We recently caught up with Kevin from Ryft about his ambitious, new goggle company – turns out they’re a pretty intriguing prospect in the optics market. Definitely a case of watch-this-space.
So, first things first, who are Ryft?
Ryft was launched in the winter of 2014 by a group a skiers from Switzerland, France and the UK with a rebellious spirit and a lofty objective: to offer goggles at a revolutionary price while leading the way for customer service and growing as a socially-conscious company.
Sounds good to us! But a socially-conscious company…what does that mean?
We take part in one of the few sports that could disappear in the future due to climate change. There’s nothing I love more than skiing and at Ryft we feel like we’ve got to do something. To me, running a business means taking responsibility for the environment. The personal gain I enjoy from Ryft can’t be to the detriment of the earth. Yes, today we are small and our actions won’t have a huge impact on the environment but as we grow our actions will have a bigger echo and we will be able to influence others to act as well.
We don’t surround our goggles in unnecessary packaging, nor do we give out printed manuals. While our current range of goggles is not made of 100% eco friendly plastics yet, this is due to change for next season. We are working closely with a materials company on sourcing more eco-friendly plastics for all of our future products.
Lastly, we are getting involved with associations such as Mountain Wilderness, a French association created to protect the Alps while ensuring an economically viable future for its inhabitants. Not only are we going to contribute money to these environmental associations, but also our time as we are going to help out in a local way such as with ‘Surfers Against Sewage’ to clean our beaches.
We couldn’t agree more – it’s great to see a ski manufacturer putting the longevity of the sport and the environment ahead of maximised profits. If only the same could be said for other manufacturers… Moving on, you mentioned future products – what can people expect in the next year or so from you?
We’re please to be working on a lot of exciting products at the moment. And the big news is that we are going to launch a range of sunglasses this summer! As you can guess, the sunnies will be made with eco-friendly plastic and polarized lenses. There will be another really cool feature on those sunnies that will please all riders… Stay tuned!
Our goggles for the 16/17 season are nearly finished. We’ve been working with various eco-friendly materials, and after a lot of research, and trial and error, we’ve found the perfect material. The difficulty in working with eco-friendly materials is that you usually have to compromise on either performance or comfort. We’ve found an answer to this problem and there will be two other really cool features on those goggles.
All sounds very exciting – you’ll have to keep us in-the-loop so we can get the first reviews out to all our users keen to find out about the new sunnies and goggles! Is innovation a key part of your business model? Can we expect new and exciting designs every season?
We are a very competitive landscape and innovation is at the heart of Ryft. As I said, we’re working not only on new designs but also new features and materials. I’m quite a perfectionist, so I will always find something to improve on our products..!
When did the idea first come about? What inspired it?
I’ve been in love with skiing since I was two years old and for many long years competing in Alpine and at a decent level in Freestyle. I’ve also always had the dream of running my own business. After opting for the usual grad scheme after Uni, I’d soon had enough and looked to fulfil my outdoorsy lifestyle. As an ex-sponsored rider I knew quite a bit about the industry and basically spotted an opportunity within the optics market. I knew about some of the R&D, the production process, etc. and I felt most brands out there offered poor value-for-money. I knew I could offer something better and that’s when in 2014 we launched Ryft.
Inspirational stuff. How’s the journey been from where you started to where you are now?
As with any new venture there have been a lot of ups and downs! We didn’t start well at all with a delay in the production of our first batch of goggles, which made them arrive in February instead of mid-December… Today we are growing rapidly and sales are picking up nicely. We’ve had great feedback from everyone about our products and it’s really motivating for the future of Ryft.
In terms of your products, what do you think sets them apart from your competitors? Why should avid skiers and boarders want to buy your gear?
With our wealth of knowledge as ex-sponsored riders and industry vets we’ve developed a different approach to making products. We design products for people who bleed and breathe skiing and snowboarding: it’s all about performance, comfort and style. We don’t waste our time and riders’ money on useless gadgets that just inflate prices.
At Ryft, we have a very “core” approach and our riders spend over 90 days on their skis giving us constant feedback. As a small, independent brand we can integrate changes in our products much quicker than larger companies and truly refine it to match exactly the needs of riders and our vision.
As an example, we’ve been testing some new lenses recently and we gave them to the park crew in Chatel, who we sponsor. These guys spend over eight hours a day with our goggles and we’ve been able to test various new lenses in all sorts of conditions in just a couple weeks. This allowed us to test a wide array of ideas, get their feedback, tweak the prototypes, send it back to them and so on!
Awesome, so we’d expect your goggles to be finely tuned! Are we right in thinking you guys recently ran a competition to sponsor some riders? We’ve heard some pretty great things..?
Yeah we had an incredible turnout with over 150 edits sent! We picked four very talented riders to join the team, namely, Parker Milbrath @parkermilbrath, Sam Zahner @samzahner, Henri Immonen @slickcriminal and Henri Mustonen @henrimustonen. It’s crazy to see that three out of four were recently Level 1 Superunknown semi-finalists! The highlight of the comp was probably Henri Immonen’s edit with literally 20 flips in his video which was only 1:10min long!
Our team riders are all good friends of mine, and all share my vision of skiing. We have quite a big team for a brand of our size, with over 15 riders. We have our two young Frenchies: Axel Le Palabe, who’s competing on the slopestyle world cup circuit, and Alexis Prieur, the Swiss freeriders Raphael Huber, Arthur Morand and Alexandre Schouwey, the hilarious guys from Hippy Family, Luca Minigher, Josh Wong, Raphael Herranz and Hugo Paneboeuf.
That’s some team! Where can people buy your gear? Are you available worldwide?
The easiest is on our website https://www.ryftgoggles.com, where all orders enjoy free shipping!
Easy! Now, for a little bit of fun, we have some quick-fire questions in each of our interviews:
Favourite North American resort?
I must admit, I’ve never skied in the US… but it would have to be one of those BC resort with deep pow!
Favourite European resort ?
My second home, Les Sybelles, a still quite unknown resort but with huge potential!
Favourite place for après-ski?
Le Chalet 2000, in Les Sybelles. As the owner is a good friend of mine I get two pints for the price of 1 and a complimentary shot of Genepi. It gets messy…
Your worst injury?
Torn my MCL and fractured my tibia in a competition a few years back.
Ouch. Your best moment of this season so far?
Earlier at Christmas when the resorts were all green and then just as school holidays were over, it started dumping like crazy day and night. I stayed an extra couple days in Les Sybelles and it was just incredible! I had the whole resort to myself just riding pow non-stop!
My favourite combo is our full red goggle, but I’m in love with our next year’s model already!
Exciting times – we look forward to reviewing them soon! Stay posted for that everyone…
Thanks for your time, Kevin – we loved finding out about Ryft and look forward to big things in the future from you!