I just want to build great shafts and have fun doing it.
Victor Afable is the V and the A in the upstart VA Composites shaft company.
If you’re just hearing either of those names for the first time, that’s ok. All you need to know is that Afable has over 30 years of experience in the golf industry. So even if you don’t recognize his name, you probably know his work. Before starting VA Composites, he co-founded the popular shaft brand Oban, where he served as its President until the middle of last year.
And while it has little bearing on the quality and performance of his products, I also think it’s worth mentioning that Victor is also one of the good dudes in the golf equipment industry.
If the last 30 years has jaded him even a little, he isn’t letting on.
MyGolfSpy community members and some of you who follow me on Twitter have probably already seen and heard about Raijin; the first shaft from VA Composites. Made from Japanese 40T carbon fiber pre-preg, Raijin is billed as a versatile, mid-launch shaft that offers low spin due to its stiffer tip section.
The expectation is that Raijin will work well for a healthy percentage of golfers, but that doesn’t mean Afable isn’t suggesting anyone forgo a proper fitting.
An emphasis on fitting? Sound familiar?
While you shouldn’t expect VA Composites to duplicate the Oban model, some similarities in the approach to the designs Victor did in his Oban days and the designs he’s doing now are to be expected. Case in point: as the weight of shafts in the Raijin line decreases, the profile softens a bit. The idea is to optimize the launch conditions for the target player, rather than take a one size fits all approach to the profile.
The Raijin driver line ranges from 44 grams to 74 grams, and torque varies with weight and flex. The shaft features a slightly higher balance point design that should better accommodate today’s heavier heads.
Hybrid and iron shafts are also available.
Yeah, The Graphics Matter
Thus far response to the Raijin – at least the look of the Raijin – has been overwhelmingly positive. That didn’t happen by accident. Afable’s approach is to pair good design with exotic materials and then make the graphics look as sexy as he can.
Mission accomplished on this one.
In Japanese mythology, Raijin is a god of lightning, thunder, and other storms (thanks, Wikipedia). He’s depicted in badass dragon form on the Raijin shaft.
Put your swing thoughts away. Forget slow take away, smooth transition, or swinging out. Dragon of Thunder – it’s the only thought you need.
I fear I’ve digressed… again.
What’s Next for VA Composites
Raijin is just the first shaft in what will ultimately become a diverse VA Composites lineup.
Afable tells me that the structure on the next VA Shaft is already complete, so it’s just a matter of giving it a name and getting the graphics right. You can expect that shaft to offer higher launch and mid spin. We’ll likely have more details later this month.
A third shaft will likely arrive sometime later this year. The smart money says that one will trend towards the low spin side.
You may also see the occasional limited edition shaft sprinkled into the mix, but don’t expect to see watered-down, made for variants of his shafts in OEM lineups.
While his sales model should prove to be a bit less restrictive than Oban’s, Afable isn’t about to go the high-volume OEM route. You could see a stock offering that pairs a VA Composite shaft with a premium driver head, and I expect you’ll see Raijin start to pop up in OEM upgrade catalogs, but don’t expect Afable to do anything that could diminish the value of his brand.
That approach is reflected in the $350 MSRP price for the Raijin. It’s steep, but not out of line within the premium shaft market. The next VA shaft is expected to be priced in the mid-$200 range.
The bulk of VA Composite’s distribution will run through a growing network of fitters. 60 accounts have already signed on, and while that may not sound like many, let’s keep in mind we’re talking about a 30-day-old company.
New dealers are being added at a quick pace, and the expectation is the network will grow to 250-300 dealers. That’s not surprising, either, given Afable’s industry connections.
Early sales are 5x initial projections, and that means Victor is smiling more than usual.
The Ultimate Goal
While Afable hopes to ultimately grow a premium brand bearing his name, with plenty of his personality baked in, on a personal level it’s much simpler. Says Afable, “I just want to build great shafts and have fun doing it.”
We have Raijin samples in-house and will begin testing soon.