WORDS - Mark Shinn
INTRO ? What's in a name? Shinn dons his thick rimmed specs, blinks hard a couple of times and heads to the science lab.
I think I have writer's block. You might find this hard to believe (especially you ed.) but it's true. The more cynical amongst you might say that having to write 1000 to 1500 words, on a subject of my choosing every two months, is not a huge job, and you would be right. It shouldn't stretch anyone's imagination, however, it's not to this column I'm referring.
The new equipment season has come and with it the endless writing of press releases and marketing text and it's this that has me dried up like a prune! Marketing text is a game with the highest stakes. It's not just what you say, but what you imply that's important. With a limited word count available (not just because of limited space but also because in general people only have an attention span of 150 words or so in this context) individual words are scrutinised and analysed and the order of sentences changed around over and over until no one is truly sure what they mean any more!
Many times it's not the things you can read in the text that are telling but the things you can't read. For instance, a comment about an 'incredible new bar centre hole that reduces line wear dramatically' can be read as a fairly clear indication that in the preceding year, said bar had a problem with line wear, and so on! Sometimes I think you should read the last three year's worth of text for a product at the same time to truly asses the features and benefits. What shocked me this year was also the ability to mislead people without strictly lying. Let me explain:
Titanium is an element, atomic number 22 (Ti) and is widely famous for not only doubling the price of whatever it is that's made out of it, but also for being strong and corrosion free. In its natural state it's very, very expensive indeed, though when alloyed with other metals it becomes light and more reasonably priced. Titanium has a very high-tech image due to numerous aerospace and military applications which of course makes it useful in marketing terms. What confused me was the apparently misspelt titanol I came across when reading advertising text from another sport. On initial reading I thought I was looking at a simple typo error, but having the advantage of working with a lot of very well-educated engineers I decided to ask. 'Titanol?' they said. 'Nothing to do with Titanium WHATSOEVER. It has a chemical composition of 88.5% aluminium, 1.7% copper, 2.5% magnesium, 7% zinc, and 0.1% zirconium. Notice the glaring absence of titanium in there! That got me started and with the minimum of investigation I found the following info:
Titanol/Titanal: a type of coating often used in snowboard foils. No titanium involved.
Titania TiO2: Titanium dioxide - most commonly used white pigment. If you have a white board you could probably call it a titania board!
Titano: Legendary super monkey from DC Comics and has no relevance to this column.
Titanate:???? I'm not entirely sure what this says. If you search 'titanate' this is what you find!
I'm pretty sure if most people read one of the above words in the context of kiteboarding material they would wrongly assume that the product they were reading about contained titanium.
What has this to do with anything I hear you ask? Not a lot really, but I found it interesting and I get to write the column, so I get to choose what's in it! (Most of the time!). Next time you're reading the text for your chosen equipment for 2009 (not only kiteboarding, but for anything) read it carefully and if it seems there's a typo in it, check it out carefully - you might discover something surprising!
There's another important thing I have to comment on this month: Mr Hadlow. I met Aaron eight years ago in Cornwall with his father Ian and remember thinking; 'Nice kid but way too shy to ever become a kiteboarding celebrity.' As usual I've been proven massively wrong as Aaron just won his fifth consecutive world title. Just think about that for a minute: the PKRA world tour has only been running for seven years and Aaron has dominated five of them. It's important to also bear in mind that the changes competitive kiteboarding has undergone in the last six years. Aaron has not only managed to stay abreast of a fast developing sport, but to lead it ? something altogether more noteworthy as it's pretty rare in extreme sports for the winner of competitions to also be the main innovator. Innovators usually spend their time working on new moves and bust them out on some special occasion but rarely manage to generate the kind of consistency needed to win tours. Aaron has led from the front and the list of tricks he has been the first to complete (or invent) is long enough to complete this article alone! It's a sporting achievement of the greatest kind.
Having had the privilege of travelling with Aaron and riding with him over the years I can only say it couldn't have happened to a better person for the sport, he truly is a credit to us all and deserves to be talked about in the same sentences as Naish, Slater, Hawk and Palmer. I won't be the first or the last to say it, but congratulations Aaron. No matter how many tours exist, you truly are the undisputed World Champion. And I'll just save a quick word for Kevin Langaree as well. Aaron and Kevin have contested pretty much every final on the tour this year and the final result was close, even down to the last event. He may not have beaten Aaron but Kevin has proved a level above everybody else on the tour again this year. I'm sure finishing second is no prize in Kevin's mind right now, but it's still an incredible achievement. Well done.
Find more on Mark and his boards at: www.shinnworld.com
This column is in issue #36. Read this whole issue online for free, click here now
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