Kitesurfing Equipment for Women – A Real Thing, or a Marketing Trend?

Kitesurfing Equipment for Women – A Real Thing, or a Marketing Trend?

Kitesurfing Equipment for Women – A Real Thing, or a Marketing Trend?

As a female kitesurfing instructor, I am often questioned about female-specific equipment. Is it really worth shopping for, or is it just a marketing trend to attract feminine customers? Here is my opinion on the women-oriented kitesurfing merchandise. I do not want to advocate for any brand here, but more likely to study why you should or should not consider buying female-specific equipment.

Boards
As I am reading descriptions of female-specific boards, it seems they are adapted for women in four different ways. First of all, the board is softer, hence adapted to lighter riders. Second, it is offered in smaller sizes, generally from 128 to 132 cm. Third, women boards often come with smaller footstraps. Finally, the footstraps settings are a bit narrower. Those board settings are good, taking for granted that women have smaller feet and are lighter and shorter. Some women may need these specifications, but not all women are light and short. I have run into male students that were lighter than me and could have used those settings on their board. Would a man buy a female-specific board? I doubt so. As for footstraps size, it is always possible to buy them separately. My conclusions about women boards? They are good for some lighter and shorter women, but most women would find a suitable board within the “male” merchandise. My final word for this: boards should be gender-neutral and include those women-specific settings on their current models, making them accessible for everyone.

Kites
Women-specific kites are a sad thing. I cannot think of any reasons why a woman would need a kite specific to their gender. If a woman is lighter, she needs to buy a smaller kite, that’s all. Reading the description of female-specific kites, they advertise it as more stable. Why…? Why would women need more stable kites? Why would men be better at handling fidgety kites? Most female pro-riders ride gender-neutral kites, and those who do not, that is because they are marketing their own female-specific brand. Women do not need women-specific kites. They need kites specific to their discipline, may it be wave riding, foiling, racing, big air, freeride, freestyle, etc… Beginner women need entry-level kites just as much as their counterpart does. The second sad thing is that women-specific kites are actually good kites. However, they would be good kites for everyone, regardless of their gender. Now, unless men are secure enough in their heterosexuality (read here the common misconception that a man using women stuff is “gay”, and that being gay is shameful), they will not be using a woman-specific kite. So about 80% of the market will not even consider buying those kites. Many brands tried marketing women-specific gear and finally dropped the line because they did not sell. The real reason is not that women do not buy kites, but simply that they do not need women-specific kites.

Bars
Just like boards, women-specific bars only half make sense. In general, women have shorter arms and I often see my female students having a hard time reaching the bar when it is fully sheeted out. How can you comfortably steer the kite if you only have the fingertips on the bar? A short-throw bar is needed, and my experience as an instructor is that it happens more often with women. However, teenagers and children learning to kite will need it, and men with short arms are not a myth, they do exist. So short-throw bars should not be advertised as women-specific, but simply as a short-arm-specific.

Harnesses
Of all the female-specific equipment, the harness is the one that makes the most sense, in my opinion. Women’s body is simply not the same as men’s. Women have narrower shoulders and wider hips, while men are the opposite. For a man, if the harness is tightened correctly around the waist, it should not ride up because of wider shoulders (in theory, anyway). For a woman, it is more likely to ride up because shoulders are narrower. If you ever felt the discomfort of having a harness pressing against your breasts, you may have felt like this sport is not for you. Waist harnesses for women are meant to fix this problem, hence are more comfortable for women. Otherwise, seat harnesses are a good option for women that have riding-up-harness problems. Some women will, however, use harnesses designed for men with no issue at all, so you should buy a harness that feels comfortable to you, no matter of the gender.

Colours
How about the pretty colours? If you are like me and you buy your wine because the label is pretty, you may have ended up with random quality drinks. Colours should not be the first selection criteria. It is ok if you like pink or purple, but you should first make sure that the kite or board fits your needs. If you are into those commonly known as girly colours, then maybe women-specific gear make sense after all. As a woman, I run away from those colours, and I doubt I am the only one. Seeing how the female-specific gear is also moving away from those colours, it seems like the trend was not so popular. I would also add a note about something I have seen on a women kitesurfing forum. Someone had altered the white part of her kite with a pink marker (we are talking about half of the kite’s canopy). I am no chemistry scientist, but I doubt the ink is good for the canopy and could react very badly with the UV’s. Also, consider the resale market before doing this poor-quality alteration. It is like painting your car with indoor paint. It looks cheap, it is not going to last long, the material will disintegrate faster and it will be hard to sell, especially if it is pink in a male-dominated industry. If you need a pink kite that bad, then you should buy a pink kite.

Price
Is women-specific gear more expensive? If it is made out of the same materials, it should not be. There is no reason why female-specific gear would be more expensive. If it is, then it is probably just a marketing hit.

I need to highlight the efforts that brands are doing to include women. I am not sure they are doing it the right way by designing women-specific gear (exception made for the harnesses) instead of adding women-specific settings to their regular gear. I am no marketing professional, and if the marketing team told to do so, I suppose it was a good move. What I’ve seen, however, is that women-specific gear doesn’t sell. If retailers ever order them, they sell them at a discounted price at the end of the season because they are stuck with it. I would rather see more women in gender-neutral kite advertising, than women-specific kites advertised as “easier to use”. Because let’s be honest, women shred just as much as men do.

Kitesurfing Equipment for Women – A Real Thing, or a Marketing Trend?

3 Comments

  • Really great post. You bring up some very good points, specifically the one about not all women being tiny little things who need smaller equipment. We just did an interview with Colleen Carroll about the Duotone boards that are good for women, and she didn’t recommend only the Soleil — which was kinda awesome. We also did an interview with Bruna, who has helped to design women’s gear for Airush and Mystic, and she has a little different take on it. Check out our interview with her and see what you think:

    https://womenkiteboarding.com/pro-rider-profile-series-bruna-kajiya/

    Really like your post, though!

    Kristin,
    • Thanks for your input, Kristin! It is interesting to see what pro-riders are thinking.

      Sylvie,
  • I am not a pro rider 🙂 and I agree with you on aesthetics – for me I loved the look of Susi Mai’s collection back then, but it was limited on where one could buy it from, expensive like you say and I thought it would be hard to re-sell. I enjoyed reading your article and I think bottom line I can conclude from this is that one should not market an item based on gender but rather based on size e.g. suits riders with a curved waist / small waist/ with narrower feet / with dinosaur arms. And still keep some pretty colors in some of the assortment. I guess it is all a learning curve for kite brand marketers.

    Louisa in Perth,
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