Lacanau: A start-up launches an electric-powered surfboard and aims to decarbonize activities at sea

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TRANSITIONThe Kahe Surf start-up has created the first electrically powered surfboard, and also markets a mobile electrical system that attaches to paddles, canoes or small boats Lacanau: A start-up launches an electrically assisted surfboard — 20 Minutes

  • It took five years of research and development for Kahe Surf to develop the very first electric-assisted surfboard.
  • A second electric assistance device has been designed by the Gironde start-up: the Kahe pod, a plug and play assistance device that attaches to any single-seater or two-seater, inflatable or rigid boat.
  • These two innovations should enable the start-up to subsequently tackle the boat market, “with the challenge of decarbonizing a sector that is currently 99% thermally equipped. »

Integrated into at the rear, in the thickness of the board, the electric assistance is perfectly invisible, as is the battery, accessible via a flap on the top of the board. To activate the assistance, a simple press of a button is enough. The very first surfboard to electric assistance, designed by the teams of the start-up Kahe Surf, based in Paris. Lacanau (Gironde), wants to be as simple as possible to use.

“The purpose of the assistance is mainly to help the surfer to get better. carry out its “take-off” [passage from the supine position to the standing] gently, explains Nicolas Quendez, engineer and co-founder of Kahe Surf. Thanks to; an on-board intelligence system, the assistance stops as soon as it detects that the surfer is standing on a wave, to let him surf naturally. On the other hand, if the wave is too soft, the assistance also detects it and stays on, which allows you to surf a wave that normally would not be.” In the event of a fall at water, the electric assistance stops automatically.

The board is fully equipped to 845 euros, 395 euros for the pod

It took five years of research and development to Kahe Surf to develop this innovation. The board has been designed by the shaper Rod’s, installed not far from there, at Carcans (Gironde). It has been on the market since April, at a price of 845 euros, fully equipped. A second electrical assistance device was installed. designed by the Gironde start-up. This is the Kahe pod, a plug and play aid that attaches to any single or two-seater, inflatable or rigid boat, such as a stand-up paddle, a kayak, a float tube or a small boat.

“This independent assistance attaches to the machine and is remote controlled, explains Nicolas Quendez. You can choose between three speeds, and this allows you to propel stand-up paddles between 4 and 7 km/hour, with two hours of autonomy.” However, it is not recommended to connect the Kahe pod to a board, “because the performance will be worse than with the surfboard. integrated assistance, which generates very little drag for surfing.” The Kahe pod is marketed to 395 euros.

“It brings security”

GOOD. But by the way, why equip these machines, which are supposed to work with the force of waves, wind or arms, with electrical assistance? Isn't that distorting their primary function? “There is a real need in surfing, because it’s a very difficult sport, and it can meet the expectations of all types of surfers, from beginners for learning to advanced ;s, underlines Nicolas Quendez. Electric assistance will, for example, allow you to surf waves that are not normally surfable, which opens up the possibility of to take new spots, and thus to move away from a too frequented place. It also allows people with disabilities to practice their sport.”

In paddleboarding and canoeing, “it brings security, especially when you’re caught by a headwind at a distance. time to go home,” underlines Christian Ollier, second co-founder of Kahe Surf, and who thirty years in management positions at Decathlon. Security is at the heart of the thinking of the two partners, since they have simultaneously equipped rescuers from the SNSM (National Society for Rescue at Sea) at; Bayonne, Montalivet, and Lacanau, with a Kahe pod for their “rescue board” or their “paddle board”.

Early positive feedback from the side. of the Bayonne SNSM

At the moment, lifeguards are not yet authorized to use the device in the operational phase. “We have been in the testing phase since the beginning of the summer, just for our training” says S&bastien Giboudeaux, of the SNSM in Bayonne, and who equipped the a “paddle board”. “Early feedback is good, because it puts some power in the start and it saves time. A good lifeguard doesn’t have to be a good paddle boarder, so this is going to help some people. have better propulsion. On arrival, ten or fifteen seconds gained to come into contact with a victim, this is precious for his care. Finally, it will also be very useful in bringing victims to the edge, as they are sometimes twice our weight, which can be difficult especially when they are unconscious.”

Before taking the device into operation, the SNSM will return to Kahe for the start-up to improve some details. “For example, it would be nice to have a button on the wrist to start or stop the assistance. We also realize that the pod makes the board a little heavier, so we have to continue training in different conditions, to see what happens. But overall, it’s a very good omen.”

The challenge of decarbonizing gear at sea

The idea of ​​getting into electrical assistance for activities at sea was born seven years ago by Christian Ollier and Nicolas Quendez, who crossed paths at Decathlon. “As early as 2016, we were convinced that electric assistance would migrate from land sports, such as electric mountain biking, to water sports, a sector where people’ she was then totally absent” says Christian Ollier.

But that’s just a starting point. After starting by the surf, “the smallest but the most restrictive” the challenges of the power of assistance and watertightness; of the device, the two partners are now attacking larger electric assist systems, “cutting development times fivefold.”

”Eventually, the surf will only represent 5% of our market,” anticipates Christian Ollier, who is now targeting the market. of the boat, “with the challenge of decarbonizing a sector equipped with to 99 % in thermal”. A necessary and urgent decarbonization, warns the co-founder of Kahe, because “in water it’s the triple penalty: oil derivatives pollute the seas, then the air via gas fumes, and to this must be added the noise which constitutes sound pollution.” In short, the start-up still has its work cut out for it.