Liquid Force Kites’s parent company is one of the leading wakeboard brands in the world. One would assume you would focus on the wake market, but Liquid Force has also been an industry leader with the Solo single-strut kite, foil boards and unique directional boards to name a few. What has shaped this diverse approach?
We are Liquid Force, as in one big happy family. We share the same values of our brothers on the wake side that is rooted in relentless innovation. This is what drives this approach to develop these new and innovative products and product categories. The wake crew has led in all the diverse ways to ride a board behind a boat, on a cable, etc. For us, in kiteboarding, we are the same. We strive to lead in all the product categories that we love whether it be kiting in surf, hydro foiling or riding in the park.
Has being located in Hood River, Oregon helped shape Liquid Force’s brand identity?
What is great about being in Hood River is the connection to kiteboarding as it is one of the epicenters of the sport. The kiteboarders traveling though, the other brands that call Hood River home and last, simply the ability to get on the water a ton and do what we love which is kiteboarding. Of course, all of these shape our identity and brand perspective in one way or another.
If you were forced to choose to just do one discipline of kiteboarding for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Kitesurfing. I came from a surfing background growing up in Southern California. I started kiteboarding because I eventually moved to a region of North Peru for a bit that has amazing surf while at the same time gets windy about 250 days a year blowing the surf out. What better way to cope with that than to adapt and use the wind to an advantage? This opened up so many doors to experience surfing and extended my time in the ocean. Thus, my love for kitesurfing began and continues
What do you love about your kites that you think is better than their counterparts?
Oh, this is such a pretentious question. I could say that we have kites that are geared for every type of rider out there. Not to mention we have one of the most solid build qualities in the market. I could mention that we moved away from releasing a new kite every year in each model so we ensure that when we do there is significant improvement from one version to another. And, our kites look great. In short, most kite brands make very good products. We not only make great products but we have great passionate people behind the products.
With different demands of kite performance required for different disciplines, what are some of the most challenging performance attributes that you have found ways to improve upon?
This is a great question. I think most people believe that designing and engineering a kite is a pretty easy task. But think about it: a designer has to take all the input we gather from team riders, our retail partners, and customers and translate this into fine points of performance in a kite. Characteristics that include, turning speed, bar feel, depower, re-launch, upwind projection, stability, only to name a few. Then construct all this with soft pliable material that needs to be tight, withstand violent tomahawks, get rolled in waves, hold up to harsh elements and get abused. This design process, due to the materials in the construction, is a combination of scientific engineering and art all rolled into one. The entire process is a challenge not just a single performance attribute. Many times, we take a point that we want to improve. Let’s say turning speed as this is easy to understand. Many people believe to achieve this it would be easy. Sure, move the trailing edge connection more to the wingtip, create a smaller leading edge, change the wingtip profile all these help the so called turning speed. But these changes also impact other attributes. Every change creates a so called domino affect. This is where the challenge lies. To take a kite that is already performing great, listen to the bits of feedback and then make these changes without impacting the current great performance of the kite.
What are your goals in performance improvement for 2018? In what areas? Any plans and strategies that worked to achieve those goals you can share?
The release of the WOW kite was pivotal in how we look at our line and how we bring kites to market. The WOW was the first kite in the LF line that had a specific set of performance parameters to meet which is specifically aimed to kitesurfing. The driving goal in this kite was to bring the best kite to market to tackle riding waves. We have now applied this to all our kites in the line. Our goal obviously is to keep improving the performance characteristics that each kite is designed to perform in, may it be in the surf, riding freestyle, exploring with a hydrofoil, or simply grabbing a freeride session. If I was forced to point one key design and engineering goal in all our kites it’s our quest to reduce the overall weight of the kites without sacrificing durability in the build quality. We are extensively testing new materials and processes to achieve this goal. Another fact is that we don’t rush the design or engineering to keep bringing a kite out every 12 months. This is a huge benefit to our customers. They know that when they buy an LF kite it won’t be outdated by just a color change or brand logo application. They know that when we do release the next version there are design changes that took prototype after prototype and hours of testing to improve the kite greatly.
What were your goals in performance improvement for 2018 with LF’s foils?
Diversity is the key for us here. The sport and art of riding hydrofoil has grown like a tree with many branches. Freeriding, drag racing your friends, freestyle, comp racing, exploring, etc. There is so much going on right now. We knew that the tree was going to grow this way and we are proud that we were the first to bring affordable, easy riding hydrofoils to the every day kiteboarder more than five year ago. Going forward we have a great line of wings that satisfy all riding styles and feelings that can be adapted to any foil that we have made since the day one Foil Fish. In addition to this we have collaborated with Cloud IX surf foils and brought one of the most versatile crossover wing sets to market with the Impulse. What is so crossover about them? They can not only be used kiting but also for SUP surfing, surfing and wakefoiling. Exciting times!
How have the new modern kite materials influenced the kite designs?
The search for new and better materials is never ending. What we as kiteboarders demand from a product of woven material is almost unheard of. We ask our kites to withstand the harshest elements on the planet, from heat to cold, sand, rocks, salt, and not to mention wind! We ask them to withstand constant beatings in waves, crashes after failed tricks and being unrolled and rolled back up countless times and thrown in a car. All this said, materials are of critical importance. We have teamed up with material manufacturers that have many years of experience in sailing material and outdoor adventure performance materials to make certain our kites can do what we ask then to do over and over again. So, in short yes, new rip stops, advanced Dacrons and unique weaving and lamination coatings of the material all play a massive part in kite design. It has enabled us to reduce weight by using less Dacron. We have been able to adapt new bridle material to reduce drag and create a light weight leading edge configuration. Just to name a few.
Any future secret developments that might interest consumers?
Seems to always be the last question! Ha! Innovation is in our brand DNA and we have a track record that shows that. From creating Maxflow inflation eight years ago that redefined how you inflate a kite, to creating a cam harness strap locking system in 2014 that enables one time harness strap adjustment and quick entry and removal. The reinvigoration of the single strut kite with the Solo. The introduction of the Foil Fish, the list is deep and we are proud of these industry leading product introductions. So, yep! We have some great products in the oven, so stay tuned.