Luke Thomas founder of Lacuna Kites describes below his journey and challenges of creating the brand we know and love today.
Definitely, a must-read for kitesurfing enthusiasts.
“I started windsurfing in 1985 as a 12-year-old boy. Living in Johannesburg, 600km from the nearest ocean, my parents would take the family to the local dam and we would play around on Windsurfer One Designs. These boards were huge, massive pop-out plastic molded monoliths. It was an exasperating effort simply getting them from the car’s rooftop racks to the water’s edge. They had removable wooden daggerboards, triangular sails, and wooden booms – resembling nothing of the sport of windsurfing we know today. Looking back the equipment was archaic, stone-age stuff. Yet my family and friends loved it, and it was some of the best memories of my life.
I fell deeply in love with windsurfing and over the years I got better, 3 years later I enjoyed my first windsurf in the Indian Ocean, my first session at Vetches Beach in Durban. It was exciting watching windsurfing equipment develop so rapidly in a young sport, watching legends such as Robby Naish and Laird Hamilton in their prime. As a teenager, all 4 walls of my room were plastered with pictures from ‘Boardsailer’ magazine. In 1999, on an annual Easter weekend windsurfing trip with friends to Sterkfontein Dam, we were gobsmacked – Anthony Teale from Cape Windsurf Centre brought Anthony Berzack and Angus ‘Goose’ Welch up from Cape Town to demo the new sport of kitesurfing. Berzack pumped up a 9sqm Naish AR5 with a tiny little blue handheld pump, cruised straight out and jumped 3 stories high. That moment changed my life. I’d been windsurfing for 15 years and had never jumped remotely that high. I was hooked, I went straight back to Johannesburg, sold all my windsurfing gear, emptied my bank account a bought a 9sqm Naish AR5.
With my first kitesurfing purchase, I realized very quickly that there were many areas for improvement. I took that kite to a local sail repair shop and asked if I gave them a design for a kite if they could make such a product. Having started my own business 6 months earlier, I regretfully never pursued the kite manufacturing project. Over the years, just like windsurfing before it, kitesurfing equipment improved in leaps and bounds. In my 20th year of kitesurfing, I have bought a lot of kites, but on every purchase, there were always details I believed could be better, and prices that could be lower.
In mid-2017, the opportunity presented itself for me to be involved with the design and distribution of a kite brand, just like all those years ago.
We unwrapped and pumped up and flew the first Lacuna Gamma prototype kite. It was a terrible kite. We interrogated the design, the materials, the construction methods and we tried again. Over the next 2 years, we bought and tested over 40 kites from 8 top brands. Some were fantastic, some were not, all had areas for improvement. And so, we revised and improved our own designs. We produced countless prototypes, some kites were tested with over 60 bridle configurations. A rigorous, time-consuming, and expensive exercise.
We persevered and developed one kite after the other – testing and refining relentlessly. And make no mistake, many brands test in Cape Town for good reason. Because Cape Town is the litmus test for kitesurfing equipment. Cape Town summers serve up conditions like no other place on earth. Endless 25-40 knot plus days, searing sunshine, cold water & big surf. That’s why the best are here, every year. Our no-compromise attitude to quality has resulted in a range of bulletproof kites and boards that can stand proud with the best. Utilizing only the best materials, the best construction methods, and refined designs, Lacuna products represent quality.
To our astonishment, the prices were a fraction of what we had been paying big brands all these years. What started as a project to make the best possible kite became an opportunity to make quality kites affordable to the rider. And we feel we have done just that. We aim to continue innovating and improving and to continue making quality kite surfing equipment affordable.”