Red Planet Kiteboard

There's just something magical about kiting. The first time I flew a foil I was hooked;  this was definitely the sport for me! It's amazing how much power a kite can generate, but I can still keep it (mostly!) under my control. Even better, I can design and build all of my own kiting equipment- it's the perfect creative outlet for an engineer! I dream up all sorts of crazy ideas, design and build them, then get dragged over sand, water, and ice by my contraptions until I'm ready to collapse! It's an exhausting but invigorating sport, and I always come home full of new ideas for the next for set of toys.

What other sport allows you to generate 20 hp from 20 kts of wind using entirely homebuilt equipment?  

Above I am sewing a 9 square meter NASA wing, a singe skin, parachute-like kite. The bridle lines on this one were over 100 m! At right I'm flying a smaller, 5 square meter NASA wing riding my beach skateboard (designed to come apart so I can take it on planes when I travel  somewhere windy).  I'm teaching a class this IAP (2003) with Saul Griffith, helping a dozen people learn to sew their own inflatable kites.

Given the choice, I'd prefer to be kitesurfing on the water!

3 Mb .mov movie of me kitesurfing (and crashing) at Pleasure Bay, South Boston. (plays in quicktime)
1.6 Mb .mov movie of me kitesurfing at Nahant.

Unsatified with commercial kitesurfing boards, I decided to make my own.

After drawing the shape and graphic for my board, I cut the rough shape out of half inch plywood. I chose an ellipse because I found that the corners on some of the more rectangular boards caught the waves when I rode in surf and tended to trip me. With my aqua colored wet suit and full surfing helmet, people on the beach always ask me where I left my space ship, so I figured I'd put a picture of Mars on my board so they'd know what kind of creature was asking to be taken to their leader.

I sanded the board, applied a coat of stain, and drilled holes for the foot straps and leash. I then printed out the graphic on non-glossy paper with a plotter, gave the board a coat of epoxy, applied the graphic and gave it another coat of epoxy.

Finally, testing it out at Gay Head, Martha's Vineyard.

Wow what a great board! Not only is is super lightweight so it stays on my feet during jumps, but it's relatively short so I can use a bigger kite on higher wind days and not be overpowered.  I find that my homemade boards and kites frequently outperform the expensive toys the other kitsurfers use- my equipment is as functional as it is stylish!

My next project will be designing a hydrofoil for kitsurfing.  Hydrofoils reduce drag, and would enable me to ride in low wind conditions, or move even faster in high wind conditions!  Look for me soon in Boston Harbor!

More kiting pictures:

More pictures of building the board

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