Mat Pendle Story A Life of Boardsports Passion
This is my story, I wanted to make it short, but as I was writing, and searching some photos and videos to illustrate, it finally built up.
I wanted to share this, as I really feel lucky to have had so many opportunities, making most of my dreams come true.
Today after so many years of great adventure, it is once again so exciting but also stressful to totally commit your life to a new idea that slowly becomes a shared reality, launching Kiteboarding was exactly that.
August 2014 as I write these lines as building the pendleboard website I have only produced 10 boards and spent 5 and a half months over the last 12 months in China building and setting up production. Living in the factory was a hard core experience having very few occasions to speak with others because of language barrier.
I could compare this to sailing solo where you are totally dedicated to make the boat go forward, the lack of social connections somehow makes you lose track of time.
This is what I felt going through winter in China, the only thing I had to do was to focus on the project and find week after week solutions to make the idea real.
Today I have been riding a lot and seen the incredible feedback as riders try the board, I am looking forward to team up with others and share the pendleboard project.
Update: Mach 2016 after another 9 month in China, and 2 months in France we are now sipping boards in Europe and the US campaign.
It was around 1974, the first time I started to play with the wind, it was with my brother Fabian at the age of 6 or 7.
I built the boat you see on the video with my Dad, this was when we were living in London, my first construction experience, I loved it.
It’s cool to see how close it looks to a windsurf, that we started a few years later in 1976 when we moved to the south of France in Montpellier.
Stating to Windsurf 1976
Mai 1976 Montpellier.
So here we are in the South of France, we drove down with all our stuff in a Ford Transit direct from London.
I don’t know how to speak a word of French, even though my Mum is French. I was thrown into school, with Fabian, and it turned out to be OK, after a few months, language was no longer an issue.
One day on that summer 76, we saw something really strange on the water, we tracked it down to have a closer look. From a distance it looked like the boat we built, but the guy was standing up, incredible.
It looked really cool, and we had to try, we managed to find a guy who had one for rent, and the board was not a windsurfer, but was called the flysurf. “a sign from the future”
We were still a bit small, me 9 and Fabian 8, difficult to lift up the sail, but 3 years later we had ripped our Dads boards to pieces by cutting the ends off, making shorter boards, with foot traps made of hose pipes, and trying to hit some waves to get the board to leave the surface of the earth, our dream.
So very early we started to mess around with polyurethane foam and polyester, I build my very first board when I was 14, in 1981, a Shaper next door to us, was building big fun boards, about 3.2 meters long, using 4 meter Clark Foam blanks.
I managed to recover in the trash the remaining 80 cm left, I glued 3 pieces together and started to shape.
As I wanted to be able to lift up the sail, I made a pint tail, with maximum width around the mast foot, but it wasn’t enough, board was 2.5 meter long.
First go, I had to improvise a water start to get back to the shore, took me over half an hour, but the board was flying, like never before.
Mat an Fabian Pendle Brothers
So years go by, the excitement is huge, we seem to have an endless learning curve, with limits of what is possible being pushed every day.
Windsurf magazines show up, and we see for the first time guys riding in dream conditions, jumping waves.
I remember looking at how they were doing the jibe and other other moves, Robby Naish and Pete Cabrinha where showing the way, but we were not bad on our side in France where the sport became huge.
Photo: Mat and Fabian
We managed to get free gear with local shops, we had older friends with cars that came to get us in front of our school, as we sneaked out before the end of the class as soon as the wind picked up.
To have a future with the sport, the only way was to do windsurf competitions, I did some, but I hated it, all those rules, I really didn’t feel free enough, just a question of mindset ,I wanted to experiment new things, making films about the sport, I was always impressed by the visual side of windsurfing, so much power under control in extreme wind and wave conditions. At that time, I had no idea how to concretize this desire.
On the other side Fabian was focused on competing, very young at 16, he decided to stop school to become a pro windsurfer.
