photos by Richard Hallman
interview by Colin Field
One of kiteboarding’s OGs, Chris Gilbert has been there since the beginning; it was 1997 when he first launched a kite on Maui. And during those early years he developed the skills that would turn into a lifelong career.
One of Naish’s first kiteboarding employees, he helped develop some of the earliest Naish bars and safety systems. And as one of the first kiteboarders Dakine ever sponsored, Gilbert’s professional athlete career soon morphed into a position at Dakine itself. He’s had a hand in product development there ever since. Always approachable, Gilbert’s philosophy towards kiting and his role in it are humble and commendable; help people enjoy the sport of kiteboarding. Whether that’s through a product he develops or while giving a small tip on the beach, he isn’t concerned. For him, the more people that are enjoying the sport the better.
We caught up with him and talked product and kiting at Dakine’s newly constructed office with the enviable waterfront location in Hood River, Oregon.
How long have you been working at Dakine now?
I have been with Dakine for about 11 years as a product designer and product line manager. Before that I was a Dakine athlete. I’m pretty sure I was Dakine’s first kiteboard team rider way back in 2000.
What’s it like working there?
Dakine is a very creative and inspirational place to work. Everyone here is passionate about making products for people that love to be on the mountain or in the water. We’re all just as passionate about getting out and riding. And that shows in our products.
Being part of a company that has such a clear focus on helping people get out and have fun is a great feeling. And having “go ride” as part of my job description is also a huge bonus.
How has it been watching kiting grow over the years?
When I started kiting some people actually laughed and called us kooks. I guess it was pretty funny watching us get our asses dragged all over the place. I didn’t care. I just knew being pulled around by a kite was a great feeling, super fun and definitely challenging.
It’s great that kiting has grown and now gets the respect it deserves as a legitimate sport. It’s also great to have formed so many friendships over the years. When you meet someone on an isolated beach in Morocco, it’s hard to imagine you’ll still be friends 17 years later. I am lucky to have met so many good people along the way and maintained great friendships around the world.
So tell me about the new harness.
For 2016 Dakine is introducing the C-1 kite harness. The C stands for composite; Dakine has developed a semi-rigid composite shell with five layers of material that surround an EPS core. The shell is stiff enough to transfer the load from the kite without distorting its shape, but at the same time it’s pliable and slowly adapts its shape, creating a custom-fitting harness that is very comfortable.
The C-1 is really an evolution of every harness I have designed over the past 11 years. I work closely with a master pattern maker and our goal has always been to build shape into the harness to closely match the shape of the rider.
Now with the Adaptive Fit Composite shell we have taken that one step further with a material that will continue to shape itself to better match the rider’s shape.
And Dakine has a new space now too?
Dakine was founded by Rob Kaplan on Maui Hawaii in 1979. Rob’s mantra was innovation through location. He felt that way because he was designing products for people to use just down the road; surfing and windsurfing at the famous Ho’okipa Beach Park.
He continued that mantra by moving Dakine to Hood River, Oregon when we started making snowboarding and skiing, and now kiting and biking product. Now we are literally surrounded by all these sports.
Dakine recently moved into a new facility on the waterfront of the Columbia River. We simply out grew the old location. The product and creative teams are located on the third floor with incredible views of the river.
Now kiting is literally at our back door. It’s an inspirational place to work and we are very connected to what’s going on.
We have quite a few teams working on different product ranges for kiting, biking, snowboarding etc. The new building allows us to work side by side to collaborate and create products that are absolutely Dakine across all of our sports.
What’s next for you/Dakine?
Simply put, we are going to continue to build gear for people who love being in the water and on the mountain as much as we do.