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Ready for lift-off

Designer Dan Joblin has your back (or butt)

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Photographs by Ozone Kites

Imagine yourself in the Swiss Alps, snow packed hard beneath your skis, while a cold blast of wind causes the kite above you to flare out and propel you forward and up. As you lift into alpine air, held aloft by a few ropes and some fabric, your adrenaline surges and you think about your harness. The one designed as a student project in Mt Albert.

Never fear, designer Dan Joblin has your back (or butt). In 2008, during his final year studying design at Unitec, Joblin was charged with identifying a product opportunity and developing a prototype to meet it.

An avid kite-surfing instructor, Joblin had his eye on the snow kite market for some time. Snow kiting, an extreme sport craze, combines kites and techniques similar to those used in kite surfing with the footwear of snowboarding or skiing. Well-versed in the equipment used in wind sports, Joblin found an opportunity to improve on the harnesses used in snow kites.

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“Snow kiting is an exploding sport, but the current [harness] model had several issues,” he says. Joblin interviewed prominent Canadian and European snow kiters to gain a better understanding for the requirements of an ideal harness. He learned that the extreme conditions of snow kiting, such as constant sub-zero temperatures, ice and glare, meant his model would have to combine strength, durability and comfort.

Testing the comfort levels was a hands-on—and feet-up—process. “I spent a lot of time ‘hang testing’ in rafters in the studio to make sure I didn’t lose circulation in my legs.”

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After creating five prototypes, Joblin reckoned he had something worth selling. He showed his harness to Ozone, a kite sporting outfit based in Raglan. Ozone purchased the rights to the harness and a production version is due for release in November for the 2010 northern hemisphere snow kite season.

So what did our aspiring graduate learn from this experience? “Everything takes about twice as long as you think,” he says. “I spent the same amount of time re-doing it as I did doing it in the first place.”