World number one Olivia Piana is embarking on a major new project this season, with the Frenchwoman set to announce a partnership with French brand “ITIWIT” to develop new inflatable boards and other SUP products to help make the sport more accessible to the masses.
ITIWIT isn’t the most-recognised name within the SUP community but its parent company is a household name. ITIWIT is the in-house brand of Decathlon Group, the largest chain of sports stores in the world. The big-box blue warehouses are found everywhere in Europe, and Decathlon’s massive reach (1,800 stores worldwide) instantly made ITIWIT a relatively large SUP brand when it came onto the scene a few years ago.
I spoke with the 2019 leader of the women’s SUP world rankings earlier today to get more info. Olivia, who is a proud ambassador for gender equality and accessibility in the sport, told me she’ll continue racing her Rogue 14 footers in elite events for the time being, but that she’ll paddle ITIWIT inflatable race boards in select mass-start races around Europe. The plan is to eventually create an inflatable race board that’s just as competitive as anything made of carbon and foam.
The two-time ICF world champ will partner up with the ITIWIT R&D lab that’s based in Hendaye, right on the border of France and Spain and just half an hour south of Hossegor along Europe’s most famous stretch of surfing coastline.
“In my opinion, inflatable technology is a superpower for SUP. This is what brings the freedom to paddle wherever we want. There is still a lot of room for improvement with inflatable SUP, especially for racing, and it’s my dream to help develop a compact, high-performance SUP race board and travel with it to the most remote and beautiful paddling destinations. I’m excited to begin this collaboration and create more memories in this wonderful sport!”
This is a smart move for Olivia.
With the wild west days of the SUP industry – when race teams threw money at athletes left, right and centre – well and truly behind us, seeking partnerships with bigger brands from outside the traditional paddling industry is the new norm for athletes. Or at least, it’s the new norm for athletes that want to prolong their careers. Professional paddlers can no longer rely on the old-school manufacturers if they want to continue their career in the ocean, and they can also no longer rely purely on racing — it sounds like Olivia’s partnership with ITIWIT is almost entirely based around product development for the masses, a worthy goal from both a personal and business standpoint.
Olivia has kept her career humming by being mobile. She’s previously paddled for Fanatic, Starboard, 425 and Rogue, but this seems to be the biggest move of her career so far as she’s now backed by the might of the multinational Decathlon Group. We’ll start to see the fruits of this collaboration appear this summer in Europe.
So far we’ve seen Bruno Hasulyo join X-Bionic, Lincoln Dews move to SIC and Claudio Nika fill Bruno’s hole at Lightboard. Olivia’s collaboration with ITIWIT probably won’t be the last movement we see in the pre-season, and I’m sure it won’t be the last time we see an athlete partner with a brand outside the traditional SUP bubble…
Here’s more on Olivia’s announcement from the official press release:
United by a common desire to make the practice of stand-up paddle accessible to all, Olivia Piana, multiple world champion in several stand-up paddle disciplines, and ITIWIT, the stand-up paddle and kayak brand of DECATHLON, are joining forces in a partnership which combines co-creation and passion.
Since our creation, our primary goal has been to offer our users products that are both technical and accessible to all. To help us in this mission, we were looking to join forces with a partner, capable of giving us the benefit of their skills and technical knowledge.
Our collaboration with Olivia Piana is the result of a common desire to develop high-performance and innovative products for the practice of stand-up paddle. She also shares the same passion and strong values as us – simplicity, accessibility, love of water sports and strong environmental convictions. In view of these shared values, the establishment of this partnership between Olivia and ITIWIT, was an obvious choice.
We are starting this collaboration with Olivia Piana so that she can give us her expertise, mainly by being actively involved in the design of our paddles. Olivia will also help us by testing the products we have already developed. In addition, it will allow us to benefit from her network of experts as well as her knowledge of the market. Through this partnership, we wish to reaffirm our desire to design products that are both efficient and accessible to all. We’re counting on the help that Olivia can give us.