Jérémy Legardeur is a professor of product design at the ESTIA technical institute in Biarritz and a member of the ISPO AWARD jury. For him, the iRIG is "an ingenious and simple inflatable solution that simplifies windsurfing anywhere, anytime."
To learn more about the genesis of this innovation and possible impulses for the water sports industry, ISPO.com spoke with Raoul Joa, who as product manager at Boards and More is responsible for the North Sails and Arrows brands.
ISPO.com: Mr. Joa, how did the idea for the iRIG come about?
Raoul Joa: I've been carrying around the idea of developing an inflatable rig for windsurfers that could make it much easier to get started in the sport for a few years now. With the stand-up paddle boom of the past few years, which has brought many regular bathers to the water sport, I saw great potential to get new people interested in windsurfing. The only question was how to find a working technical solution for an easy-to-use windsurfing rig.
What was the development process like from the initial idea to the finished product?
Since my day-to-day focus was on product development and marketing at North Windsurfing, there was rarely time for extensive development work. But our hardware engineer didn't let up and kept bringing up the topic. But all experiments with an inflatable boom, which should consist of two tubes like a conventional boom in a windsurfing rig, failed. Then, during a brainstorming session, I came up with the brilliant idea of replacing the boom with a continuous tube that divides the sail area into two parts. That was the breakthrough.
How long was the pure development time?
From the idea of a boom made of one element to the first prototype took just under two weeks. After the first tests, there were three to four prototype phases until the final design was ready. Thanks to the in-house know-how in kite and windsurf technology, this was an incredibly small development effort.
For windsurfing and stand-up paddling
Who is the iRIG intended for, who is the target group?
The iRIG is primarily intended for people who want to use their stand-up paddle board even in a light breeze. If paddling becomes more tedious when the wind starts blowing, the iRIG provides a new sporty dimension. But also on conventional windsurf boards the iRIG can be used excellently for beginners and children. Its big advantage is the low weight. It is 70 percent lighter than a conventional windsurf rig and weighs only 1 to 2.2 kilograms, depending on the size.
How do people react when they see and try out the iRIG for the first time?
Very positively and curiously. It is fascinating to see how quickly even supposedly rather unsporty people get along with the iRIG and have a sense of achievement on a tilt-stable SUP board without much explanation. And that even without any previous knowledge from windsurfing!
Can I easily attach the iRIG to any SUP board and windsurfing board?Yes, because modern SUP boards nowadays all have a mount for a mast foot and a center fin, which prevents drifting and is necessary for windsurfing. For older SUPs we have also developed a solution where the iRIG is attached to the board by a circumferential strap. A missing center fin can also be replaced in a similar way with our drift stopper. For windsurf boards, the iRIG mast foot fits into the conventional mast foot mount.
ISPO AWARD as an impulse generator
Where can I buy the iRIG?
The iRIG is primarily sold in windsurfing and SUP retailers and is also available in larger sports stores like Sport Scheck.
What does the ISPO PRODUCT OF THE YEAR award mean to you?
The award means a lot to us, and the response we got to the product at ISPO and after the show far exceeded our expectations. Countless distributors approached us right at the trade show and offered themselves as potential sales partners. We have not seen such great interest in a new product in the windsurfing industry for a long time.
Has this positive response also changed the daily business routine after the presentation at ISPO MUNICH 2016?
Yes, especially with regard to the interest of the media. The iRIG as a product is suddenly also interesting for camping, travel and leisure magazines. We notice very clearly that we are addressing a target group that is very broadly oriented.
What are the next steps in terms of product development?
I already have ideas in my head to follow the iRIG One with the iRIG Sport. My vision is to develop an inflatable sail for the performance area of windsurfing as well. That is an exciting task.
Facts about the iRIG One:
What it is: The first inflatable windsurf rig.
Available in 4 sizes: XS-L, for body sizes from 100-200 cm.
Price: MSRP 379 Euro+
More information can be found here: Arrows Inflatable Technology Website