Backstory: Eleveight

As happened with many established kite brands, wing foiling came almost out of nowhere and offered a quick and easy transition in terms of materials, research and design knowledge, and the easily-piqued interest of the brands’ loyal customer base. Eleveight approached things slightly differently, preferring to keep their powder dry, watch and understand how the market was developing, before taking the plunge with a comprehensive and very well received wing foil range. We got in touch with founder Philippe Martin to hear how the Eleveight journey has played out to date…


So Phil, firstly let’s start off with a little about yourself – what’s your history in the industry, and what were you doing before Eleveight?

I’ve been really passionate about water sports since I was a child. I started surfing first, but was so young at the time that I can’t even remember my first time out! I then discovered kiteboarding back in 2002, when I was 18, and since then I have never stopped riding. I’ve traveled the world kiteboarding and also competed in some KPWT events, as well as the French championships. It’s now more than 20 years since I started kiting, and it’s coming up to three years of winging. After my studies, I worked for a leading kite brand at the time, where I was taking care of the French market for many years, as well as working on the sales management side.

 

Tell us how it all started for Eleveight. What led you to create the brand, and what was your main focus at the start?

It is not an easy decision to launch a brand, especially in such a competitive and complicated market. But for years we always had this feeling that we could do something better and different. The Eleveight team had a lot of experience and contacts and knew that at some point it would be the right time to launch our brand. When I look back, I realize how everything went so fast… Our biggest focus was simply to do our best, and most importantly to have a family-driven brand, made by kiters, for kiters, with no investor-driven goals behind the brand dictating what we have to do. Our whole network of shops, distributors and even customers felt our story, and I am convinced that this is one of the reasons for the success of our brand today. We are now a major player in both the kite and wing industry, privately owned, and we are very happy with our achievements and the relationships we formed!

 

Cool! Where did the name Eleveight come from?!

Well, when myself and my partners decided to create a brand, we had a big brainstorming session and wrote down quite a lot of names that might fit… At first, we all liked the name Elevate because the main essence of our sport is to “Elevate”. The “8” is also the sign of infinity, like the infinite love and passion we all have for the sport. If I remember correctly, our awesome friend and graphic designer Sam had the idea to incorporate the logo into the name of the brand and then call it Eleveight.

Where is the company based?

We all work from different locations, but they are all key spots for the industry. Marketing and R&D are very much linked to each other and are based in Guincho, Portugal, which is a fantastic place to develop and test products. There are so many options in terms of having waves or flat water, but also ride in different kinds of wind, from the strongest in Guincho, to lighter winds in Costa da Caparica or north of Lisbon.

For the sales department, we are based in Pérols, near Montpellier in France, which is also a key location for wind sports. Around Montpellier we also test a range of products with the help of a great crew of testers. All the logistics and administration work is handled in Xanten in Germany.

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Other than yourself, who are the other key players behind the scenes?

We are all key players at Eleveight! We are a team, a family, and we rely and depend so much on each other. We trust each other in all that we do and make sure we are all on the same page. Our company was built on mutual confidence and trust, and I consider all of our people as key players. We have many people doing their best each day in every department and our priority is really to give our best and satisfy our customers overall… we are driven by this common goal.

How far into things did you start to focus on foiling as a growing market?

It is quite impressive how the sport of wingfoiling pushed all brands to develop foil products in a very short period of time. When winging appeared, we were fully expanding our product line in kitesurfing and growing a lot. When winging was starting to take off, we decided to spend more time and energy in what we knew how to do best: kitesurfing.

A few years on, and I can still say that this decision was the right one. In developing foils and wings we certainly took a bit more time than other competitors, but our new WFS, Evolve and HXS range are clearly making all our customers happy. Next year we will start expanding our range by making additional new and exciting wing products, as well as adding a lot of new board sizes and a brand new high performance foil range.

So you will be building your own foils?

Yes, we started slowly back then at the beginning by making wings in a few different sizes, but we externalized the foil production. For next year, all our foil designs will be developed internally with a much better and more sophisticated R&D process. It will be a big step forward in our hydrofoils, for sure.

Did you have a sense of how big the sport was going to get when you began?

To be frank, like many others, when I saw the first wing picture, I was really sceptical. But hey, who wasn’t back then?! I had no real opinion about which direction the sport would take, but after a while and trying it myself (and obviously getting addicted!), I understood all the doors and dimensions that winging would open… Basically, you feel safe on a wing, you are not hooked to any kite, so you feel free, it is also lighter than a windsurf sail in your arms, so less physical, you can simply go back and forth on an inflatable SUP if you don’t want to push the sport further and just get your first ride sensation. You can also ride any small beach or lake that was inaccessible with a kite, and the magic of using the wing to catch waves and do infinite downwinders in the swell is an incredible feeling…

Amen to that. So give us an overview of your foil range right now…

We have a very versatile, crossover wing named the WFS. It is a wing with a deep profile, made with a boom. We decided to keep using booms for this year and I would say that 90% of our users who have been riding the WFS are now hooked to the boom system. It gives so much comfort, especially for freeriding and freestyle, and you can place your hands wherever you want to for water starts, transitions and enjoy smoother passes. For next year we will keep this product in our line-up, and add a second wing model that's very light, and made with a new handle system. The new model will still remain a versatile wing, but will have more focus on wave riding and pure performance.

The Evolve board has a whole range of sizes, fat 55, 72, 90, 125 liters, in a PVC carbon sandwich construction. For next year we are extending our range with new sizes. We have chosen the most comprehensive construction methods using a PVC carbon sandwich with carbon reinforcements for each insert and are so happy about the feedback. It ensures our boards have a very direct feel and are extremely durable while still being lightweight. The high degree of customer satisfaction and zero warranty cases confirms it.

Good construction is very important. It is cool to have an extremely light board, but boards are suffering a lot when winging. I see many users hitting sand banks, hitting rocks, falling hard on their boards or weaknesses around the inserts… So being robust, stiff and direct and still light is key for a wing board.

Where do you do the majority of your product testing for your foil range?

We share the task of product development and testing between Portugal, France and also Brazil. We exchange a lot of information between us, including our own feedback and how we can improve the products. We also sometimes involve our dealer network in the testing of our products, and they give the most interesting feedback, fresh, from the market itself!

You have a growing team of ambassadors. How does your selection process work for anyone wanting to join your foil team?

We don’t look to have too many ambassadors; we just want to have the right people who fit the brand and our values. Our “army” of ambassadors are clearly doing an incredible job and have helped us since the very beginning to extend our vision, our products and the brand image. We always try to support them in the best possible way, and we are proud of what they do for us. They are the eyes and the ears in every single country and market, they are very loyal to the brand, and they help us by reporting issues as well as any new opportunities in each market.

So finally, who’s out there killing it on the Eleveight foil gear right now?

We have many local and national riders but don’t yet have any international riders. As we are extending and going deeper into our foil range now, we are looking for a young and talented rider to help and grow with our brand, like we did with kiting in the past. I personally think Titouan Galea and Hugo Marin are the best riders out there, but there is an army of young guns ready to rip and kill it on Eleveight gear in the near future…

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