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Kitesurfing History

[How the 2 elements become a perfect symbiosis]

Kitesurfing, also known as kiteboarding, is an exhilarating sport that harnesses the power of wind with a large power kite to propel riders across various surfaces, including water, land, or snow. This dynamic activity seamlessly integrates elements from paragliding, surfing, windsurfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, and wakeboarding. Kitesurfing stands out as an accessible and high intensity sailing sport that offers endless excitement and adventure.

Although this sport became famous less than 50 years ago, its history started way before. Below you find a rough overview over the first elements that led in the end to the birth of kitesurfing like we know it today.

12th century

Polynesians, Indonesians, and Chinese seafarers utilized kites on their fishing vessels for navigation purposes.

19th century

George Pocock, a visionary British inventor, successfully patented a groundbreaking traction system that harnessed kites to pull cars and boats in the direction of the wind. Subsequently, numerous inventors and athletes made notable contributions to the development of kite-based traction systems.


Samuel Cody achieved a remarkable feat by traversing the English Channel while sailing with kites. 


Gijsbertus Adrianus pioneered the fusion of a kite and surfboard. His innovative idea was patented, and he is now widely recognized as the founding figure of this captivating sport.

late 1970s and early 1980s

Dieter Strasilla, a visionary from Germany, made significant contributions to the world of this adventure sport. He pioneered parachute-skiing and subsequently perfected a kite-skiing system that harnessed the power of self-made paragliders and a ball-socket swivel. This ingenious setup empowered pilots to navigate upwind and uphill while also enabling them to take off into the air at will. Strasilla and his Swiss companion Andrea Kuhn further explored the possibilities of this invention by integrating it with surfboards, snowboards, grasskies, and self-made buggies.


Strasilla’s groundbreaking work led to the first-ever use of an inflatable kite design for kitesurfing.


Kitesurfing emerged as an alternative activity to windsurfing during tournaments characterized by insufficient wind conditions.


The brothers Dominique and Bruno Legaignoux embarked on an ambitious project inspired by catamarans. At that time, no kite was capable of launching from water without external assistance. Determined to overcome this limitation, they embarked on creating such a kite. Their groundbreaking idea enabled practitioners to effortlessly launch their kites from the sea without relying on third-party assistance.


The Legaignoux brothers put their invention to the test at the Brest International Speed Week. They sailed with an inflatable rib kite while gliding across water surfaces on skis.


In recognition of their pioneering work, they were granted a patent for their revolutionary kite design that could take off directly from water.


Bill Roeseler, a Boeing aerodynamicist, and his son Cory Roeseler made significant contributions. They developed and patented the “KiteSki” system, which harnessed the power of a two-line, delta-style kite to propel water skis across various surfaces. The kite was controlled via a bar-mounted combined winch/brake and had a rudimentary water launch capability that enabled it to go upwind.


In the Ashburton Alpine Lakes area near New Zealand’s Lake Clearwater, Cory Roeseler embarked on an exciting adventure. He paid a visit to Peter Lynn, where he showcased the remarkable speed, balance, and upwind angle while riding his ‘ski’. As time passed into the late 1990s, Cory’s ski underwent a transformation, evolving into a single board that bore resemblance to a surfboard.


The evolution of contemporary kitesurfing, pioneered by the Roeselers in the United States and the Legaignoux in France, progressed alongside the development of buggying. These two exhilarating sports advanced in parallel, each contributing to the growth and innovation of the other.


In the process of popularizing kitesurfing, Laird Hamilton and Manu Bertin played a pivotal role by demonstrating the sport’s potential off the coast of Maui. Simultaneously, Raphaël Baruch made significant contributions to the sport by introducing the name “kitesurfing” and establishing the first commercial brand in the industry: “Kitesurf”


The Legaignoux brothers played a pivotal role in shaping the world of kitesurfing by developing and commercializing the revolutionary “Wipika” kite design. This groundbreaking design featured preformed inflatable tubes and a simple bridle system that extended to the wingtips, both of which played a crucial role in facilitating water re-launch. Bruno Legaignoux continued to push the boundaries of kite design, further enhancing the sport by introducing the bow kite design. This innovative design has since been licensed to numerous kite manufacturers, solidifying its impact on the industry.

A totally new type of boards were developed by Raphaël Salles and Laurent Ness: the first kiteboards were born.


Kitesurfing has evolved into an exhilarating extreme sport that is now widely distributed and taught through shops and schools across the globe. The sport’s inaugural competition took place on Maui in September 1998 and was triumphantly won by Flash Austin.


Kitesurfing started to become a mainstream sport since key windsurfing manufacturers entered this field: Robby Naish and Neil Pryde. Kiteboards that were unidirectional and inspired by windsurfing and surfing designs became the most prevalent form of kiteboard.


Since 2001, twin-tip bi-directional boards started to become more popular. They were mostly used by flat water riders, while directional boards were still used for riding with waves.

The sport and technology did not stop evolving. Up until today there are innovative new designs that make kites more agile, fast, light and adapt to the different requirements of wind and water conditions at the same time as the skill set of the rider.

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