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Nitro 2TKM 56 Under the Hood  1200x741 - Under the Hood - Cabrinha

Under the Hood – Cabrinha

As Cabrinha heads into its 25th year in the kite industry we thought it would be a good time for a catch up with their Marketing Manager James Boulding about how the brand started and where it’s headed…

Pete Cabrinha 2TKM 56 Under the Hood  - Under the Hood - Cabrinha

Let’s start from the beginning… Pete Cabrinha was one of the pioneers of kiting on Maui and was early to start designing kites. How did his skillset fit with running a kite brand in its infant stages?

Pete is a visionary, he thinks outside the box and brought so many key skills to running a successful brand. A world champion windsurfer and XXL winning Big Wave Surfer, he was and still is a true waterman and icon in the water sports world. Maui has always been an experimental place on the water, it’s seen so many whacky ideas as well as concepts and athletes that have changed industries. Pete’s motto was always to ‘Stay Curious’ and this translated to lots of industry-defining products over the years including the Crossbow, Switchblade and Drifter kites.

Pete took the decision to join the Pryde group in 2000. How did that help the brand develop and how were the first 20 years for Cabrinha?

Joining Pryde Group really helped Cabrinha expand and start working with key distributors that helped market the brand globally. Lots of these distributor partners and retailers still work with Cabrinha to this day, which shows the veins of Ohana and heritage that make up Cabrinha’s core values. During these pioneering years, Cabrinha utilized this network to great effect, building its reputation for excellent customer service and developing grassroots programs in every continent around the world.

Tell us about the change that occurred in 2020 and what it meant for the brand’s story and the customer experience?

In February of 2020 a group of investors led by Jon Modica purchased Cabrinha and Adventure Sports (the US distributors) from Neil Pryde Ltd. It wasn’t smooth sailing from the start as we literally went straight into Covid lockdown, but when the rest of the industry was pulling back, we made a call for the brand to push forward and it paid off. 

For the first time since 2000, everyone who is in the company, from the brand side through to the investment group, all kite or wing and love being on the water; that shows not only in the products we make, but the brand aesthetics and what we stand for. Nothing happens overnight in our industry, but the evolution of the brand to where we want it to be is ongoing, and each launch is the next stepping stone. New products, new technologies are always on the table, but the main focus for us is to make sure all our Cabrinha family of riders around the world have the best experience every time they fly a kite or hold a wing.  

What have been the most iconic, industry-leading products for Cabrinha over the years? 

I think you have to start with the iconic Crossbow kite that changed the industry as we know it. The history of kiting is often split into a pre and post bow kite revolution and the Crossbow was the gamechanger that started this change in the industry. It revolutionized how safe kiting could be and opened the doors for many more people to get into the sport.  The Switchblade was born from this and fast became the number one freeride kite to have.  This year marks the seventeenth iteration of the Switchblade and sees perhaps its biggest redesign ever made. With its new HDT-Lite frame and design, the kite has a completely new snappy and responsive feel to it. One of the things that made the Switchblade so popular was its park-and-ride characteristics. This new kite has that same DNA that makes it so easy to use but with a more sporty and agile handling. The huge wind range of it combined with the extra stability from its five-strut design has made sure it will remain one of the top sellers in the industry.

Your team riders and customers continue to demand more from their gear. Last year you brought out the Nitro Apex to provide the next level in technical materials performance, and have now added the Moto X Apex and Moto XL Apex to that series of kites. How do the Apex kites differ construction-wise from the rest of your range?

Our kite range is split into APEX and LITE series of kites. Cabrinha’s Apex products all feature our exclusiveUltra HT Dacron (leading edge and struts) material which really comes into its own on these products. With a balanced and controlled bias elongation and recovery, the Apex kites provide the most reactive and responsive feel in the range. Second to this they all have the new SK99 Apex bridle and Featherlite Apex bladders, something the design team has been vigorously testing over the last few years. The bladders are 22% lighter, while the bridle lines are 43% lighter and 40% thinner. This leads to an overall lighter and more aerodynamic structure.

The Lite series kites use our HTD-Lite Dacron, a lighter weight Dacron that launched last year in the Moto X and Drifter kites. The Switchblade, completely new for this year, gets a complete overhaul and is given this HTD-Lite upgrade.

How will fans of the older Moto X find the Apex versions? What would be the main differences they would notice?

This year the Moto X is available in both a Lite and an Apex construction so we’re encouraging customers to back-to-back them during demo days to really feel the difference.  The key thing you’ll notice is the responsiveness of the kite, which is largely down to the Ultra HT frame. There is no lag in steering, and the materials’ response after turning is exceptional. It really comes into its own during kiteloops and general steering of the kite, whether through a transition or bottom turn of a wave.

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Moto X Apex by Andrew Kellett 3TKM 56 Under the Hood  - Under the Hood - Cabrinha

How much did Pat Goodman have to change the profile and shape of the Apex kites to suit the new material? And have you had to alter any manufacturing methods?

When adapting to new Apex materials (or any new materials in fact) we do a series of lab tests and also tests using inflated sections to determine the elongation under pressure and then compensate in the kite design as needed. From the manufacturing side of things we make small adjustments to cater to the strength and behavior of the new material. It’s this process that we put huge amounts of effort and on-and-off water testing into. The skeleton of the kite is incredibly important and plays such an integral role in a kite’s performance; it’s not as simple as just changing a material and then expecting the kite to respond the same way. Ultra HT, the material used for the LE and struts was put into the Nitro kite last year. It was incredibly successful and this led to the design approach to it being used in the three Apex kites you see this year, the Nitro , Moto X and Moto XL (replacement for the Contra).

What other materials did the design team experiment with before deciding on the Ultra HT material?

The team are constantly testing materials. Aluula has been used as well as some materials that can replace Aluula in the coming years. There are always options on the table but final choices are always evaluated carefully taking into consideration the price, durability, performance and so on. We believe the latest product range to be really competitive and feature some ‘best-in-class’ models.

Will you be bringing out Apex models of your other kites?

You’ll have to watch this space, but we’re really excited about this combination of constructions, so you’re sure to see more coming in the future. We are also launching something exciting in the summer that will certainly turn some heads!

What else do the next 25 years hold for Cabrinha?!

There’s so much we believe that can be achieved in the sports we all love in the coming years. I’d think that any brand you speak to will have some reservations for the coming year.  It’s certainly tough out there at the moment across all the outdoor industries, but we’re confident that the evolution of our sports will move quickly in the coming years with the different material work on-going, and we’re pretty excited to see this hopefully open new doorways for people looking to enjoy time on the water. These sports are integral to all our mental wellbeing and play such an important role. The spectrum of what is possible now from 0 to 50 knots when you take into consideration kiting, winging and foiling is truly endless and the choice of ‘toys’ out there keeps on growing! The design team are certainly going to have their hands full…

One thing Cabrinha has always been passionate about is the grassroots and community of kiting, winging and foiling so we have some cool initiatives that nod towards these. We need to find ways to grow the entire industry, not just fixate on market share. It’s this community building that is at the epicenter of Cabrinha and why you’ll find people who work here become part of the furniture! The family Ohana spirit that started out from the beginning, forged in an old Maui cannery, remains a strong part of the staff who work tirelessly today. Not every brand has this and it’s definitely a recipe for success.

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