History of Kitesurfing

Kitesurfing is also known as kiteboarding, flysurf or flysurfing. This is very much dependent on where you might be in the world. The concept of kitesurfing has been around scince the early 1960ís but took until 1984 before anything was really done experimenting with traction kitefying on the water.

Two French brothers
Dominique and Bruno Legaignoux, were the first known people to start working on the kitesurfing principal, and were also the first to apply for a patent on their invention the kite with a curved wing with inflatable structure.

The two brothers Dominique and Bruno Legaignoux learned to sail at a very early age, sailing dinghies and were to become French Junior champions in 1979. They went on spending years sailing in there home made boats investigating different means of sail power, they intended to make thick sails for a future boat and in the process stumbled upon kites as a natural extension of more traditional sail forms.

The "Bird Sail"

During this process the brothers started playing with another idea that can be seen today. A delta wing kite the "Bird Sail" somewhere between a windsurf sail and a kite was patented and made by Roland Le Bail in 1982. The idea of this wing was to lift the rider off the water better, higher jumps than with a standard windsurfing board.

This sail worked well but was not suitable for lighter winds as it was impractical to have a very big version of this delta wing. At this point there was a lot of ideas and they eventually came up with a crude version of what we see today, a surfboard and a kite.

The brothers made models to try and understand the theory of kite flight characteristics, notably how it could be possible to go upwind. They did all this research originally as the brothers were new to the concept of kite flying.

The use of kites on the water over Delta wings had many advantages which could be seen very early on.

 

Stacks of Kites
Their first attempts however were done a stack of 12 kites of 0,5 m2, stiffened by laths of fiberglass and boards, but stacks proved difficult to launch and they found water-skis were an easier option than the board. The stacked kites were so powerful that the brothers had to use very small skis in order to displace the water when powered up, much like todayís kitesurfing.

Official drawing of the patent 
Time would tell that an inflatable structure would be far more suited to water traction kite flying than stacks of kites. The brother then went on to build bigger kites back home in Brittany.

At this time their wings are still at prototype stage and canít yet go upwind, with board or skis, and they spend more years at the drawing board working on wings, boards and other equipment.

During these years, they tested many other possible uses of their kites, trying to find receptive markets.

Kitesurfing is Born
In April 1985 They participated in their first Speed Week, in Brest (Brittany, France), winnig the Ingenuity prize. They participated in two other Speed Weeks in 1986.

Their purpose was to convince a board manufacturer to launch the new sport. Unfortunately, it was far too early. The windsurfing market was reaching its peak and everybody considered this sport as the ultimate.

In 1985 and 86 they built their most efficient wings, on the principle of very wide spans and 100 % double skin / ram air. But they were heavy, especially when wet, and rather unstable, requiring permanent steering control which is clearly impossible after falling in the water.

Dominique and Bruno felt that the sport could grow much faster if the wing was more stable. The wing was almost ready for mass production, but the capacity of their boards and skis to go upwind was still not sufficiently good to launch the sport.

Eventually, they made a good dozen different water devices (boards etc.) able to go upwind, but they considered them too big, too heavy and too expensive. Finally the decided on a board less than 2 metres long and 10 kg weight.

 

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