My parents supported his decision, I was shocked by the risque he was taking, worried that the challenge was to big to achieve, and jealous that he had the courage to fully go for his dream. I must say I was relieved and proud when he won an event giving him access to a full World Cup Racing contract, that he did for a decade, ranking in the Top 10, competing with Guys like Robby Naish that inspired us when we were young.
Below Fabian at La Grande Motte next to Montpellier and on the cover of Wind Magazine in France
So as I was still at school, I did different things to earn some money during the summer holidays, never far from windsurfing. I built boards for a local Shaper, doing all the resin stuff, sanding, I also had a small business renting and giving some windsurf lessons, but as this expanded a little, I had not enough time for school so I quit. At 20 I had a nice little set up on the beach with windsurfing, Hobie Cats, and transate.
During the off season, I built snowboards, and started to make some small movies, I bought a small cheap camcorder, filmed friends riding In some extreme condition, and sent the footage to national French TV, I just wanted to show them what we do when they say to the whole country to stay home.
Well to my surprise, the super star weather man, put my footage on the air and 7 million people took a look at what we were doing on our local spot.
In addition the next day, the weather man called me at my home asking me not to hesitate sending him more, and has he had no budget to help me produce these little 30 second films, I suggested him to have a sponsor brand on my gear, he said no problem and even would make sure viewers will see it, I said thanks.
Minutes later I sent a few faxes out to the main soft drink companies suggesting to them to be on my gear and pay me 10 percent of the add cost, and only if I managed to get them on air at prime time. The same day they said yes, and sent me some stickers.
Off I was experimenting and filming some new ideas, like snowboarding behind a small aircraft on the water, speed sail front loops, or putting a windsurf sail on a snowboard and see what happens.
This last experiment got some attention from the the number one French TV station, they produced this footage on 16mm film, but only have this lower quality.
For sure these experiences are just one shots, some say that I had coverage and money that would be more legit for windsurf riders doing the real respectable stuff.
In my mind I was in search mode, looking for the next killer water sport , hoping to get the excitement once again, from something totally new to build, and there was no doubt in my mind that it would happen, simply because the facts show that incredible new things come out every day.
Video Making Windsurf Video Mag
I did use my TV contacts and Soft drink partnership to produce a windsurf event part of the French windsurf tour, with all the top riders in 1991.
My brother then was in the Top 5. The event turned out to be not to windy, but we got incredible TV coverage.
After that, I continued to get support to produce and present a 3 mn show on national TV, where I traveled around the world trying out tons of different sports with the best riders, was great.
In 1996 I was windsurfing and producing the number 3 on Maui, Manu Bertin came to see me, and asked if I could film him, he said that the spirit of flysurf is just downwind, we don’t want to go up wind, I said that maybe, you could attract more interest if you didn’t say that, he said no, don’t think about the sport that way, this is different, and added : anyway Neil Pryde that have produced the few kites I have, are shutting down the project, and won’t produce any more of these kites, so looks like the sport is dead anyway.
So this is my first real contact with Kiteboarding, I did have a very quick try with Laurent Ness a few years before, but is wasn’t fun like this. When I saw Manu flying off, I was really excited and was desperate to try, he wanted me to have a go, but Manu was to scared that I would destroy the only kite left on the planet.
The Video came out and everyone was excited to see what this “flysurf” could do, and we could clearly see that Manu was going up wind, probably by mistake.
Wipika The First Kiteboard Brand
A few months later, at Gliss Expo 97, a guy came to see me, and said that he saw the video I did with Manu, and was the designer of the Kite, his name was Bruno Legaignoux.
He asked me if I could do a video user guide explaining how to set up the kite, he said that he just set up a new company called Wipika, that will be the brand name for the kite.
He also said that as he was starting, he had very little money, I said no problem, give me what you can and 2 kites to make the film.
