cheeky Australian is without a doubt one seriously talented rider, entrepreneur & designer.
“The future of the sport is endless. At this stage, kiteboarding is still only in its infancy in comparison to other action sports. I look forward to seeing how kiteboarding directs itself into the future and to be a part if it.” - Shannon Best.
the full story...
About Shannon Best
In the winter of 1999, Tom James, the editor and creator of Kiteboarding Magazine, was pushing the new sport of kiteboarding with the release of the first Kiteboarding Magazine in America that year. Seeing not only the future in the sport itself, but also the crossover potential from wake to kite, Tom invited Shannon to try the sport for the first time with Lou Waiman and Elliot LeBoe in Corpus Christi, Texas, along with fellow wakeboarders Zane Schwank and Chase Heavener. Tom recalls, “I wanted the wakeboarders to see a cooler side of kiteboarding, not just going big. Within 10 minutes, Shannon and the boys were doing raleys, which surprised Elliot and Lou by how fast they were learning, especially on the old Wipika two-lines.” Rafael Salles and Raphael Baruch from F-one were also there with their 7m foils for the guys to use on the lighter days at Bird Island.
This was not the first time Shannon had seen kiteboarding. In 1995, when Shannon was training and working at the Ski Ranch in Texas with Troy Navarro, Troy was playing around with a kite at the back of the ranch. Shannon, Troy and his dog went to Corpus so Troy could kite and practice for the X-Games in ‘95 in Rohde Island. The 1995 X-Games was actually called the Extreme Games and this was the inaugural X-Games with the sport that was then being called Kite Skiing.
At the Portland wakeboarding tour stops in 1997 and 1998, Shannon met up with Lou Waiman, who showed him pictures and video of kiteboarding in Maui. Eventually, in 2000, after winning the Cable Worlds, Shannon met up with Raphael Barruch, the US distributor for F-one, who asked Shannon to teach the kite team to wake. During one of Florida’s windiest seasons in years, Shannon spent time teaching Malik Bouchenafa, Bertrand Fluerry, Trip Forman and Ty Luckett, which is also when Shannon learned to go upwind and ride on foils, riding alongside Florida regulars Jeff Biege and Lou Simmons. Shannon was hooked instantly, and shortly after, he told his wake sponsors he wanted to kite. He took back the wake boat, replaced it with a kite, and rode as often as he could in January of 2001.
Shannon trained hard and entered his first contest, the amateur division of the kiteboard competition at Waddell Creek in 2001. Soon afterwards, Lou invited Shannon to come and hang out with him in Maui, and within three weeks, Shannon was staying on Lou’s couch at the “compound.” “Back then everyone was doing whip tricks on the 2 line kites. I told them that they didn’t need to whip the kite and within a week Lou had picked it up, throwing down all the handle passes incredibly fast and with ease.” After four months in Maui, F-One brought out their inflatable kites, which Shannon loved. The Mach-1 9m was pretty much the only kite that Shannon rode, usually on a pulley bar. At this time, Shannon helped Keith Baxter from Air tweak the pulley bar set-ups that are used today.
“F-One was paying me $2000 a month; we were all riding everyday and videoing at the same time. At night we would sit down and critique each other’s riding and coach each other. No leashes were used then so kites were flying around Kite Beach all them time.” Shannon recalls the different factions at that stage. “The Oahu guys were into the big jumps and transitions whilst we were really into wake style, as well as going big and wave riding.”
Shannon spent nearly three years in Maui from 2001 until 2003 riding and pushing the sport with the likes of Lou Waiman, Elliot LeBoe, Mauricio Abreu, Jack Webb, and Nina Heinburg. At the time, Shannon was riding F-one kites and riding for Jimmy Lewis (3 pro models). In 2003, he did the hugely successful kiteboard DVD’s with the Tronolones, Kiteboarding 101 and Kiteboarding 201.
In the middle of 2003, while traveling through Florida, Shannon had the opportunity to meet with Alex Shogren, a then-budding kiteboarding junky. The meeting was arranged by Jeff Beige, Shannon’s old kiteboard friend from Florida, before the Maui days. Shannon, with his nonchalant style, arrived at the meeting three hours late and within twenty-four hours Best Kiteboarding was born. “The next day me and Jeff called F-one and told them we were leaving,” said Shannon.
Shannon had been looking to set up his own company since the beginning of the wakeboarding days and was close to it on several occasions, but shady deals and behind-the-scenes politics had left Shannon with little to show for his hard work and creativity. Shannon learned “not to ride for a company whose boss smokes crack.”
On February 9th, 2004, Best Kiteboarding went online for the first time and opened its doors to the kiteboarding world, through the internet as well as regular sales. Best’s business model caused quite a controversy in the development period with several brands colluding to push Best out of the market because of Best’s online tactics and outspoken marketing approach. “Back then the companies were all scared of our new approach,” says Shannon. “It was only natural that they fought us.”
Three years later, Best Kiteboarding has survived not only the problems of an initial start-up, but also the added pressure of extremely vociferous competitors. Shannon has worked in many aspects of the company, helping it get where it is today, even answering the phones and doing customer service in the early days…which he occasionally still does. Customers are thrilled to have their problems solved or questions answered when I pick up the phone,” says Shannon.
Shannon has also been involved in his own Pro Model board that has been hugely successful in terms of units sold. Other design work includes bar design and safety systems, along with the obvious kite and board testing…skills that come from years of experience in the industry.
Shannon has an extremely creative side as well. Most of the names of Best kites come from various Aboriginal names for wind or water, including the Waroo, Bularoo and Yarga models of kites. Shannon enjoys researching these names through his Aboriginal heritage with the help of his family back home in Australia. Shannon is also is adept at several graphics programs, including Illustrator and Rhino 3D, which he uses to work on bar design, logo and board graphics.
Traveling is what keeps Shannon the busiest. He spends an average of nine months a year on the road representing Best Kiteboarding, from being dunked in dunk tanks at trade shows, to attending several kiteboard competitions worldwide, to driving the RV around the USA, to various kiteboard lessons, radio interviews and media shoots around the world. “Last year I hit the road in January and continued to travel even when I arrived in Australia in September, stopping all over the States, Brazil, Hawaii and Japan along the way.” Shannon was recently inducted into the Australian Wakeboard Hall of Fame in Brisbane for leading the charge of Australian wakeboarders around the world and outstanding performance.
As for the future, the travels will continue - and so will Shannon, pushing the sport and promoting his company around the world. Shannon can still ride as hard as anyone with smooth technical wakeboard tricks and powerful style. Shannon was seen riding in Brazil this year, and in one session throwing down every trick both ways on the lagoon - Double SBends to blind, double back rolls to blind, toe side SBends to blind, giant butter slides, nose presses and many more.
“The future of the sport is endless. At this stage, kiteboarding is still only in its infancy in comparison to other action sports. I look forward to seeing how kiteboarding directs itself into the future and to be a part if it.”