Bruno Legaignoux's message
I'm Bruno Legaignoux. For those which don't know my name, we are, with my
brother Dominique the inventors of the inflated kite in the shape of a gore.
This message is to try to put the numerous rumors off.
My brother and I were sailors (french Junior champions, cruising boat
skippers, sailing instructors, surfers, windsurfers, etc...).
We tried to develop very efficient sails and boats and finally we became
interested in kites when seeing Jacob's Ladder, a catamaran pulled by
Flexifoils, although we never flied a dual line kite. It was in 1984.
After a few researches, we understood that no water relaunchable kite
existed so it became obvious to us that we had to create one.
You can see some old photos at www.wipika.com/Pages/chapitre1.html
After one year of work, we were sailing with water skis and
demonstrating the device during the 1985 Brest International Speed
Week. We also applied for a patent. The project was to find one or
several licensees within 2 years but windsurfing was at its acme
and no windsurf company was interested.
We never stopped believing in this sport so we had 10 years of VERY HARD
time, continuing the project without money, looking for new markets, for
licensees, then creating our own company and producing in France in
1993-94... at a too high cost (please don't cry !)
Then Windsurfing declined and Kiteboarding time came.
I am proud to see that we were the main actors of kiteboarding birth
but for sure we were not alone. For example Cory Roeseler with the Kiteski
device or Andreas Kuhn with a paraglider and a kind of wakeboard helped too
with international media exposure.
In 1995-96 we went in very serious talks with Neil Pryde. Finally they
renunced but they accepted to produce small quantities for us and we
started selling these kites in July 1997 under Wipika brand mark.
Then we found another manufacturer in Asia.
In 1998, Don Montague and Robby Naish came to us asking for a license.
As it was our original goal, we agreed and told them that both of us needed
a software to be able to make new designs quickly. I came to Hawaii and gave
all my knowledge to Don Montague and their programer. One year later, the
program was working. We shared it. With it, everybody can make a new good
kite in 30 seconds, just changing one parameter. For example, change
AR = 2.5 (the default value) with 8 and you will appear as a genious designer!
WHY PATENT PROTECTION ?
Some people hate this way.
I think that when you are a well organized company in a market where products
evolve very quickly, patent is just a waste of money and energy. But if you
are a "small" independant inventor, you have no chance against large companies
if you don't protect your ideas : they won't even give you just credit for that !
Who on this list is against intellectual property (music, litterature, etc...) ?
Our motivation was kept during the hard years because of the patent.
Seen by my side, there are only 3 kinds of kites :
- the ones which are far from ours, like ram air kites, delta kites,
- the ones which are very close to ours : if they got a license contract like
Naish, they are licensees; if not, they are infringing copies whether or not
there are patented improvements on.
- there are kites designed with a sole goal: to use our concept but escaping
the patent by modifying the kite after studying the patent and looking
for weak points in it. In this case it is more difficult for me to get
the justice admiting the infringement but I'll try each time I think
I can win.
Obviously, I beat the infringers and already stopped a few ones.
Something interesting to be known is that I have no obligation starting
legal action immediatly, that means that I can start even when they will
have invested a lot of energy and money in their product. This is to
explain that it is probably more risky for them to infringe that what
they generally think.
NEW LICENSEES SOON ?
Yes, we are open to give other licenses but to companies which are
able to bring something to the market, not to companies with short term
view or which sole way to get market shares is to discount their kites.
In 2000-2001 a few high image companies will enter the market.
WHO INVENTED ?
- who invented kiteboarding ? several people did it on their side
without knowing that other people previously made something close.
Ourselves we started in 1984 with windsurf boards because we were
surfers and windsurfers but not waterskiers. We built several
boards for that purpose.
As our kites were very unstable at that time, we mainly used
waterskis because the waterstart was easier, but the patent talks
about windsurfing board type too.
We also tested any kind of boats and many other "things" that you
can't even imagine and a patent drawing shows a guy on two 40cm "water
skates" (photos in the History page of www.wipika.com). We made and
sailed them. It was fun. I 'm sure that we'll soon see advanced pilots
trying this kind of skates.
