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The First Track Lab is a research and development facility based in the middle of the mountains in Verbier, Switzerland.
Here, they do everything related to product development, from design to prototyping, and they recently opened a production capacity to produce a series of products just like Gin kiteboards. They moved the facility a few years back to be close to the Verbier ski resort to quickly put out to test all the prototypes on snow and on the nearest lakes for kiteboard testing.
The collaboration between Gin and the First Track Lab has been entirely organic. We have been very well integrated with the Team since the very early phases of the project. For us, this is always an easier way to get things done most efficiently. The objective for us was to make a product that is both simple but also very efficient. For that, we had to work together from the beginning of the design phase, not just execute a product that would already be developed.
The idea is to have a highly efficient and simple product that we can produce here in Switzerland with the highest quality grade, we can offer. A pretty premium product overall that should remain simple and timeless. We didn’t recommend any crazy designs with many colours that would have to be changed yearly. We wanted something more natural that you can keep over the years. A board that will never go out of fashion! We are trying to simplify the design to the maximum.
We also have that design idea that directly comes from Gin, where they wanted to have something a bit more aggressive on the extremities instead of a rounder tip and tail. So we took the opportunity to integrate the ABS for technical and design reasons because it somehow looks friendly with the shape that Gin suggested.
“I’ve been really psyched to see that there are a bunch of guys trying to bring here all this development and research for all these sports that we love, and they do it with good values so I really embrace what they do.” – Xavier de le Rue – Gin Ambassador
There are a few different main steps in the fabrication process. First, we start working with the core, which is made of a mix of wood types. We use paulownia, making the board very light and easy to use. We then combine it with bamboo, only where it is needed under the bindings to reinforce specific points and enhance energy conductivity between the foot and the rest of the board. Then we remove some thickness on the extremities of the core with a CNC machine, which will give the flex and the grip to the board. Next, we add ABS sidewalls to keep the inside of the board waterproof. Then, we glue fibre layers with epoxy resin on top and under the wood core. We then press everything together in an enormous custom press we made here. The rest is about finishing the board, and this is really where we have the most handwork.
Making a kiteboard is quite similar to making a snowboard. Skis, snowboards and kiteboards are constantly exposed to water and humidity, so we need to ensure that everything is perfectly waterproof and water can’t ever reach the core. Again, it is about guaranteeing the product’s longevity. So even though they are destined to different elements, the construction principles are the same. We are talking about the same production equipment, the same main phases of production, and the same materials, and I think we also share a common passion for the ride, whether on snow or water.
Several values bond Gin Kiteboarding with the First Track Lab. The first component is really about the “Swissness” of the project. We want to have a premium, handmade product here in Switzerland, with a high concern for quality and durability. The minimalist design and search for efficiency are also typical Swiss product attributes. Another critical element distinct to Gin and the First Track Lab is innovation—trying to find the best combination of materials and production processes to get the best product that will be innovative and give. The user has the best experience. And lastly, of course, we share a strong common interest in the passion for riding sports, whether on water, snow or wherever.
We might have a few secret projects (that I cannot tell you about) coming up with Gin, so we envision a long-term collaboration regarding product design and innovation and producing a series of products for Gin.
Head over to Gin Kiteboarding to find out more!
Mon 29th May, 2023 @ 12:27 pm
By Jen TylerItalian/Egyptian Jen Tyler grew up on the sandy beaches of the Red Sea and has been on the IKSURFMAG & Tonic Mag team since 2017.