Where It All Began.
The WindPaddle (U.S. Pat. #7,752,987) is a self-launching, small-watercraft sail for kayaks and canoes. We live in Hood River, Oregon – the windsurfing and kite sailing capital of the USA, so we had reason and inspiration to develop this type of product. And the requisite winds for testing!
Our background is engineering, windsurfing and boat/dinghy sailing, with a constant eye out for fun. We looked at the variety of kayak sailing devices on the market and saw inherent flaws in each with regard to a variety of factors, including overall design, operation, safety and cost.
We addressed the problems associated with the rest of the competition, and the WindPaddle was born. We invented a small-watercraft sail that was lightweight yet durable, easy to use, safe and affordable.
It took many trials and iterations before the WindPaddle was the safe and easy-to-use sail currently on the market. Putting our engineering education, our sailing experience and son Alec as the official crash-test dummy to use, we conducted Sea Trials (aka beer-drinking excuses) to explore various design concepts (Son Alec lived thru them all, although the psychological damage should not show up for years) (:
The Umbrella Test
What paddler hasn't tried raising an umbrella into the wind? Of course we experimented (Played) with it, but three or four problems came up immediately:
- No way to hold paddle or oar. Because it took two hands to hold and control the umbrella, it was impossible to hold the paddle.
- Not durable enough. Even using the heavy-duty golf umbrella we stole from the local club-house, it became inverted and generally trashed because it couldn't stand up to real wind.
- High corrosion potential. Rusted away, hard to stow and it didn't float!
- We looked like dorks out on the water.
The Kite Test
Next, We tried a kitesurfing 4M training RAM kite, and at first we thought this might be the way to go with a sail. It was powerful and fun but there were drawbacks:
- No way to hold paddle or oar (again). Just like the umbrella, the kite needed two hands to control.
- Way too much room needed to launch. The kite could not be deployed just anywhere - it had to be in a very wide-open area, free from obstructions.
- Incredibly unstable and unsafe on a kayak or canoe. It was simply too difficult to control and douse and impossible to relaunch in anything short of an afternoon.
- Incredibly FUN based on the power, unstability and our lack of experience! Not for public consumption.