- who "invented" high AR inflated kite ?
In 1985 we made a 17m kite with aspect ratio 6 and with 100%
double-skin (photos on Wipika web site... and a short video soon).
With it, we waterskied with 6 to 12 knots of wind and, during the
1886 International Brest Speed Week, we were clocked at 14.5 knots
(average speed during a 500m run) while the best world class
windsurfers reached 10 knots. This is registered.
We also made kites with 20%, 30%, 40%, 60%, 80%, 100% double skin,
what was already described in the 1984 patent, and kites made of
clear mylar with scrim. Probably you will see this kind of
"improvement" in the next months or years.
- who "invented" inflated "struts" without inner tube ? a competitor ?
No, in the past, we used 2 different construction methods for inflated
struts : airtight fabric and mylar fabric with inner tube.
These ways are described in the original patent.
- who invented 4 line straight bar with both front lines meeting at
a "main line" going to the harness and with the bar sliding along the
"main line" ? a competitor ? No, we own a patent on this device since
I first used this device for buggying and won some races thanks to it.
Seasmik uses without any license the exact device we described
so we'll have to sue them.
- who invented 4 line inflated kite ? A competitor ? No, the above
patent also describes how to settle inflated kites with 4 lines by
cutting the edges for example (there are other ways). I always used
"cut tip" kites with the 4 line straight bar.
I explained all these things to Don Montague in 1998.
Why didn't we apply these improvements earlier ?
There are 2 main reasons :
Firstly, when you settle a company and you have no money, especially in
France, you have to work 80 hours a week to have it working properly.
So I had no time for R&D. It's why in 1999 I looked for people to take
care of Wipika and get myself more time in R&D. I also moved in early
2000 to Dominican Republic which is really a perfect place for R&D.
Secondly, the market was not ready for more evolved kites. In the
"early ages", we made very efficient kites then we understood that we
had to make simple, stable and safe.
In 1998, 100% of the users were beginners - there are not so many
markets like this one !
In 1999, still 90% were beginners but the 10 other percents were
starting to ask for more efficient kites so we prepared the Free Air
AR3.3 range and started sales in early 2000. But because of Naish AR5
our new range is already old fashioned if you believe a few ones.
My main concern is safety and when I hear that some beginners directly
purchase AR5 kites, I'm scared. Firstly they are more difficult to
relaunch but above all they are fast. That makes them dangerous for
beginners in the state of the market (almost no schools nor well
We are starting a competition to efficiency, just like windsurfing
manufacturers did. Remember :
"Hey guy, how many cambers do you have ? Only six ? ... and
your board, what size ? 2.26m ? Too bad! mine is 2,195m !".
Windsurfing is dying for this reason. And us, when ?
A fact : the Wipika riders Franz Olry and Christopher Tasti,
which actually win some events, don't want to use too high AR kites
because they are so fast and unstable that they can't make the kind
of tricks they do with more stable kites. They don't want a 20 kite
quiver. They want simplicity. Same for Lou Wainman, Mauricio Abreu
and some other ones.
If you see them using high AR kites, it's because competition pushes
in this way, not because they prefer (except in light winds).
To resume, if we go too quickly, we'll burn our wings. All the people
involved in kiteboarding should take care with that.
R&D AGREEMENT WITH NAISH ?
Any kind of commercial/strategical agreement was never made.
Both companies are completely independant/free of mutual contract.
Both are Legaignoux licensees with same contract terms.
4 LINE KITES
Wipika supplies the Classic kites since July 1997 with an additional
webbing so that all the Classic can be settled with 4 lines. That
means that we believe to the 4 line use since a long while but 99%
of the customers didn't want to hear about it last year.
There are several ways to settle your Classic as a 4 line kite,
I'll come back on this matter in another message.
Very soon, the Classic kites will be sold with a second webbing, like
the Free Air, to simplify transformation.
Classic and Free Air will also receive long velcros to fold the tips.
Many new Wipika items will be available in the next weeks and
months, including an interesting 4 line bar. We'll keep you informed.
You are welcome to use abstracts of this message for public use as
long as it is in good faith.
