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Old 04-03-2006, 09:22 AM
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Default Womens Wear Daily (?)

THE CALL OF THE WIND; AS THE NUMBER OF FEMALE KITEBOARDERS CONTINUES TO GROW, SO DOES THE MARKET FOR FEMALE-FRIENDLY GEAR AND APPAREL.

WWD 0149-5380 July 7, 2005, p32S

Byline: Rebecca Kleinman
Kiteboarders call it "wind lust." And it is fueling an extreme sport that has spawned a subculture with its own circuit, tournaments, gear and apparel.
"Since it's so new, I always have to correct people who think I'm a windsurfer," said Karen Beber-Futernick, an avid kiteboarder and owner of Ozone Travel, a kiteboarding travel company based in Key Biscayne, Fla. Beber-Futernick caught such a bad case of wind lust that she partnered with Laurel Eastman, a former professional kiteboarder who founded a kiteboarding school in Cabarete, Dominican Republic, to launch Kite Fever clothing and accessories in April.
A hybrid of snowboarding, windsurfing and parasailing, kiteboarding (aka kitesurfing) involves being strapped to a board and using the power of a large controllable kite to travel across the water. Since getting its start in France in the Seventies, the sport has caught on, particularly in places such as Cabarete, Tarifa in southern Spain and the north shore of Maui. Rick Iossi, founder of the Florida Kitesurfing Association in Boynton Beach, Fla., estimates 70,000 kites will be sold worldwide this year.
But kiteboarding is no cheap thrill. A sport-specific kite and the device to control it range from $500 to $1,200, while a kite board, which looks similar to a snowboard, costs $500 to $900. Other costs include accessories such as a harness and a board leash.
As kiteboarding has gained popularity, women's participation has increased, and more products specifically for women are starting to emerge. Sandrine Beaudonnat, communications manager for the International Kiteboarding Organization in Cabarete, which regulates the instructional standards of its affiliated schools worldwide and sells kiteboarding insurance, said that of the more than 50,000 certification cards IKO has issued to students since 2002, approximately 25 percent have been to women; 10 of its 80 schools are managed by women, and 10 percent of its 2,000 instructors are women.
"We used to joke about when a woman would show up on the cover of a kiteboarding magazine, and now they're on all the time," said Iossi, who welcomes a woman's finesse and intuition to the growing sport.
"Not only do they add some variety on the water, but they use better judgment, which is so important in an activity that can be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing," he noted.
Apparel and gear manufacturers are definitely taking notice. Best Kiteboarding, a kite, board and apparel company in Delray Beach, Fla., launched women's clothing in 2004, with items wholesaling as low as $3. Bestsellers now are a tank top sporting the line's flying fish logo and boyshorts. Colors are kept to simple black, white or pink.
Owner Alex Shogren, who is focusing more on kiteboarding than on other water sports because he believes it's the fastest-growing one, said his company is now making hot pink kites and boards for women. Best also sponsors women kiteboarders like Eastman.
"I like that they're making kites with women in mind. Pink's more noticeable, too, and tells everyone that a woman's out there on the water," said Eastman.
Dakine, an outdoor sport equipment and apparel manufacturer in Hood River, Ore., also adapts its kiteboarding division to women's bodies and needs. Women's harnesses are scaled for women's figures, and are accented in hot pink and floral prints to color-coordinate with Lycra spandex rash guards. Wholesale prices range from $10.50 for a short-sleeved Lycra rash guard to $20 for a backpack designed for a woman's figure with quilted detail and a fleece-lined pocket for sunglasses, to $22.50 for a fleece zip hoodie to wear off the water.
Popular with kiteboarders, Neilpryde, a Hong Kong-based waterwear company with U.S. distribution offices in Miami, makes rash guards with SPF 50 protection and boardshort attachments so tops won't ride up. The rash guards vary in thickness, seam construction and contrast colors or prints, and they come with long or short sleeves. Color combinations are red and light gray, white and gold or white, copper and pink.
"Kiteboarders also appreciate our water booties and gloves so they don't get blisters or cut their feet on rocky beaches during water entries," said sales manager Mila Sardelli.
Though Girls4Sport, a waterwear brand in Santa Cruz, Calif., grew out of surf culture in 2003, partner Kim Ruby reports kiteboarding is an important niche and now accounts for 20 percent of the brand's sales. The company sponsors kiteboarders like Beber-Futernick and designs longer boardshorts or reversible, two-layered boardshorts for kiteboarders, so they're more protected against harness chafing. A coral psychedelic print reverses to black, or a hibiscus print reverses to navy. Boardshorts wholesale from $22.50 to $25, depending on length.
All items are SPF rated. "Most kiteboarders are out on the water, which really reflects the sun, at least two to three hours, and they really need extra protection," said Ruby.
Rash guards in four styles with SPF 65 protection and built-in shelf bras wholesale from $17.50 for halters to $22.50 for long sleeves. Ruby reports that a black neoprene jacket for $62.50 wholesale is perfect beachwear between kiteboarding rounds. "We're introducing it in more colors," she said. The company recently launched large gear bags, baseball caps and long fleece scarves with hand pockets for winter 2005.
But floral rash guards and pink kites aren't enough. Ask any woman who kiteboards what's missing from the market, and she'll say functional, yet feminine swimwear. "There's so much room for innovation," said Iossi.
Eastman agreed that designers shouldn't be fooled by all the wild action on the waves. "We still want to be girls out there," she said.
Eastman and Beber-Futernick's new Kite Fever line consists of backpacks, messenger bags and beach bags fashioned from colorful, recycled rip-stop nylon and Dacron kites, as well as men's and women's T-shirts in thin, soft cotton with the company's red phoenix logo that mimics a hoisted kite.
A women's baseball jersey with three-quarter sleeves in baby blue and cocoa wholesales for $12.50, and a sleeveless T-shirt in olive and pink wholesales for $11.50. Bags wholesale for $25. Eastman and Beber-Futernick plan to expand with rash guards in red Lycra -- that particular color chosen as a marriage of fashion and safety -- and boardshorts without Velcro.
"People go kite-crazy. They want to watch DVDs and read magazines about it, and they're always watching the wind," Eastman said. "We want clothes that capture that feeling."
Caption(s): Former professional kiteboarder Laurel Eastman owns a kiteboarding school and is a partner in the Kite Fever line of gear. / Pro kiteboarder Daphne Laliberte is the IKO's first female instructor. / Left, Dakine rash guard worn with reversible boardshorts from Girls4Sport. Right, Kite Fever's bags are made from recycled kiteboarding kites.
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