GET TO KNOWSYLVAIN PERETTI
When did you start kitesurfing?
I started kitesurfing pretty late, in 2008 to be precise. At that time, I had been designing kites since 1997, but I had gotten into a serious motorcycle accident which had paralyzed my leg, so it was impossible for me to put my feet in straps without risking spraining my ankle. During a kitesurf trip, around the time strapless kitesurfing emerged, my roommate convinced me to have a shot at it, and I have been kitesurfing ever since that very precise day! The funny thing is that I have never tried twin tip in my life, but I still have a very wide range of variations to choose from within the sport itself (strapless surf, foil, tiki, wing).
But I must say, having been in the industry for so many years, I would probably have tried it anyways at some point, just out of curiosity.
Has it always been in your blood?
Yes, definitely! I have always sailed in cruising sailboats or in sailing dinghy races, and then I got into windsurf. But when kitesurf came around, the concept of putting my feet in straps was impossible, so i had given up the idea until 2008.
Does your family share the same passion?
Absolutely not! My grandmother taught me how to sail on a small fishing boat at the Noirmoutier island, which then led me to sailing dinghy. That was my gateway to the nautical world.
Have you always been a designer or have you had another secret life before doing that?
I have always been a designer. My first job was in fact as a sailmaker for boats in 1977 at Hood Sails. When I was 16, I used to be a sailing instructor as a summer job. I met people from the sail loft there, and I started working at the workshop. I was so interested that they introduced me to the design of sails and boats. We were working on large inclined tables with tones of large sheets of paper, just like architects!
I then started designing kites in 1997, but it was mostly small closed cell kites for waves, weirdly enough. There were only 2 lines tube kites back then. At first, there weren’t as many drawing softwares as nowadays. We still had softwares like Rinho or Autocad to design a kite but instead of spending half a day drawing it in 3D like we do today, it took us 5 or 6 days of work.
Did designing kites come as an evidence for you?
Yes, I have always had a great interest in this! Broadly speaking, I have a taste for making the things I use. And as I have extended knowledge in aerology and wind, I am able to use this in many playing fields. For instance, when I started paragliding, I made my own paraglider to fly with. I even did internships with American shapers to make very light wooden surfs!
THE KNOW-HOW ABOUTDESIGNING
How do you find inspiration?
Whenever I conceive tube kites, I try to create kites with which, as an average rider, I would like to sail with. I ask myself which characteristics are important to me. I am a practitioner and a designer, so I can identify how to improve my own comfort when sailing.
When the products are more advanced (hangtime kites, wings, …), the most important thing is to listen very carefully to your audience. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by very performant riders, who can speak freely about the technique and report their feelings to me about every kite I make. They spend time trying pretty much anything I design. So in the end, it is all about trying and consistently having feedbacks.
What is the process of starting a new project like?
After many years of experience, I now have a relatively large design database that I can use. I know the characteristics of each type of kites, so I base my new designs on existing foundations. But anyway, nowadays our job isn’t really about creating new kites. We basically adapt the designs to new types of practices and to new demands.
How do you feel about your new adventure at Gin Kiteboarding?
I am thrilled about my new collaboration with Gin Kiteboarding, which global project I find very interesting. To me, it is a very complete brand, which creates premium equipment. I like the way of working that is set in place within the team. Everybody just gathers and shares about various topics, in a collegial way.
Do you have some more ideas for the future you want to implement into Gin’s designs?
Sure! To me, I see future evolutions in raw materials, with the purpose of reducing weight as much as possible (new composite fabrics, carbon, …). In fact, materials have evolved very little over the years. Some parts of the kite are still similar to the ones used 30 years ago! The main reason being that access to these materials is very limited. It requires setting in motion very heavy industries for which the kite business doesn’t represent a market considerable enough. There is definitely room for growth here, and it is therefore certainly going to be a major step forward!
Do you have a kite spot that is specifically dear to you?
I spend every month of August on Noirmoutier island. There is barely anyone there, 4 or 5 kiters tops, the water surface is huge and there is wind almost every afternoon. What more could you ask for!
In the wintertime, I often go to the West Indies in Martinique to foil (wing and kite) and visit my friends. I find the east coast particularly beautiful, and it allows me to sail without a wetsuit as the average water temperature is around 27°C.
What is your motto when traveling?
I hop on my van and just go sail wherever I find a nonexistent kite spot! We love to meet up with 2 or 3 friends to discover new spots, creeks or lagoons where no one goes. The main point being to give the existing kite spots some air by going elsewhere. It is just part of the trip!
On a personal level, do you have a specific goal in kitesurf/wing this year?
My overall goal is to acquire a better level in wing, if I find enough time this summer to improve. Now I am really keen to learn something new after almost 15 years of kitesurfing, all the more if I can use this new knowledge for work to better understand the field. At first when I started wing foil, I really thought I would never make it. It requires strength and flexibility, things I have less and less! But I ended up getting there.
Have you always had a beard? Or are there any secrets you want to share about your beard?
As a matter of fact, I have almost always had a beard. I started growing it when I was relatively young, on and off until I was 35. But today I don’t dare to shave it anymore for fear of discovering the old guy underneath!