Chris Middleton

Chris Middleton riding one of his Kilaia Kiteboards @ La Nautique 2018
Chris Middleton riding one of his custom Kilaia’s – la Nautique, South Fr – 2018

Hello, I’m the designer & shaper at Wooden-Stuff, we’ve been working on the Kite Alaia boards since 2013

Full Name: Christopher Lee Middleton

Age & Location: 50 something yrs – An English guy ‘living-the-dream’ in Montpellier, France

Professional Activity: 3D Design specialist/Board Shaper/Manufacturer

No of years kiting: 22yrs or maybe more…

Preferred Conditions: Anything that lets you get out on zee water to have fun

Watersports have played a key role in my life for over 30yrs; if it involves H2O, you name it I’ve tried it. I discovered Kitesurfing in Maui early in ‘98, after 12 yrs windsurfing, wakeboarding & whitewater canoeing. I bought my first Wipika two-line kite 3 months later. Played a founding role in establishing the ‘British Kitesport Association‘ in ’99, had the chance to hook up with Pete Cabrinha (Cabrinha Kites) in June ‘04 discovering his Air-Chair DIY Kitefoil. Role on to May ‘08, I started riding the Carafino Kitefoil and set up with Laurent Ness the French ‘Forum Active Foil’ community. Twelve months later, I started Fastafoil, designing and making carbon-fiber foils, working with hydrofoil guru Andrew McDougal and getting my head around fluid dynamics with Nicholas Caillou of Zeeko-Water-sports (thanks goes out to both Amac & Nico).

Fastafoil Carbon-Fiber Hydrofoils & Paulownia FoilBoards - 2012/2015
FastaFoil Foils & Foil Boards

As an early adopter of new concepts, the kitefoil became an immediate passion. I played a role in democratizing its use in France & it was only after the ‘America’s Cup’ of 2012, that the rest of the world sat-up and realized just what a game-changer the foil could become. After 5 yrs of non-stop kite foiling, I decided to stop building foils and focus on shaping boards, increasing my composite knowledge & switched my attention to more creative ecological solutions. Wooden-Stuff (WS) was born in 2013 and the first Alaia projects allowed me to re-discover just how much fun I’d been missing by riding these boards: The Flip Side a return to the real origins of surfing.

First Wooden-Stuff Alaia 2013
The birth of Wooden-Stuff in 2013 & very first logo

So, why recount any historical background, you may be asking?
Quite simply because: everything that happens today, will have an influence on what happens tomorrow. My foil experience included a huge frustration, continually asking myself why more people didn’t instantly warm to its adoption! Via the foiling community, ideas were abundant and the early adopters like myself were busy building, shaping, calculating & exchanging ideas way before any mainstream manufacturers even started thinking about the Hydrofoil. I suppose we were the evangelists, flying the flag long before anyone else! Eager to share the stoke with as many people as possible.

What I’ve deduced from this experience is; that by publishing & sharing a set of tutorial plans & DIY build instructions – I could not only give something back to a sport that I love but also assist in democratizing the use of a beautiful classic form of navigation and in the process; perhaps make this happen slightly faster.

Hence the reason the ‘DIY Kite specific Kilaia’ site has become a reality.

During 2014, I kited amongst a small kite community of kiteboarders in the South of France some of which were advocating the use of Alaia styled boards with a crude nose rocker.

Long streamline Alaia shaped boards have existed since the early days of kitesurfing. Below is a great example created by kite pioneer Laurent Ness & local shaper Fabien ‘Kakoo Shape’ Condemine.

Kite specific Alaia, Laurent Ness & Fabien 'Kakoo' Condemine 2000
Image: Laurent Ness, 2000

The Alaia is the undisputed godfather of all surfboards & has been around for well over 300 years, or longer. It’s design, shape & form originate from the Pacific Islands. Therefore, my objective to develop a high-performance Kite specific Alaia was relatively straight forward. Modify an existing classic concept to work in harmony with a traction kite, keeping it as lightweight as possible. I set about designing & developing a pressed Paulownia blank with a Spanish Paulownia cultivator and succeeded in producing the first sandwich Kilaia blanks that could be used to make lightweight Kilaias. These blanks have been used to make a large number of the DIY Kite Alaia’s that are being ridden today in the EU & further afield too. The DIY Kilaia enthusiasts are spearheading the birth of the wooden Kite specific Alaia and we hope that it will go global with your assistance.

Alaia Surfboards - Maui, hawaii 2018
Alaia Kiteboard examples – Maui 2018

I have been working independently on the function & design aspects of the Kilaia ever since! Because defining the balance between performance and staying ecological is not as simple as I first imagined…

Kilaia Kiteboards Sicily 2019
Sicily 2019 – Everyone who rides a Kilaia comes off the water with a giant smile

In April 2017, I was the very first Kitesurfer to participate at the Defi-Kite & complete all legs of the event on a Kilaia 😉 It feels good to say that because I’m not a big race fan but was pleased to finish 112th out of 260 competitors. This just goes to prove that the Kilaia makes strapless, long-distance racing very accessible to most competent Kitesurfers. I prefer to think of my boards as custom Kite Alaia’s but I have to admit that’s a bit of a mouth full, so call your’s whatever you like.

Since 2018, the Defi-Kite has a specific category for wooden Kite specific Alaia’s.

Chris Middleton riding the first 'Kite specific Alaia' to complete all legs of the Defi-Kite Competition in 2017
Image courtesy of: Jean Souville & Defi-Kite 2017

To help our growing community progress we created a YouTube Channel in 2018, called Kilaia Kiteboards, featuring ‘how to’ videos including: ‘Getting Started, Gybing, Tacking together with a multitude of other trick guides.

KilaiaKiteboards YouTube Tutorial Channel -
KilaiaKiteboards Tutorial Channel on YouTube

I’m really excited to be able to make available downloadable plans on how to build your proven DIY Kilaia Kiteboard, together with a series of videos to assist you in your board shaping experience. It’s a real privilege to be able to give something back to the kitesurf community that has given me endless fun times & fantastic memories from around the world for well over 20 years now.

Anyone can self build a Kilaia, in their garage, on their balcony, in the garden, or even in their living room; if that’s the only space that’s available. It will cost you around a hundred to one hundred & fifty dollars/euros, providing you have a few basic tools, some free time and a passion for doing-it-yourself. Then you can fully appreciate the stoke and share the love amongst your friends because once you’ve tried the Kilaia there’s no looking back.

Russell Farington towing-in a buddy on a Kite Alaia
You can even practice ‘towing-in’ using a Kilaia 😉

These tutorial videos include a complete guide on how to make & shape a Kite Alaia easily. Follow the links to be redirected to the tutorial pages and enjoy the journey.