THE HISTORY OF KITESURFING
HOW KITEBOARDING BECAME POSSIBLE AND THE SPORT TODAY
Kitesurfing has become one of the most popular watersports in a very short time. Celebrities like Sir Richard Branson, Barack Obama, Brad Pitt, and Ricky Martin all enjoy the exhilarating activity and attract more people to join the fun. As a sport that is continuously evolving, we’ve put together an explanation of the history of kitesurfing, how kiteboarding became possible, and the sport today.
BRUNO AND DOMINIQUE LEGAIGNOUX
Although there is an early history of kites going as far back as the 13th century, the sport as we know it started in France’s northwestern most region, Brittany. Two brothers grew up with a passion for watersports and wave surfing since the early age of 10.
Bruno and Dominique Legaignoux made a name for themselves in 1979 by winning The French National Junior Dingy Sailing Championship. As cruising boat skippers, surfers, windsurfers, sailing instructors, and more, they later found themselves experimenting with speed sailing. Without much success, their curiosity led them to attempts with a wide variety of speed hulls and boards. Their story just keeps getting better!
CURIOSITY BUILDS UP
In 1984, after seeing Jacob’s Ladder, a custom-designed catamaran pulled by Flexifoils, Bruno and Dominique Legaignoux saw the future of what they then considered to be “speed sailing.” They sat down and began to work on how to solve issues like launching the stack of kites, relaunching from the water, and getting them to go upwind at higher levels. The brothers went on a sailboat trip around the world and cruised while experimenting with kite propulsion. It was apparent at that time a kite with the ability to relaunch still didn’t exist. Bruno and Dominique set out to make one.
In 1985, they demonstrated a device that allowed them to sail with water skis at the Brest International Speed Week and won the Ingenuity Prize. The kites we are flying today came from their USA patent around that time for a Propulsive Wing with Inflatable Armature. Despite these achievements, windsurfing was all the fuss and no windsurfing company was keen on developing a new sport.
Determined, Bruno made a successful demonstration of the biggest wing ever produced (17m2) at the Funboard World Cup in 1987. He had made great improvements with making more stable and lighter wings between 1988 and 1989.
A MANUFACTURING COMPANY WAS FORMED
By 1993, the brothers decided to run their own company after developing the WIPICAT, an inflatable craft that can be pulled by the kite they invented. It was an 8.5m kite flown on 6.5m lines, plus an inflatable craft that the rider laid on. They tested their invention commercially. It was not successful, but windsurfers were starting to notice what the brothers have been up to;
In 1994 they sent units to Manu Bertin and big wave rider Laird Hamilton in Hawaii. In those early days there were many extreme water sports enthusiasts who helped bring kitesurfing into the mainstream.
The brothers developed the WIPIKA, or the Wind Powered Inflatable Aircraft around 1995. It had pre-formed inflatable tubes and a simple bridle system. Both features of the Wipika made room for a water re-launch capability. In 1997, they partnered with Neil Pryde to produce and sell small numbers of kites.
Also around 1994, Cory Roesler developed a kiteski with his dad, a Boeing aerodynamicist. Cory’s KiteSki became commercially available in 1994. It could go upwind and possesses a rudimentary re-launcher system. By the late 1990’s the KiteSki transformed into a single board similar to a surfboard.
Many companies began to get anxious about quickly getting into the kitesurfing market after 1998. This was when Don Montague and Robbie Naish approached the Legaignoux brothers about licensing their kite patent. After a year, Bruno designed 60 kites for eight different brands.
By 2000, the French brothers moved to Dominican Republic and continued their quest for more kite developments. They demonstrated the Bow Kite Design to Takoon and Cabrinha in mid-2004 and released their first Bow Kites to the market in August 2005.
In April 2008, the International Kiteboarding Association was founded. It embraced five disciplines with the world championships and individual world rankings: freestyle, course racing, wave riding, kite cross, and speed.
THE SPORT TODAY
Today the future of kitesurfing or kiteboarding is very bright. Men, women, politicians, 50+ people, and young beach kids alike are all engrossed in this wonderful sport.
To avoid confusion, kiteboarding was further defined as anything that doesn’t involve riding in waves. Therefore it includes freestyle, wakestyle, speed and racing styles. Kitesurfing is the term to use when riding in waves with a kite.
The kitesurfing or kiteboarding industry is now worth billions and the sport has found it’s way to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. What was once a dream for those involved with the sport has finally become a reality. The games will feature Kite racing and international trials and qualifiers are expected to be seen all over the world in 2018.
Right now some of the best places for kitesurfing are:
Boca Grandi, Aruba
Cabarete, Dominican Republic
Cape Hatteras, North Carolina
El Médano, Tenerife
La Ventana, Baja California
Isla Margarita, Venezuela
Le Morne, Mauritius
We are from Florida, so we have an entire article dedicated to the best kiteboarding spots in Florida. Check it out!
Did we miss your favorite spot? Be sure to mention it in the comments below.