Key characters, moments, locations and developments that hold a special significance in the history of kiteboarding’s most notable brands, as told by those involved

FOLK AND LORE

AS TOLD BY THE BRANDS INVOLVED

WORDS: ROBBY NAISH

A LORE UNTO HIMSELF

Our move into kitesurfing in 1999 was a really big step and there was certainly some risk. We were the first company to license the inflatable leading-edge technology from Bruno Legaignoux and really develop and sell kitesurfing specific equipment for the 2000 season. The entire windsurfing industry thought we were crazy and they were all against me kiting within a certain distance of windsurfing world cups. Our first ads that we placed (in the windsurfing magazines of course) were a single black page leading into a spread. The first page read, “Introducing absolutely, positively the wrong sport for 99.9% of the world’s population”. When you turned the page to the spread is said “Kitesurfing” with an action shot. It was rad! Of course, the rest is history and for the Naish brand it turned out to be an incredible boost. Personally, it gave me new challenges both on the water and in terms of expanding the brand into uncharted waters. It allowed us to grow steadily as the sport of kitesurfing ramped up and gave us a bit of a foothold before all the windsurfing companies and others jumped into the kite market.

The Sky Pirate kite and Sky Pirate kiteboards were the first decent kitesurfing products on the market that were specifically designed for kitesurfing. The AR 3.5, though a low-aspect kite by today’s standards, was substantially higher-aspect than the Wipika kites that were originally designed as a safety drag kite, ie: not something for going back upwind. The AR 3.5 was convertible to a four line non-bridled system for a very direct feel, and was followed closely by the AR 5, which really kicked-off high performance kitesurfing. For many people, this was their first step into the sport… and at the time the kites were pretty groundbreaking.

The Sigma was an interesting project for us. Kiting had been around for a while and had evolved on the mass market level from four and five line ‘C’ kites to bridled kites. There was a lot of hype surrounding the ‘bow’ kite concept at the time, which we didn’t find appealing from a performance standpoint. The ‘delta’ kite was also just beginning, but we wanted to do something different and, as a group, we liked the theory behind the sigma design. Rather than having a linear leading edge, we staggered the leading edge to spread the tow point over a broader area of the kite, which made the sigma designs very stable and predictable. It was a fun development process and we did all of our testing in secret, off the island of Maui, until the launch. The kites worked really well and gave us something instantly recognizable in a very crowded market, but in the end we moved away from the sigma designs. Commercially, it wasn’t an easy sell when the entire industry was selling one design and we were selling something very different. I’m glad we did it, though.

I learned to surf on my dad Rick’s surfboards. We surfed Kailua shorebreak and eventually out at Flat Island. Back then there were no leashes on surfboards. When you fell, you swam. So, before my dad would let us surf out at Flat Island, he made us swim out and back to show that we were good enough swimmers. You can see the first surfboard that I bought with my own money in the black and white picture, shaped and glassed by my friend’s older brother in his back yard. I don’t have that board any more, but I still have the very first shop board that I ever bought, a Buddy Dumfy single fin, which I got a short time later. It was the first board that I used a leash on, which was basically consisted of a leather strap with rope and bit of surgical tubing, a hole through the back of the fin and a knot in the rope. When you wiped out you’d try to stay under water with your arms covering your head because the board would always come shooting back at you!

That board is about fifty-years-old now. Yes, I am an equipment pack rat. I have just about every surfboard, windsurf board, kiteboard, SUP board, etc that I have ever owned (and that’s at least one of each from every season!).

This was kind of a milestone at the time… slow by today’s standards, but it was fast back then. Aloha, Robby

This was kind of a milestone at the time… slow by today’s standards, but it was fast back then. Aloha, Robby