Kitesurfing Magazine tracked down Naish designer Damien Girardin to find out the influences behind the design innovations at Naish.
Kitesurfing Magazine: Naish has embraced foiling in a big way. Has foil boarding influenced the kite designs for 2018?
Damien Girardin: Yes, clearly we’ve all been excited about foiling here at the office, so naturally riding foils influences the kite design. The Boxer for example was designed as a versatile kite and a lot of the testing was done on foil boards so it turned out to be a perfect foil kite.
Will lighter designs with less struts cross over into other disciplines?
Damien Girardin: It already does. The Ride kite for example has been a two-strut kite for years and people have been using it as a lot more than lightwind riding, from waves to jumping to high wind riding. Now with the Boxer we have a lot of customers that are loving it for wave riding. When we made the no-strut kite Trip a few years ago, it became Robby’s favorite kite to ride waves when traveling to Mexico with his surf buddies.
What do you most like about designing kites? What’s the most challenging part?
Honestly, what I like best is when we’re all done and people are loving the kite! Overall I really appreciate the whole process of going from ideas and feedback to translating into a technical concept. I also really like working on the details; things that most people won’t necessarily notice but that make the difference between an average product and a great one.
I also really enjoy working on production processes, finding ways to improve the quality, coming up with quality control and new construction techniques.
In the early days it was pretty easy to improve on a kite design, so almost every one of my prototypes was better than the previous one. Today we have such good kites that it becomes harder and harder to improve on them. But don’t worry, I know we can do better, I just don’t know how yet. And that’s what’s exciting!
Your 13-year-old son Gabriel, as well as being a kiter, is an up and coming pro surfer and skateboarder. Has his involvement in both these established action sports shaped your view of where kiting should go in the future?
I personally have been involved in a bunch of different action sports. Since I was a kid I have always been looking at a lot of different action sports for both style, graphics and even product design, so having my son highly involved in surfing and skateboarding for sure helps me keep even more in touch with these two sports. I also get to meet with some of his sponsors and we can exchange on product design, marketing and ideas. Yes, I really would like kiting to head towards what surfing, snowboarding and skateboarding is in terms of style. I am glad that some kiters are focused on style, but at the same time we need to be kiters, and I hate when people limit themselves because wakeboarders or surfers would not do it. We need a good balance. What some guys like Ewan Jaspan, Sam Light or Ian Alldregde have done is great; they get inspired by other boardsports they have style and then they add the kiting element to it.
I for sure don’t like the idea that we should surf waves only using the kites to get back out and not when we ride the wave, but on the other hand I hate when I see people only using the power of the kite to ride waves and make turns with their ass on the water while getting dragged by the kite.
How has Gabriel, and Tim Walsh’s involvement in kiting influenced Naish’s R&D program and product line up?
These two have first of all inspired us to make a whole bunch of kid-dedicated products, like the Grom board and the XXS harnesses for example. But they also helped us make better small kites that could be flown in lighter wind by being softer, which now turns out to be exactly what we need for foiling!
They also brought their input on graphics. And overall their energy is a great motivation to make them happy on the water!
What are the top three design and/or material advancements that have had the most dramatic impact on kite performance over the past five years?
I’d say by far the number one has been the Quad-Tex material. In terms of design, I think we have all been improving year after year. But on my side I think the design of the Pivot was a great step that helped improve on our whole line of kites. I have to admit that we were selfishly designing a kite for us to have fun while riding strapless! And it turned out to be an amazing do-everything kite!
With different demands on kite performance required for different disciplines, what are some of the most challenging performance attributes you have improved upon?
There have been numerous challenges over the years. One challenge I have been liking is when I work with Kevin Langeree he always wants a kite that jumps higher. The art of jumping is a very complicated one to translate into design specs, because there are so many different parameters that are fighting each other. For example a kite that glides really well won’t launch as well because it needs to be softer and won’t turn as fast, while a faster kite will yank you out of the water making you go super high quickly. And this is one of the reasons the C-kites are jumping so well because we can have the center part of the kite that stays relatively rigid when you jump while the wing tips are twisting and allow for fast turning.