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Post by dean on Wed Sep 18, 2019 1:10 pm

https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/how-hackers-won-the-water

How Hackers Invented Kiteboarding
An unusual design process combining recklessness, imagination, and computers created one of the fastest-growing sports in history.

By James SomersSeptember 13, 2019

T
The promise of kiteboarding is that a wind strong enough to draw small whitecaps from the water can take you on a magic-carpet ride. But the same wind can be dangerously uncontrollable.Photograph from Alamy
Just as he was graduating from high school, in 1990, Chris Moore had a fanciful idea. He had noticed increasing numbers of so-called sport kites arcing through the skies above his home town of Lenexa, Kansas, outside Kansas City, Missouri. A traditional kite is tethered to its operator by a single line, and is more or less impossible to maneuver. But a sport kite—a needle-nosed, fighter-jet-like wing of nylon or polyester—has two lines, which an operator can use to induce acrobatic turns. Moore was skilled with a yo-yo and had watched riders do tricks on their bikes. He watched the sport kites soar, reverse, and double back, and wondered if the kite could become the next bicycle—a vehicle for art, competition, or some combination of the two.

After he graduated, Moore opened a kite store in partnership with his mother. Sales were slow. The problem, he felt, was that the kites he was buying from suppliers weren’t fast or trickable enough—they could only do a loop or two. Moore brought on an aerospace engineer from the University of Kansas named David Bui, and, together, they started reverse-engineering the kites. Bui turned out to be a gifted scavenger of parts. They built kites using the shafts of high-performance arrows, which were constructed of lightweight aluminum encased in a carbon-fibre wrapper; later, they made their own spars out of tapered graphite tubes that were being used in the production of helicopter frames. The technology they used was modelled on bird bones.

Moore, who has a compact build, a bright smile, and the serious, studious voice of an airline pilot, took his kites on the road, performing at schools and birthday parties, for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and before crowds of thousands at kite expos. In the process, he became one of the most skilled kiters in the world. He and Bui made sixteen-square-foot sails that were stiff but weighed only three ounces. “I could literally walk and move, and my body created enough pressure against this highly controllable feather to orchestrate a whole routine to music,” Moore recalled. He was one of the first people to fly kites indoors—a boast, since it showed that the kites were so light that they didn’t even need wind. Moore had been right about the sport-kite business: he soon opened six stores in Missouri and Kansas, advertising in Stunt Kite Quarterly and other new publications devoted to the sport of kiting. Moore himself became one of its top professionals, travelling each weekend to tournaments around the country and earning a national title.

In 1994, Moore went to France as part of a seven-week European kiting tour. He watched as one of the other performers, with a paragliding sail at his back, made a controlled landing on the water, then used the sail to pull himself through the waves to shore.

“My mind was blown,” Moore said. “I was just connecting all kinds of dots.” He stopped his tour, tracked down the performer, horse-traded one of his kites for a glider, and took it back to the United States. In the past, Moore had been interested in making kites more maneuverable. Now he was fascinated by a different problem: harnessing their power to take flight himself.

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dean

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