Hello, my name is Brigitte. In this blog I will keep track of my process designing a circular kite board. In this process the principals of different circular design strategies and business models according to the book Products that Last will be implemented.
Why a kiteboard?
I am a fanatic kitesurfer, I love to be on the water and I see the ocean as my second home. While practising my favourite sport I see my second home becomes more and more polluted. In my believe this is caused by the existing consumption society. I am not the only who one sees this happening. Asking around in the kiteworld I found, that even though we are all in love with the ocean, a “sustainable movement” in equipment of kitesurfing is missing. So while we are very aware of the debris what ends up in the ocean, we are not aware that the products that we use ourselves can also harm our playground. Many of the current users are involved in beach clean ups and recycling of those materials, but they are not aware of the end of life of their own product.
By designing a kiteboard with an extended life I’ll give the kiteboarders the opportunity to actively participate in a circular economy and contribute to a decreased amount of waste in the future.
To develop a more circular product it is important to identify the real environmental problem. In this project the main goal is to extend the product life. Therefore the focus in the analysis lies on the end of life of this product. Analysing the product itself and its components will lead to a better understanding of the material impact. It is also important to have a deeper understanding of the user to identify why they dispose their kite board and how it becomes obsolete.
In the analysis the following questions will be answered;
- What is a kiteboard?
- What are the components and materials of the kiteboard, and how is the board assembled?
- Who is the user?
- What is the context of the user?
The product and user analysis will lead to a deeper understanding of the end of life of a kiteboard and will end up in design opportunities to create a more circular kitebaord.
What is a kite board?
A kite board is used while practicing the sport kite surfing. This sport is a combination of wakeboarding, surfing and kiting. While standing on a board the user is pulled over the water by a kite.
There are different styles of kite boards:
Directional boards focussed on wave riding and twin-tip boards focussed on allround and freestyle. The twin-tip boards will be the focus in this project.
A kite board consist out of three main “parts”, analysing these parts will give some insights on what the impact of the materials and components are concerning sustainability.
Pads & Straps
The pads and straps sold by Lieuwe are imported. Different small kite brands sell the same products with different logo or colours.
Materials & Connections
The soft materials used in the footpads provide damping during hard landing. Different materials are used to offer the user the best contact with the board. These different materials are connected by glue. The pads and foot-strap are connected by 2 plastic parts which enable the user to adjust according to feat size. The pads and foot-straps are connected to the board with screws.
Each of the materials in the kite board are specially selected for optimal performance. In this combination of material expoxy has two different functions. To strengthen the material and to connect the wooden core with the protection foil.
The fins are the smallest parts of the kiteboard and connected to the kiteboard through screws.
- A screwdriver is needed to assemble the parts of the kiteboard.
- The glue and epoxy as connection in the different materials of the parts prevent dis- and reassembly at end of life of the product.
||TYPE 1: Pro Kitesurfer Since pro kiters are sponsored they get the newest models of the boards for free. This service of the kite brands creates a different sort of attachment to a product, than buying a board themselves. The free boards makes them less careful while doing their sport, what can result in broken boards while practising new tricks. On average they break about 1 board a year. These broken boards are usually brought back to the store, where they are thrown away.Problem statement and design challenge:The boards exist out of different materials combined together which create specific material properties that are needed for the product. When the board breaks the specific material cannot be reused for the function where it was made for. The value of the material changes immediately into waste when it breaks.
||TYPE 2: Fanatic kitesurfer The fanatic kitesurfer would love to kite every day, but work is also important. They start with a cheap board and every time their skills improve they want to a new board to enable better performance. The old ones they normally sell. This group does a lot of research before they buy a new board. Talking with a lot of people to get a better knowledge about what type of board fits to their style helps them in their buying decisions. Often it takes a long time till they find the perfect match with the board. Buy, try and sell again. But once they found their perfect board they will stick to it forever.Problem statement and Design challenge:It takes a couple of boards to buy try and sell before the perfect board is found. It will be the challenge to develop a service or add a service to be able to get a perfect match in performance and your style to prevent outwearing a the (material).
||TYPE 3: Occasional kitesurferThe beginning kitesurfer often starts very enthusiastic. After some lessons they are so stoked that they buy their gear immediately. Since they don’t know anything about the sport yet they try to find the cheapest gear on the 2nd hand market. It often happens that they try it a couple of times and then quit. The board will stay in the closet as forgotten.Problem statement and design challenge:Even though the gear is bought second hand, it is really expensive. It is a pity the gear is only used a couple times a year. This means the gear loses its value. The challenge will be to design a service to make a better use of the value of the material.
Analysing the different user groups leaded to different design opportunities per user group. Since the limited time in the project only one user group could be selected for further elaboration in finding circular design solutions. I belong to the fanatic kite users, so this group is choses to design for.
To get a better understanding of the purchasing and disposal behaviour of the kitebaorders a questionnaire has been conducted. This questionnaire was posted on the (closed) facebook page “kitesurf zandmotor” were kitesurfers have their discussions about everything that interest a kitesurfer. These kitesurfers vary between 15 and 60 years old and all have different levels.
30 people filled in the form made on qualtrics, mostly man.
The questions were asked:
- How many years are you kitesurfing?
- How many boards did you own during this period?
- What are the most important facts concerning purchasing:
- performance, quality, durability, looks, brand, service, price
- How do you get the information to find the best board?
- Internet, advise of friends, testing, advise in store, brand image
- Are you attached to the board, why?
- Why did you get rid of your old board?
The following picture shows the result of the questionnaire.
Conclusions market research:
- The average lifecycle of the board is 1.3 year (technically the board could be used a lifetime)
- The most important feature of the board concerning purchasing is performance.
- Only 10 % of the kitesurfers test their board before purchasing others collect their data through friends and internet.
- The half of the persons are really attached to the board, the main reason why they are attached to is is because the material matches their performance.
- Overall the kitesurfer buys a new board when he improves in his skills.
These results will be taken into account when design decisions will be made concerning the preferred need ands wants of the user when choosing the right business model and design strategies.
Analysing the user leaded to the insight that the fanatic kitesurfers outgrow their boards and pads because they improve in performance. The moments of progression and material needed will be identified to be able to analyse the life cycle of the board and the disposal behaviour of this target group.
Different phases can be identified in the progress of kitesurfing.
- learn to sail one direction
- making turns
- learning hooked tricks
- learning unhooked tricks
It’s not a must, but every phase has its own material needs.
Beginners need a stiff chamber shaped board in order to make it easier for them to sail upwind. Also the pads attached to the board need to be easy to get in since they loose their board often while practising the beginning of kiteboarding. At a certain point in their learning curve they master the skill of sailing upwind. The next step will be to learn how to make turns. At this point a board with a rocker shape and pads more tighter enables the user to make the turns easier. This means a new board has to be purchased. The process in progression and the gear needed per progression level is showed in the picture below.
This picture shows the optimal combination of gear and level of progression. What happens now is that per progression a new or second hand board is bought. In the outcomes of the questionnaire only 10% of the people purchase their board based on testing, so that leaves the rest in guessing if they buy a board matched to their needs. The next step in their progress they probably need a different board. The old board will be sold on the 2nd hand market or even worse; stocked away. If this happens at every progression phase, in the end the user will end up with different kiteboards in their basement.
Average of 1,3 year (market analysis)
A clear disposal behaviour and life cycle of the kiteboard. We can state that the average kitesurfer uses his kiteboard for a year and than leaves it to the dusty basement to buy a new one. The boards are technically not at the end of their life so there lies an opportunity to create a more circular design.