Please don't expect that I'll react to the messages which could follow
mine, I'm still too busy to do it. Sorry!
Thank you for your time and...
Best winds to all of you,
- fantastic email from Bruno...
I use Naish AR5 kites because I love them - but now I have a new respect for
the Legaignoux brothers.
I sincerely hope that the Legaignoux brothers are fully rewarded and
respected for their efforts.
Many people have talked about trying to stop kitesurifng from going like
windsurfing - but you can't fight human nature and you can't stop evolution.
I think the commercial approach Naish has taken has also been very clever -
even if many of the ideas originated elsewhere.
Don't forget that people learn fast, and people always want to be pushing
themselves further. Many times with windsurfing people said things like
'cambered sails won't work' they're too hard, or "fully battened sails are
Remember that this sort of attitude helped Bruno develop these ideas in the
first place - and we all want to have these experiences of adventure also -
and we will pay for it. With all due respect - If Wipika decides that all we
can handle is a classic - then some of us will look elsewhere (as I have
done) for products than can allow us to keep pushing our limits. I am sure
there are things being done with these kites now - that Bruno himself never
dreamed of. The Legaignoux brothers have done a great job up until this
point - but don't stop now! This is the time to step back - regroup, and
start innovating all over again.
At the end of the day - some people get excited about new gear and some
people don't. For me - 1999 was the year of one kite one board simplicity -
and it will be remembered for that. (In some ways) it's a shame that next
year won't be quite so simple - but I made the choice to get more water
time, go faster, higher etc and to accept the added complexity and cost.
I hope that Wipika doesn't short change itself (and hold kitesurfers back)
by holding back innovations that we all want to try. If Bruno was able to
try an AR8 17m kite in 1988, then why can't we as well? It would be nice if
we all had one two line classic each and lived in paradise - but many people
don't work that way - it's just the way it goes. I'm sure if anyone is going
to exploit that fact - it is going to be companies like Neil Pride - who
have a WidgetCarbonStretchHeadLuffcurveSeamshaped (TM) invention every year
to keep us all interested.
I am getting the impression that the new Cabrinha / Neil Pryde kites will be
Legaignoux brothers licencees. I hope that the Legaignoux brothers get every
cent that they deserve for every kite sold - but at the same time, Wipika
had better pull their finger out - because many people want the latest
innovation with the best performance - even though the inventors think its
"too hard" for anyone other than themselves to use.
We live in a commercial world, and human nature will reign supreme - I
really don't like the Classic, or even the Free-Air as much as the Ar5 - but
I can see that they would be better on a wakeboard, on Maui in 25 knots
But I don't live there - So give me a good Wipika kite that uses all the
Legaignoux knowledge, and I'll buy it.
And bring on the flames ;-)
- Regarding Dave Trewern's comment, I think kitesurfing is paralleling
windsurfing but doing it kind of backwards. The latest windsurfing
magazines and Neil Pryde brochures are hyping the new concept of
friendly gear that people can get out on consistently carve gybes and
just circulate. Last year it was wide-arse boards and free-style.
When you consider that probably 80% of sailboarders can't gybe at all
this is a good development. I think for the general population fully
cambered sails and high-tech race boards were a big mistake. Most
people were much better off with a well developed no-cam sail and a
floaty wave board.
I think of the early kitesurf foils and C-Quads as the equivalent of
fully-cambered race sails. Great power and performance but a real
bitch if you mess up. The Wipika classic is probably somewhere
between a wally windsurfer sail and a wave sail. Very easy to use but
very limited range.
The big attraction of the the AR5 and 4-line inflatables in general
is the managability of the power. The newer foils, like the NewWave
and the Stamos, are echoing this trend by becoming easier to use and
more manageable in a broader range of conditions. This allows less
experienced people to get the on-water time to build skills and the
experts to go nuts with tricks and huge air. I'm hoping the
development continues in this vein of better and easier to use gear.
I'm thinking the future holds a one-kite, 3-line reel bar system,
that floats forever, doesn't have to be pumped up, has a range of
from 5-35 knots, can be trimmed on the fly (literally), can be
kitesurfed effectively after a 30 minute lesson, and packs down into