January 29, 2017
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

James Casey and Kelly Margetts Join ‘Sunova’ as a New Race Team Is Born

James Casey testing boards in Thailand earlier this month

James Casey testing the new Sunova boards in Thailand

Sunova has officially signed top international athletes James Casey and Kelly Margetts alongside designer Marcus Tardrew, with the Aussie trio helping establish a new race team and completing the long list of new year’s athlete team changes in the process.

With roots in Australia but now based in Thailand, Sunova’s entry comes as the racing scene witnesses a major shakeup, with some of the top teams dropping off while several new boutique brands quickly rise through the ranks.

Sunova, which was founded 25 years ago by legendary Australian designer, Firewire pioneer and 2007 Surfer magazine ‘Shaper of the Year’ Bert Burger, is famous for its striking balsa wood designs, which should help it stand out in a crowded market.

Bert will remain in charge of the surf shapes while Marcus joins as the head of racing design, with Sunova planning to keep the new race unit separate from its established surf division. The brand also has an advantage over rivals by owning its own manufacturing facility – ‘The Board Factory’ just outside of Bangkok – that should allow it to innovate relatively quickly.

Kelly assumes the role of team boss while James is the star young recruit that will look to bring in the big results for the team. Neither Kelly nor James need any introduction, but just in case you’re new around here…

Kelly Margetts looking fit and ready for another big season

Kelly Margetts looking fit and ready for another big season (photo: @ashkelleher)

Kelly Margetts is one of the most respected guys on the international racing circuit, with the professional lifeguard helping pioneer the sport in Australia a decade ago before going on to record a near endless string of podium finishes at the Battle of the Paddle in California. Despite being twice the age of many other top-ranked athletes, the 44-year-old is still one of the fastest guys on the water and has a sharp mind for racing strategy that few rivals can match.

A true Aussie in every sense of the word, Kelly will be both team rider and manager in Sunova’s new race unit, with the goal of slowly but surely building out a world class squad to showcase the brand’s unique board range. The veteran plans to hit the big standalone races in 2017 with half an eye on the new WPA World SUP Tour.

“I was really honoured and excited when Sunova approached me to head up their new race unit. The company’s passion to produce the best boards and their ability to do so made my decision easy — having access to the full team from design to prototyping to construction is a massive plus and something I can’t wait to utilise.

My first order was to recruit the incredibly talented designer Marcus Tardrew who’s already proven to be one of the most innovative race board shapers in the world. Next up was the signing of one of the sport’s top young paddlers in James Casey who has a passion and talent that matches the brand perfectly. That quality and enthusiasm is vital as we look to build a sustainable race team that’s here for the long term.

Our main goal is to create the ultimate race board that suits all levels from first timers and weekend warriors all the way up the hardened pros. It’s still only early days but it’s already been an amazing ride with Sunova — can’t wait to show the world what we’ve got in store…”

Follow Kelly on Instagram: @kmargetts22

Kelly Margetts on the new Sunova 14 footer

Kelly Margetts on the new Sunova 14 footer (photo: @ashkelleher)

James, or “Jimmy” as he’s known in Oz, has quickly jumped up the racing leaderboard in the past couple of years after initially focusing on surfing. An extremely talented ocean paddler, the Sydneysider spends several months in Hawaii each year and has the results to show for it: The current world number 11 finished top five at both OluKai and Molokai last year along with a runner-up result at the Sunset Beach Pro.

Jimmy will be heavily focused on both the surfing and racing events of the Waterman League’s rebranded APP World Tour along with the uber-prestigious M2O, while he’s also set to represent Australia for the second year in a row at the Worlds. After recently departing Team JP, I chatted with the new recruit this week and got his thoughts on joining Sunova.

“I’m pumped to be working with Marcus, Kelly and the whole Sunova crew to create the best race boards out there. I got a good taste of what’s to come at Molokai last year when I paddled one of Marcus’ customs, so I can’t wait to race his shapes at every event this season.

I’m also really excited to work on the SUP surf and foil board range with Sunova while also getting my hands on their famous shortboard and longboards. I’m planning a good mix of surfing and racing this year with the main focus being the APP Tour, Molokai and the Worlds. Very keen to surf some big waves with fellow team rider Sebastian over in Hawaii as well, and hopefully a surf trip to Portugal as well if we can squeeze it in!”

Follow James on Instagram: @james__casey

Kelly has been riding Sunova shapes for the past six weeks and Jimmy came on board at the start of the year, however the news didn’t become official until this week. I chatted with Sunova’s General Manager and the man behind the creation of the new race unit, German-turned-Thai-local CEO Tino Jandke, about the new direction for the company.

“When we first started experimenting with race boards using the balsa technology we use in our surfboards, we quickly saw how much potential there was to create the strongest and lightest race boards on the market. We all immediately agreed we had to get some of the top paddlers in the sport on these boards and see how far we could all push the boundaries.

Fortunately everything fell into place and we now have a legendary paddler for a team boss, a cutting edge designer and one of the top young guns on the team. Our goal is to create a standalone racing unit within Sunova that will act as a model for future of the brand.

After having secured some of the best talent in the world, we’ll be unveiling the whole new product range in the next few weeks…

James Casey on the Sunova unlimited designed by Marcus Tardrew

James Casey on the Sunova unlimited designed by Marcus Tardrew

Marcus, a former pro sailor and top downwind paddler in his own right, was responsible for the head-turning “dug out” unlimiteds that James and a couple of the other Aussie boys paddled at Molokai last year — you can see the latest iteration of board above and below. Coincidentally, Marcus’ brother Ben Tardrew is the head of design for another fresh new race team: ONE SUP.

Having chatted to the entire squad over the past few weeks, it seems like the one word that sums up Team Sunova is “excitement”, with the crew clearly passionate about creating cutting edge designs but still keeping their feet on the ground and approaching things in a sustainable way.

Despite having just two main team riders, Sunova has jumped straight into Battle of the Brands top 10 in its first week in the charts, leapfrogging several established players in the process.

So there you go. We’ve suddenly got another race team to watch this year (as well as some slick new designs to try out). Congrats to Jimmy, Kelly, Marcus and the whole Sunova gang; I’m looking forward to watching how the team and its boards progress over the coming months, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing more news out of Sunova HQ in the next few weeks.

Visit the official site and follow Sunova on Facebook for more.

James Casey at 'The Board Factory' in Thailand (Sunova HQ)

James Casey at ‘The Board Factory’ in Thailand (Sunova HQ)

Kelly Margetts testing at home in Currumbin on Queensland’s Gold Coast (photo: @ashkelleher)

James Casey surfing the new Sunova shapes

James Casey riding the new Sunova shapes at home in Sydney


One of the new Sunova shapes coming to life in Thailand

Marcus Tardrew

Marcus Tardrew overseeing a new design at The Board Factory shaping bay


Sunova’s signature balsa wood finish

unlimited SUP

This is the board Jimmy will be paddling at Molokai this year…