Robert Stroj is the main designer at NeilPryde, responsible for many world title winning sails. Boardseeker follows Robert through a typical day, as well as finding out how he has made it to the top of one of the industries most influential brands.
Check out the previous Industry Masters article with Matt Pritchard.
As well as the successful ‘Industry Kids’ series with: Adam Lewis The centre manager and sail designer, Sam Ross The Pro Coach, Paul Zeper The Intern, Jay Haysey The Photographer, Jamie Drummond
Name: Robert Stroj
Company: NeilPryde Windsurfing
Role: Sail Designer and Product Manager
First job in windsurfing: Building custom sails at Spindler Design sail-loft at Lake Garda
Your next career step: I am really excited about work I do, so rather than focusing on next career step I put all my efforts on striving to create a technically superior products which are at the same time well executed from the product design point of view.
SEADI IN ACTION, Photo: Jerome Houvyet
How did you make it into the role you have today: I was studying Naval Architecture back in Zagreb, just before the war in Croatia started; this is when I left the country and at first just enjoyed windsurfing in Greece and then Lake Garda, as it was all during summer. On Garda I was lucky to meet Massimo who was working at Montys Spindler sail-loft; as he was planning to leave for couple of years they needed someone to replace him cutting and sticking sails.
So it was Massimo that first taught me sail-making; after that I learned a lot working there with Monty for ART. From Lake Garda we moved to Tarifa as it offered better conditions for testing, especially during winter period. This is where I started doing some of my first designs; at that time we would use paper design sheets and cut the panels working on wooden layup tables, most of the work would be done on your knees. When Fanatic/ART got bought by Boards and More they decided to downsize and I was left as the only designer at ART.
This is also when we got production moved to North Sails sail-loft in Sri Lanka that was already using computer controlled plotters, so I got a first plotter for my loft in Tarifa and it was Kai Hopf from North Sails that came over to Tarifa to help me put it together and get me started on using sail design software. A few years down the road as Boards and More were purchasing more brands (they got F2 and Arrows after Fanatic/ART) while the windsurfing market was shrinking they decided to close ART in 1999; they would also stop Arrows couple of years later.
Just at that time I was lucky to get contacted by Bjorn Fjelddahl, who was a NeilPryde Windsurfing brand manager at that time. Soon after I met Mr. Pryde in Munich and got position at the NeilPryde Design Center on Maui, working together with Pat Goodman.
At that time my job was to design racing sails (this is when RS-1 was born) and flatwater sails while Pat was designing wave and crossover sails.
A few years later Pat moved to Cabrinha kites and I took over all of the sail lines as well as management of all the NeilPryde Windsurfing products. One really important change was that at that time we start collaborating with product designers (first couple of years Thomas Meyerhoffer and now Jamie McLellan) on our sail and rig designs; this is one aspect of my work that I really enjoy as we work together on creating designs that are not only high performance but are also beautiful, inspiring objects.
The Sail Loft
Morning - Wake up around 7.30, have breakfast with the family, get the office by 9. Our sail-loft and office are based at my house making it very quick getting to work!
Usually we have a quick meeting with Pieter and Lovisa to make a work plan for the day as well as discuss any feedback from testing and design directions we are taking. Pieter is our head tester; he also manages NP Helpdesk and helps Lovisa building prototypes.
CHILLING AT HOME
Next check through e-mails that came in overnight; try to answer all short ones to clear the rest of the day. I have an espresso or two in-between getting the design work going.
Sometimes during morning we will also have a Skype meeting with Dave; he is hardware designer working with us. We will discuss any new ideas on rig parts as well as check on progress with projects and 3D drawings that are already in process.
I will usually skip lunch as 9-12 jobs will usually stretch till 2; around then Ill take a short break and have a coffee with my wife if she is home. In the afternoon I get really focused on design work, making sure the new sail design is ready that same evening so the prototype could be built next day.
Reflecting on the day
After 3.00pm is also when then Hong Kong office and factory opens, so this is the time when I will be in contact with our brand manager, marketing manager as well as people at the factory that are responsible for our in-house sail production, mast production and boom/rig parts.
When conditions are good I do make sure to join Pieter in testing; in particular I love to go wave sailing in the winter/spring when we get lots of really nice days. I always try to get on the water twice a week, at least for an hour or two, plus get a few hours over the weekend.
After work I take Kea (our dog) for a walk with my boys, sometimes we bring her to the beach for a swim. With the time difference it is also a time of the day we would often have Skype conference with Hong Kong office or our factory.
Late evening we prepare a dinner together with my wife, get the kids to bed, have dinner, listen some music and sometimes watch a movie, then get ready for the next day!