Everything was set, except that to get the kites, we needed to wait for the new factory replacing Pryde to be functional, the new factory invested a lot, had confidence in the project , even though Pryde abandoned, that would normally be a good reason not to do it.
So probably this Factory saved the sport, and I am happy to still work with them today first for GK and now for my Pendleboard project.
So I finally got the kites, problem was that Bruno was in the north of France and I was in the south, I had to figure out, how it worked, pumping up was easy, then flying the kite on the beach was easy, but as I went into filming details, there were some things I didn’t manage to understand. I called Bruno on the phone, to get the explanation, but in fact I didn’t manage to make it work, because it wasn’t working, that’s where we started talking about solutions to finish the film and R&D for me began.
This video I did was the first Kiteboard travel video, this is in January 1998 with laurent Ness and Raphael Salles, how just started Fone with his first boards, we had the first Wipika wings, my kites were the ones I used to do the Wipika user guide.
Cabo Verde I continued to produce my Windsurf Video Mag, the last one I did, number 5 in 98 was half windsurfing and half Kiteboarding, well we were all starting in the film. It was Laurent Ness, Raphael Sales and myself in Cabo Verde. We got a very small amount of wind I managed to film Laurent and Raph in the Waves, I did some footage in the lines. We were really motivated to show the sports potential, and we did give a bit of stress to the pro windsurf riders Josh Angulo, Keith Teboul and Jason Prior who were using a jet sky to try to catch a wave as we were flying across the spot with our strange gear.(in French, need to do subtitle)
From 97 to 99 we were struggling, having a lot to do and no money, I more or less worked for nothing for 2 years, but it was super exciting. I finally got 10% share of Wipika for my efforts.
From there things were starting to move, production was starting to role, and interest was growing, We had the video user guide shipped with every kite.
Kiteboard Maui Hawaii 1998 Photo shoot with Sylvain Cazenave
There was a lot of excitement, Naish was having a licence deal with Bruno, to produce Naish kites, but it seemed that the potential conflict with the windsurf market was not quite clear, Robby did not want to speak to the camera at the time, but Don his sail and new kite designer did.
Now 4 line kites are on there way, this will open up the sport to even more people.
Airblast The VARC Revolution
In 2000, Naish makes a big hit with it’s AR 5 high aspect ration kites 4 lines. We at Wipika are still with the classic 3.5 aspect ratio, I really have to push Bruno to make a higher aspect Ratio, he doesn’t really want to, saying it would be dangerous. For sure a high aspect ratio on a small size, can fly crazy, Naish AR5 had aspect ratio 5 on all sizes, so what I suggested to Bruno, was to do a Variable Aspect Ratio Concept, I called the VARC
From the feedback we got from our experience and general riders feedback, I did an excel file with sizes vertical and AR horizontal, placed points at coordinates of the best known kites, and then linked all the points together with a curve, so this way we could select any size and get the AR. We had one medium and one high AR kite, that I named the Freeair, and Airblast.
Bruno would then design the kite according to the excel file and input all the rest, profile, sweep back and a lot more..
The Airblast was a great kite, and the VARC is now used on every kite on the water.
In 2005 I did the GK Sonic with the same KPO bridle, but a little longer. The GK Sonic came to the market at the same time as the Cabrinha Crossbow designed by Bruno with his Bow Kite concept and bridle.
It turned out that the my KPO bridle was very different to the Bow kite Bridle, KPO being the most popular today, and what is interesting is that it also works on the original C shape kites.
This was year 2000, in the middle of 2001 some internal problems appeared at Wipika Hong Kong Office, Bruno was now living in Dominican Republic, and I was managing all Wipika R@D and promotion with my company. In fact I was invoicing Wipika in Hong Kong, who was taking the orders and the payments, and telling the Factory where to ship.
