His passion for kitesurfing was born when he saw a surfer being pulled by a kite in Hawaii. That moment was true revelation for Martial Camblong, who is dedicated to developing the sport and who works towards making it accessible to as many people as possible. In 2005, his dream took flight when he created the kitesurf brand GENETRIX with a friend. It was a daring bet, but one that paid off since their innovations were taken up by the biggest players in the industry.
Martial, where did you grow up?
My family is originally from the Basque Country, but we moved around a lot for my father’s job.
How did you get into kitesurfing?
I had heard that in Hawaii surfers were being pulled with kites, I thought that was amazing and so in 1996 I decided to get over there and meet them. That was a defining moment for me, which changed my life.
“The beginnings were amazing, we lived through an incredible and exciting time, because there were only a handful of us that believed in this new sport.”
What did you do before GENETRIX?
I have a technical background in industrial design.
When kitesurfing began, everything had to be invented. The beginnings were amazing, we lived through an incredible and exciting time, because there were only a handful of us that believed in this new sport. There was a group in Hawaii, one in Montpellier and Leucate and another one in New Zealand.
At first, it wasn’t about money so we all shared our innovations and ideas. Then, the industrialization phase came and things changed.
What made you launch your own brand, GENETRIX?
At the beginning of industrialization of kitesurfing, I worked for the first kitesurfing brands, but I had always wanted to create my own brand according to my own state of mind, which is based on performance, innovation and quality and that’s what I did in 2005.
“To stand out, there are a few key elements, which are marketing and […] innovation. That’s the aspect that I have always focused on.”
How can a small kitesurfing brand find its place among the global heavyweights?
It’s extremely difficult for small brands, because even the large ones are having a hard time nowadays.
To stand out, there are a few key elements, which are marketing and communication (which is really expensive and therefore exclusively reserved for the big players), but also innovation. That’s the aspect that I have always focused on.
Is focusing on innovation a priority for you?
Innovation is a quintessential part of my vision and therefore it is in the very DNA of GENETRIX. In 1998, with my friend Eric Sauré, we developed the very first 4 line depower kite bar. The system was then replicated by the entire kite industry but unfortunately we hadn’t protected it.
That was a beginner’s mistake, but it didn’t stop you from continuing to innovate, did it?
Of course not, the year after that, we designed the first bow kite, which was picked up by the main players in the industry in 2005.
I then developed the HYDRA wing, which enabled us to break the infamous 50 and 55 knot limit (speed of sound in sailing).
So naturally 5 years ago, with my team, I decided to commit 100% to developing the future kite bar.
“The ABS kitesurfing “Automatic Bar System” is a technical revolution. All those who’ve tested it agree that our system is destined to become a standard for all kite surfers.”
Is that what allowed you to win the 2018 Call for Innovation Projects held by EUROSIMA and OSV. Can you explain what that innovation is?
The ABS kitesurfing “Automatic Bar System” is a technical revolution. With a simple push of your finger on a switch, you can increase or reduce pressure instantly on the sail with a great deal of precision. It provides levels of safety, comfort and functionality, which had never been achieved before. All those who’ve tested it agree that our system is destined to become a standard for all kite surfers.
Why did you choose to set up in the South West?
Part of my heritage is in the Basque Country, so naturally I came back to my roots. In addition, the boardsports industry in the South West is highly recognized and regarded.
When I decided to settle in Bidart, many key players showed support: Herrikoa, the Izarbel technopole, the Sud Pays Basque agglomeration, Ocean Tech and EUROSIMA.
I very sincerely believe that it is an incredible opportunity for a small business like mine to be part of such an ecosystem.
“I’m most proud of never having given an inch, no matter how many challenges or much criticism I’ve had to overcome.”
What are you most proud of?
Personally, first and foremost, my kids.
My son Tommy-Lee who is 17, is an elite swimmer and swam for France at the last youth Olympics in Buenos Aires. He’s made a lot of sacrifices. He wakes up every morning at 5am for his morning practice, then he goes to class until 3:30pm and is back in the water training from 4pm to 7pm. This year he is aiming to qualify for the World Championships and the Tokyo Olympics. In addition, he will be heading off to university in the States to study marine biology.
His little brother is following in his footsteps but is more attracted to boardsports.
There is nothing that makes me prouder than seeing my kids thrive in what they’ve chosen and see them commit entirely and do well!
That’s basically what I’ve tried to pass on to them: “have a dream and do anything it takes to see it come true”.
And professionally, it would be not never have ever given in inch, no matter how many challenges and how much criticism I’ve had to overcome.
How is the kite market at the moment?
The kite market is now reaching maturity. Its growth remains constant from one year to the next thanks to increased accessibility, the fact that it isn’t difficult to transport and the sensations you get on the water, the snow or on land.
Boards have evolved significantly in the past few years and against all expectations, foil has exploded, demonstrating its potential in light wind conditions.
The market is dominated by 2 big players and then forty or so smaller brands that share the rest of the market.
How do you see kitesurfing develop in the future?
I really believe in the potential of small kite boats like a Hobbie 4. The entire crew shares the sensations, which brings a completely different approach. It’s pretty amazing because you can bring complete beginners aboard and have a great time.
Any new projects for the future?
We are currently working on sustainable projects using very large kites to produce electricity.
Interview: Stéphanie Godin