A Job Interview with Nik Baker
Multiple World Champion Nik Baker (K-66 Mistral / North) has been successful at all the PWA disciplines during a pro career spanning 18 years. Nik knows what it takes to win and compete amongst the best, and this winning mindset has been instrumental in his sponsors’ product developments at just about every company he’s represented. Nik’s competitive hunger is unlikely to wain, especially now he has a new challenge in the form of a top job at his board sponsor Mistral.
Nik was unlikely to have been nervous for this job interview, and even less likely to have been wearing a suit. What’s more, Bakers contract means he’ll still be competing in 2007 and looking at his 2006 results he’s likely to remain a real danger. With the headhunting and competitive season over we thought we’d ask him a few question ourselves, and offer him our congratulations!
So what’s your job description?
NB: 'Basically I have to come up with the board lines, board briefs and pretty much everything to do with the actual hard goods for Mistral including implementing them into the production cycle at Cobra. Oh yeah also the fins too!'
How did it all come about?
NB: 'I’ve been sailing for Mistral now for over 7 years this time around and over 11 years in total. For the last 7 years that testing and developing has been alongside our current shaper Mark Nelson and as I’m sadly getting older and will only compete in the waves next year I felt it was the right time to move over a little to get more involved with the major function of the company. I’ve always enjoyed working with boards and sails, and I still have a big part in the testing of the North range. I test all the sails except the race sails with Jimmy Diaz and sail designer Kai Kopf. This part of my work starts around Christmas time and finishes in April/May and the Mistral side is mainly between July and Christmas. The rest is done from my laptop anywhere I go'
Have you always thought about ending up in a job in the industry or did you think you’d do something outside of windsurfing?
NB: 'I love windsurfing. It has been my life since I was 12 years old, and I can’t see myself leaving the industry for some time. Well at least I hope not! I’ve also been gearing myself up for something like this over the past few years of course'
Why have you chosen to be involved in the product side of the sport instead of say travel or marketing?
NB: 'I’ve always tested windsurfing product for my sponsors, ever since I was 17. I never sailed for a company where I couldn’t be a big part of their testing programme. I did this to start with so I could learn about my gear and how to tune it best for myself then it moved on to developing gear for the end consumer and I found this a big challenge that I really enjoyed. I love to see the sport moving forwards and this is a good way to help move the sport on. It also keeps me on the water as much as I always have been!'
Can you see yourself progressing further in this side of the sport?
NB: 'Well we will have to wait and see how I do with this first. I have no illusions; it will not be easy to bring Mistral back to the top. We have the most accomplished name in windsurfing but it has lost its way somewhat in the last 4 or 5 years. For 2008 we have some drastic changes to the brand and the ranges that I hope will make people stop and take notice. It is a long-term project; you cannot change peoples opinions overnight so we have come up with longer term plan to make massive improvements to the Mistral brand'
Who’s your boss?
NB: 'My boss is Markus Steininger and I work side by side with Donald Scholz the marketing manager and product assistant. Thankfully Donald has been a massive help to me in moving into this role and has virtually been holding my hand through some of the stuff that’s is completely new to me like the implementation of the product into the production line at Cobra plus many more things. Without him helping me things would have been a bit scary also I would have had to spend a lot more time in Germany to get it all sorted'
Where will you be based?
NB: 'From my laptop! I will be going to Germany for a few days every month or so during the busy part of the year but other than that I stay connected to them through skype and e-mail'
How long do you think you’ll keep competing for?
NB: 'Until I cannot get into the top places or at least stop feeling competitive. I love what I do and really have found it harder to stop than I thought I would. If I did ’t enjoy the competing then I would have stopped a few years ago. I’m 35 now and last year I finished waves in 2nd and this year 4th so I’m still hanging in there! The level is amazing with some of the kids doing stuff I would not have dreamed of 5 years ago but I feel I can still do this stuff and with my experience I am still getting the results.
Thanks Nik and Good Luck!
© PWA / Brian McDowell