08/11/2016 | BEHIND THE BOOT
We caught up with Design and Brand Director Clinton Filen on the Airush Boot program.
What was the broader idea with developing the Boot program for Airush Kiteboarding and how has it progressed since its inception?
With our legacy of being the leading Freestyle Brand in the market and working with the absolute best rider in the world, we saw the weaknesses of wakeboarding boots for kiteboarding and the opportunity to bring our concepts, design style and innovation to the market.
For example we have a philosophy of working to make products twice as durable as our competitors. The current boots on the market lacked key features in terms of comfort, technology and durability specific to kiting.
We started from a very solid platform of knowledge with a very inspired team of developers and testers and over the last few years have continued to refine every detail possible.
The base plate of boots are crucial for perfect contact with the board. What focus was put on the plate in order to limit heel and toe lift?
The overall design of the base plate was done considering the higher loads and different pull tension direction associated with kiteboarding. For example there is a lot more upwards load and a much greater toeside pressure associated with kiting, which both place much more heel lift onto the binding.
Working extensively on the structural design to keep the weight down with maximum stiffness through optimizing of the internal ribs, stiffening plates and overall thickness, at the same time we optimized the fiber content into the injection molded part, for maximum stiffness without becoming brittle.
Each person has differences in how their foot is shaped. How do you find the perfect fit and sizing?
As a design team we have a good depth of knowledge, having working on wakeboard bindings, snowboards boots and bindings and footwear in the past. In addition, our manufacturing partner has an extensive background in premium binding and boot manufacturing. Together this background gives us a good standard to work from.
In addition, we did a huge amount of development this year with the overall design of the inner boot with different stages of foam density and shaping to enable the boot to contour to each individual riders foot shape.
Finally looking at the outer design, the shaping, lacing system and positioning of the flex zones has been optimized through ongoing testing, feedback and refinement with a large focus group of riders.
How do you measure and test stiffness of each boot that you test?
We have a pretty good idea during the construction of the boot by the different use of materials how to optimize the boot stiffness.
However, a lot of it comes down to testing it on the water and seeing how the boots feel as they change over time. We work very closely with key riders such as Alex Pastor, Bas Koole, Anthar Racca and Oswald Smith as they all have different riding styles and requirements, ride boots 100% of the time and push the design requirements constantly. Dean Freedberg (co-designer collaborating on the project) and myself will also make a point of testing everything we make, to give a more average riders view and really understanding the product.
We also looked at ways to make a stiffer boot without an increase in weight, if you look the Airush AP boot you will notice a unique 3D outer molding that is lightweight but increases the structural rigidity in key places. The Reefer boot continues to be the softer boot in the range allowing for more flexibility by using softer materials while continue to support especially through the heel.
Why do you feel there is a need for Kite specific boots?
Firstly, kiters spend a longer amount of time riding than wakeboarders do, for example it’s not uncommon to ride for a few hours, whereas generally wakeboarding you would have much shorter sessions.
Secondly, the loads are higher. Even at an intermediate level, you go much higher and land hotter a lot more often than you would wakeboarding.
Thirdly, the loads are different. Its not uncommon to get continually dragged along, putting a lot of upwards tension on the boot against the board. This loads the stitching radically and puts significant upwards stress on the base plate. This would not typically happen wakeboarding as when you eat shit you just let go of the wake handle behind the boat or on the cable.
What damage do you normally see on boots used in freshwater vs boots designed for saltwater?
The metal parts are extremely prone to degradation during use in saltwater, so the quality and finishing of any metal parts needs to be optimized. Certain PU materials and meshes don’t react well to salt water so we make a point of testing each component extensively before use.
There has been changed in the lace locking system. What have you changed and how has it improved?
The eyelets are now full stainless steel rings to deal with the ongoing use associated with kiting. We have also received feedback of lace locking systems that have been proven to work with continual use and abuse. We have updated our lacelock to these clips with awesome response from the riders.
You use a lot of unique materials. How do you come about finding and utilizing these materials?
We work on a lot of different products and are constantly being exposed to different new materials available, our different specialist designers are often sharing what they have learnt in their field and seeing how this can be applied across other products.
This is also one of our design philosophies “Does the product bring something new to the customer”
Weight is extremely important for riders. What have you done to keep the weight of the Airush boots down while maintaining the durability and stiffness of the boot?
From the start, one of our key criteria was to minimize the weight of the product without sacrificing comfort or durability. The overall design of the base plate was a key focus, as we started from scratch developing a boot for kiting, we focused on the right materials and structural design to keep the weight down. We also selected premium upper components that where strong and stiff where required and innovated on key parts such as the 3D molded upper on the AP boot.