Why does it matter that we define performance?
By Dakota Smith
"You can't improve what you don't measure" - Peter Drucker


Coined by one of the most influential business thinkers of the 20th century, Peter Drucker, "you can't improve what you don't measure" is one of the defining thoughts of the technology boom. Advisor to some of the brightest companies such as General Motors, Proctor & Gamble, and General Electric, Peter Drucker had this thought in a time where innovation and technology were just starting on the course they are today.  At this time, the automobile industry was still in its infancy, and planes were only a few decades young as a technology. When Drucker coined this phrase he did so with the insight that whatever can get measured can be improved and innovated on. If it’s not able to be measured then it will remain stagnant and stay in a state of neglect.


Why should we define performance?

It is with this underlying phrase in mind that we ask ourselves, why should we define what Performance is in the sport of wakesurfing? Similar to the business landscape in which Drucker lived, wakesurfing is in its infancy as a sport. The wakesurf board sprung up out of a combination of ocean surfing and ocean skim boards roughly 20 years ago and while that may seem like a long time, it took many other well known sports multiple decades to come to prominence. Yet, the industry as a whole has reached a crossroads with boards today looking almost identical to those initial boards 20 years ago. The initial innovative thoughts that gave us the wakesurf board have fallen stagnant. This is in large part because we as an industry haven't defined what exactly Performance is. Go to any lake or talk to any pro and you will get multiple vague answers for what they believe performance is. "Performance allows me to do any trick I want", "I think performance is a board that can stay in the sweet spot easily", or "performance is being able to stop and start a spin when I want to". None of these answers give a good enough definition of what Performance is, and it is largely because of this lack of definition that we have seen wakesurf boards stagnate. Without a clear definition of what performance is we can't measure it, and without being able to measure it we have no chance of optimizing for better results.  


Industry call to action

Going back to the original idea we started off with I would like to add to it, "you can't improve what you don't measure and you can't measure what you don't define". As a sport and an industry we need to start defining what Performance is, otherwise we will continue to stagnate where the only improvement we will see is by way of randomly prototyping new ideas.


Defining performance

Here at Smith Board Co, we have identified three different key measurables that combine to make up performance. Those key measurables are: agility, speed, and air. All other measurables can be expressed as a part of one of these three or have such a small effect as to be negligible in comparison. When we look at the different styles of boards: surf style, hybrid style, and skim style, we prioritize a set of those key measurables and are able to optimize for those measurables. This results in year over year gains in performance and is what we’ll use to propel the sport forward.