Introducing the First Dedicated Stand Up Kite
by Raphael Salles
1. Why a new concept?
The reason kiteboarding is my passion and my job is because of its incredibly large spectrum of potential uses, making the sport far more diversified than windsurfing. I have always dreamed that one day we could kite with a small boat that would be small enough to fit in a car. For several years now, it’s been difficult to find non extreme beach toys like windsurfing was in the early 80s. It’s rather unfortunate, because people are limited to Stand Up Paddle (SUP) or more extreme sports like kiteboarding for example. Why is there nothing in between? When I first saw a SUP, I immediately thought that its shape would ideally resemble the small boat I was thinking of; meaning big enough to support one or two riders onboard and small enough to fit into a van or on top of a regular car. In addition, if there is no wind at all, you could go out paddle surfing or just go for a ride! To sum it up, the concept is simply about being able to go on the water no matter how poor the wind conditions are. This is also a much more “family” oriented concept. Let’s make our favorite sport less of an individual sport. After “All We Do Is Kiteboarding”, we are moving on the “Ride Every Day” concept.
2. Who are we targeting?
The first target is everybody who ever wanted to kiteboard but was hesitant to. This large population should see in this new concept a much more accessible, multipurpose and family oriented sport.
The second target is current SUP riders, who now can also use their favorite toy when it’s windy. Getting out with your SUP against even modest wind, can be quickly exhausting and make the sport far less fun—10 knots is already too much. These SUPers already own a board and know how to handle it. They just need to learn how to fly a kite.
The third category is kitesurfers wishing to ride with wind ranging from 6 to 12 knots. I have developed this concept to overcome the summer’s typical low wind or any spot where the wind is present but always modest. Summer often brings low wind and yet these are the times when the general weather and temperature are ideal to go to the beach…
3. An alternative in light winds?
Winds ranging 6 to 12 knots are really difficult to exploit and gear like foils can maybe help you ride but are not that easy to use. Riding a SUP with a kite is great. In fact, feeling this big board taking off and floating above the water is really cool. Jibes provide a great feeling because they are done unhooked with constant pressure, much like doing a bottom turn. Most of the riding on a SUP is easily done unhooked and strapless, techniques that are reserved only to advanced kiteboarders. Cruising and long distances are also a possibility especially during summer when it is sunny and warm, including all the tricks such as going backwards and doing 360s on the board and many others. For a kitesurfer, this is the board and the kite for summer months with the advantages of also being able to practice SUP separately… This new concept has two sides: it can either be thought of as a hobby or a more radical sport. During the final stages of the SUP kite development, I handed over some proto to regular kiteboarders for casual testing. It was surreal to see the look on the face of a kitesurfer returning to the beach saying he was overpowered in 9 knots with a 17m ² SUP kite and that his arms were sore as in a strong wind day!
4. The return to the SOURCE?
Yes, the concept goes back to the source of the sport with the similar gliding feeling we felt 10-15 years ago. However, by coupling it to a SUP we go beyond the early days of our sport. It has never been easier to surf and catch waves with a SUP. Surfing, the king of all watersports, has now attracted thousands and thousands of new riders thanks to the introduction of SUP so why not doing the same with our favorite sport? This new concept modernizes the basics of our sport to offer a new riding experience. What is really funny is that if you happen to remember a windsurfing board from the ‘70s, you would be very surprised by the resemblances to a SUP. Since I started windsurfing in ‘76, I am definitely going back to the SOURCE!
This is not new; some riders have already experienced kiting with a SUP. The novelty is to have a kite uniquely designed and dedicated to ride with a SUP board. The speed and the power of the SUP kite are adapted to the speed of the SUP boards as well as its stability and the consistency of its traction. A SUP kite needs the most constant traction possible. The most important point is that on a SUP, riders are already up, so there is no need for power to get you out of the water and ride. This is the big difference with our current sport making “supping” with a kite far more reassuring.
6. Why returning to Two-Line kites?
We needed to create a super stable and lightweight kite that could easily fly under 10 knots, be very simple to use, less expensive, and safe. What could be better than a two-line kite? Since we need a lot less power, depower capabilities are not needed, especially in light winds. Rethinking a two-line line kite was a new challenge. In fact, it has been a year since we started our research and development; and a simpler kite does not necessarily mean something easier to do. We had to redesign a brand new bridle in order to obtain great maneuverability without the need of 30-inch long bars like in the old days! The kite sizes were the most astonishing part of the project. We started by producing a 9m, then a 11m, followed by a 13m to finish with a two-line 17m set on a 55cm bar! Something we could never have imagined before! For instance, the high-end wind speed for the 17m is 10 knots! This means that you are overpowered with only 10 kts of wind, a dream. Regarding the safety system, the bar is equipped with a wrist leash attached to a back line, so if you drop the bar, the kite loses its power. We will also offer a version with a 3rd line which facilitates tilting the kite to the side for an easier relaunch, similar to what a 5th line system could do.
7. Could we use other supports than SUP?
Do you wish to pull catamarans or boats? What’s nice about a two-line kite is the ease in modifying the line lengths. I have sailed with 9m lines and with up to 40m. Extremely short lines such as 9m give a completely new feeling to the sport, making it easy while sailing straight but more challenging when jibing or carving. This new concept could be exploited with other supports, yet we still have a lot to work on with the SUP…
8. Is this going to change how we teach kiteboarding?
Yes, this will modernize how kitesurfing schools teach their students for two main reasons. A two-line kite is much simpler and faster to learn how to handle, it goes left or right with no depower system and there is no chicken loop. In light winds, the typical bar handling mistake can totally slow down a four-line kite and oversheet the kite, something that can’t happen with a two-line kite. The second reason is the volume of the SUP board which lets you stay up at all times and reduces greatly the need for power. You just need enough power to keep your balance on the board, not to mention that you can even control the kite by sitting down! This practice is much more reassuring because it can be done in very light wind conditions and flat water. The training period with a SUP kite will be shorter because learning is faster. It is also possible to learn the handling of the kite on the ground and in the water and the control of the SUP behind a boat or a jet ski. The cost of an introductory course will be more affordable, which in turn will enable a wider audience to experience kiteboarding. For kite schools, teaching with only 6 knots is a big leap forward and will certainly attract new clients that could be turned off by regular kiteboarding, which is seen as a more extreme sport.