re-sized hydrofoil kiting

Innovation in the kite surfing world

After my rant yesterday about the terrible state of affairs in Zimbabwe i heard on the news that inflation has reached an annual rate of 2 million percent – now that is extreme! That means your burger which might cost you $3.60 today would cost you £7.2 million in a years time. Quite clearly the people who run that country are completely incompetent and unfit for the job.

Back to reality i want to bring your attention to this really cool concept being developed by Barney Townsend who is revolutionising the kite board design by introducing a hydrofoil – read on.

Barney Townsend on his hydrofoil kiteboard

Kite surfing is a fast-growing extreme sport enjoyed by about 150,000 people worldwide. “I’ve developed a twin-tipped version that runs perfectly in both directions,” says Barney Townsend, 26. Like thousands of others, he has developed the business with the help of a Masters degree incorporating elements of innovation and entrepreneurship.

The average kiteboard, says Townsend, can cover a mile in four minutes – the same speed his grandfather Roger Bannister achieved on two legs in 1954. Hydrofoil boards lift them just above the water, enabling the extra speed, but are difficult to turn.Townsend is out to improve on that with his new SplitWave hydrofoil kiteboard.

He took a two-year part-time Masters in enterprise by learning contract at London South Bank University (LSBU) – and without it, he says, there would be no product. A university enterprise associate scheme paid his tuition fees and he won a £10,000 bursary from the London Development Agency’s Emerald Fund, a consortium of eight universities. “It gives me free office space, business mentoring and unrestricted access to LSBU’s workshops so I can build prototypes,” he says. Having researched his market, he has just applied for another £30,000. “LSBU also paid for my patent so no one could copy my idea, which was a massive weight off my shoulders,” says Townsend, who gets free use of the patent for three years, after which the university sees a return once sales reach a certain level.

This innovative approach demonstrates how individual flair and enthusiasm combined with the right kind of financial support can lead to developments and progress in a sport and will hopefully yield a commercial return to both the individuals who have put in the hard work and their financial backers. Thanks to Peter Brown of the Independent for bringing notice of this story.

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