EXIT Watersports brand story – with Kieran Sammon.

EXIT Watersports was created to make your afloat easier. EXIT Watersports are designed to inspire you to ‘get out and live’. But what about the face behind EXIT? Who came up with products like the XRail wetsuit hanger? And why did that person think it was something that surfers, windsurfers, kiters, paddle boarders, kayakers, foilers, swimmers and so on would find affinity with? The person in question is EXIT Watersports founder and designer Kieran Sammon. The following Q&A with Kieran aims to shed further light on the company and the motivations for designing, creating and producing watersports accessories. It also gives a human angle to EXIT by putting Kieran front and centre. Read on to find out about the EXIT Watersports brand story.

The following questions were asked –

Tell us about your watersports background – where did it start and with what discipline?

EXIT Watersports all started with me creating a hanger to carry my wetsuit in the bathroom so that it could hang from the shower pole, all other hangers end up with your wetsuit against the tiles or shower door and none of them are wide enough.

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KIeran somewhere much warmer than Ireland!

I was kitesurfing and SUPing at the time.

How have things changed over the years?

Nothing in the world of wetsuit hangers has really changed too much. But we have now added new products to the EXIT Watersports brand. All currently focused on wetsuit and neoprene gear care.

What watersports and action sports are you into now?

I still kitesurf and SUP, but now also wing foil and I do a bit of MTB.

What’s your local spot and what are the conditions like?

I live in Dublin. There are lots of locations to pick from for different wind directions and skill levels. From flat water to waves.

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Kieran getting his kitesurfing vroom on.

Where’s your favourite spot – home or away – to ride?

Home-ish. It’s a spot called Carrownisky. The beach is on the west coast of Ireland in County Mayo.

Is there anywhere you haven’t been but would like to?

Cape Verde

How often do you manage to get afloat these days?

2 – 3 times a month, all being well.

Does your family indulge?

They tried kitesurfing, but are not overly into it. They are happier to jump on a SUP on a nice day and go for a paddle.

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Hang gliding? Why not!

What’s their go to sport?

A whole mixed bag – soccer, athletics and so on.

When did you start tinkering with watersports products?

About 2010. I was looking at a way of drying a wetsuit quickly. But once I did a bit of research on it I knew that wasn’t going to be good for the life of the suit.

How were those first prototypes?

This is now 2014. The first XRail wetsuit hanger prototype was made from an old trampoline frame that had seen better days. It went quite well and proved the concept. I still have it.

At what point did you think EXIT Watersports could become a viable business?

Once I made the prototype and it worked, I knew then I had to make every effort to bring it to market. 

Talk us through what it’s like setting up a new brand. Any big faux pars you made at the beginning?

To many to mention, but the biggest one was trusting people. As lots let me down. Be it wasting time or costing money it shouldn’t have.

What was the trickiest part of starting a new business?

Getting the XRail our first product designed and actually made, it took from 2014 and that first prototype to Dec 2019 product in hand ready to sell.

Ever thought about throwing the towel in? 

YES, many times!

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Kieran’s philosophy: find a problem and then the solution.

If so, what’s stopped you?

Some days you get a setback and just wonder why am I bothering. But the why is the reason. I love making things that work, solving a problem or making the users life better. We currently have 5 of our own products on our site with many more in development.

When did you start to see some success with EXIT Watersports? 

Straight away when we launched in the Dec of 2019

What’s the biggest achievement with the business to date? 

Every time we get a sal! We are still a small business and every sale matters.

Where do you see it going in the future?

Exit will be the biggest watersports accessories manufacturer in the world.

How do you go about designing and bringing to market a unique and innovative product?

It starts from a problem I see. There is always a better solution, and we will work to find a way to either completely redesign a product like the XRail hanger, or a waterproof change robe(currently in design). First, we create a prototype – I love this part. Just making the item out of whatever to prove it has potential and then creating an on paper design. Then back and forth between these too, until ready to get a working factory prototype to get the final tweaks made before production. 

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Getting the word out about EXIT Watersports.

Do you have a team helping you?

Directly in the business is just me, but I have a few talented people in different areas helping and supporting when needed.

What about manufacturing – how does that work with EXIT Watersports products?

We currently manufacture in Sri Lanka, China and Ireland. We are also exploring doing some work in Bulgaria.

Got anything new lined up for the future you can tell us about?

Yes, loads. All watersport related: a waterproof change robe, a helmet, windchill blocker top, hood & gloves and a few more items I can’t talk about just yet.

What’s your opinion on the watersports market – which areas do you see have the biggest growth and why?

That is a difficult question. I think surfing will always be at the top, because it’s so simple to get started. All you need to get started is a board and a wetsuit, after that anyone’s guess.

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Kite foiling fun.

If there’s one thing you wished you’d gotten involved with at the start what would it have been?

I should have started creating products sooner and started the business in 2010. But there you go…

What advice would you give to anyone else thinking of starting a watersports business?

Don’t do it!

Only joking, find a problem and fix it, just go from there. Or get in touch with us, we can help get it to market and you can be part of it.

And if you could go back to the start of EXIT Watersports what would you do differently, if anything?

I would have focused more on the marketing. I’m still trying to figure that bit out.

Final thoughts on EXIT or watersports in general?

Get Out And Live! Have fun and enjoy your water time, let our products look after the rest.

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‘This looks like it needs some work…’

Thanks and praise?

My wife and kids for putting up with the house and dinner table having prototypes taking up space.

Rudo Enserink, without him believing in the XRail in 2017 I might not have managed to keep it going, so a huge thanks to him.

Bibiana for looking after the website and keeping it live.

Nickolay my materials expert – lots of projects on the go and he is a wealth of knowledge.

All the people who have bought our products and especially the one who show our products online and posting, tagging and sharing – these small gestures are priceless and mean so much.

For more EXIT Watersports knowledge and good stuff head over to the blog page here.