Roberto Ricci worked his way up from shop boy to director of his successful windsurfing brand RRD. Boards catches up with Roberto to find out how he progressed through the sport and developed his career along with his own brand.

Check out the previous Industry Masters article with Matt Pritchard, Lalo Goya and Robert Stroj.

Job role: Overlooking the development process of the products within our ranges. From choosing the suppliers to the quality control. My main focus and what I like to do is product development. When I started selling the first RRD production boards in 1994, it was pretty much a one man show; I used to do everything, but now that has changed a lot we have about 25 employees across the clothing and board companies.

Roberto Ricci Designs: RRD

First Job: My first job in windsurfing was just as a shop boy, selling windsurfing boards and doing all of the repairs. That job was really the back bone for my windsurfing career; it is what got me in touch with the windsurf reps and made me understand what it meant to be sponsored. Soon after that I started to enter national races, this meant I could go around Italy, meet up with different people and progress on the water too.

I was a freediver from when I was about seven years old so this is my background; I always loved the ocean and then when I started windsurfing at 17 my heart and soul was really in it right from the start. At first windsurfing was meant to complement freediving, but then it just totally took over!

Moving Up in the Industry: I got put in touch with a friends company who were producing custom boards; they wanted someone to write articles about technique, about how a custom board is different to a production board, and making people aware of all the technicalities of equipment which people didn’t know so much about then. They needed someone to do this and also test the boards at the same time, so I was kind of thrown into this world of responsibility; I had to explain to people exactly what the boards were doing and analyse every point. I started getting better and better at this and the guys there then asked me to start shaping too.

My whole family has always worked with their hands; from a young age I was modifying my bike so I was used to this too. Then they asked if I would shape a board and I jumped at the chance, it was in 1986 that I started doing this and I did it full time for two year; in fact it was because of this job that I left my university career! That was a good choice!

I started to travel with work for these guys, going to places like Maui and South Africa and I got in touch with the real professional world of windsurfing. Then from 1988 I was being asked by bigger brands that were already making production boards to start shaping for them too, which is what I did until 1989 when I had the ideal to make my own brand.

Starting RRD: It started as two different parts to the company: Roberto Ricci Italy and Roberto Ricci Hawaii; this was to reflect the differences in the culture between the two places. Italy was all about beautiful works of art, whereas Hawaii was about strong ocean, strong performance and equipment that has to work.

In 1994 I started on the full production line; there was a lot of financial risk, sleepless nights and heavy working days, but it was worth it. It’s still the same today we say every day you have a caress and a slap in the face; you have to take the ups with the downs! But I am very, very happy with where we are now as a company.

Day to Day: If it’s not windy I am pretty much in the office all day; the first thing I think in the morning is if it’s windy and if it is I have to have an hour or something on the water testing. I really love testing, so much so that even if it’s windy, if I have nothing to test I might just go straight to the office. Unless it’s an extremely good day that is!

I love going on the water to improve a product, but now if I don’t have that reason I’m not so motivated in average conditions. But testing I love even in miserable conditions!

My days are pretty varied as I try to oversee a little of everything, but one thing is that I am pretty good at canceling appointments if it’s windy!