Bruno sold most of his shares, and I had some, but we never got anything out of the great sales of the Airblast, so we felt that we could not continue this way, I was worried that Wipika Int could not manage properly the distribution and stop paying for R&D. I was responsible for paying all the Riders, Franz Olry, Christopher Tasti, and the designers, we where up to 10.
Bruno was working hard outside of Wipika selling licences to other Brands.
Bic and Takoon New Brand Launch
At the time Bic started to produce a kite, but is wasn’t that good, they were in need of a good kiteboard product, so we started to design some Bic kites with their logo and graphics, and only made one sample.
Finally we decided with Bruno and Bic to create a new brand they could distribute, I invented the name Takoon, that means nothing, just makes you ask what it means, I like doing name search, it’s fun.
After a few months things with Takoon get complicated, Bruno sends in some new managing people to help me or to check on me, and this does not work out very well, unfortunately confidence and friendship between us evaporates after all those years.
GlobeKites Mat Pendle Brand
So middle of 2002 I want to totally stop kiteboarding business, I just want to get payed for the job I did, what never happened, and do something else,
But one day in August 2002, I am in my car thinking of my new life after kiteboarding, when my mobile rings, and it is the boss of the factory producing Wipika, he says he has no news from Takoon, what’s going on, he had ordered material for them.
I said Bruno was shifting to Pryde and I was surprised he got no notice, and told him I stopped working with Bruno, and I was happy to stop kiteboarding all together.
He then said: Mat you shouldn’t stop, send me some files and I will produce you your own brand, this is the first time I thought about this option.
As soon as production is ready to ship, I send out a few emails to potential distributors, and I was happy to get a great response, and orders were coming in, things were getting more relax, I could just decide what products to build, and go forward.
Kite Bridle Revolution Kite Power Optimizer KPO
For me there was still a few major improvements we could do, mainly for safety. The 4 lines kites had more or less de-power capability depending on how much sweep back you put as you built the kite, I tested the first Bow Kite Bruno was working on, a modified Free Air as we were working together at Wipika, but there was a lot of bar pressure, and the bridle was a little complicated.
My Idea was to have the front lines connected to a moving point that would automatically adjust. I knew that attaching the front lines forward would give more de-power and more bar pressure, that is not always what you want.
The first time I tried, I was amazed, as you let go the bar the front lines went forward with huge de-power, and as you pulled on your bar, the front lines went backwards giving power like a 2 line kite, and very low bar pressure, all this with a very small bridle that does not go lower then the kite tips.
I called this the KPO “Kite Power Optimizer”
I used this on my c shape Lift and Curl, but with a very small Bridle.
A year later I improved the KPO with the A-KPO ” Adjustable Kite Power Optimizer ” giving you the option to adjust in a few seconds by moving bridle connecting points, and radically changing your bar pressure, turning speed, low end wind range, for wave, free style or cruise to really fit your riding style.
A-KPO Patent Link : Kite clamping device, has two pulleys provided on each side of kite and sliding along cords provided in each side of kite, where cords are connected to kite’s front flight lines and comprise three attachment points
Mauritius Living in Mauritius
I left France in 2004 for Mauritius, living here is great, incredible kiteboarding conditions, easy to work with China every day, only 4 hours difference.
This an overview of the last few year here in Mauritius.
Since 2006, the pace of technical improvement has been slowing down, all the gear is really working good today.
The energy you need, to succeed in the market today has shifted from R&D to marketing, this is not too good for my motivation.
I think we need do things differently, I mean the way in general our society produces, markets, and trashes stuff can probably not go on for ever.
So I really would like to find a way to contribute by designing products that connect to the guy using it, so they use it longer, and participate building it.
For sure, something you invest your heart into, is much more valuable, than a simple money investment.
This is why I was excited with my project, Open Board Sports (OBS), the idea was to use my product designs, Kites and accessories, as base products that schools, shops or anyone could add their personal colors and graphics, I did a few but was more complicated than expected, then I came up with the Pendleboard project and it took up all my time up to now.
Thanks for reading,