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Eric Hertsens: Just the Man to Help You Fly
First Class Board Shaper in Cabarete


It's well known that Cabarete is one of, if not 'the' best place to kiteboard in the world - giving people it's first glance at the sport, teaching hundreds each year to learn and producing a few of the sport's best. Well now, thanks to a man known by seasoned and new kitesboarders alike, it now has itself a premiere kiteboard builder.

Eric Herstens, 41 years young, is a Belgium transplant who was one of the first few to discover Cabarete's unbelievable windsurfing conditions, more than 20 years ago. A self-described water rat and thrill seeker, Eric witnessed Cabarete Bay grow from 10 sailors to becoming one of the 10 best spots on the world's windsurfing map. In between years of windsurfing, Eric satisfied his need for the extreme by also snowboarding, skydiving sky-surfing and to BASE jump when he has the chance. But when one practices these types of sports, one risks serious injury, and even death, and that's exactly what happened to Eric 4 years ago.

While skydiving in Canada, Eric made what he describes as a 'pilot error' and came crashing down to earth. After breaking many of the bones in his body, Eric found himself in a wheelchair, undergoing numerous operations and a load of physical therapy. Before even being able to walk unassisted, Eric began windsurfing again with the help of longtime friend (and fellow windsurfer, kitesurfer, surfer), Markus Bohm. During this period he witnessed another friend, Stefan Ruether, being pulled along on a board by a great big kite. It was love at first site! Here was something that combined elements of the many different sports he loved. One and a half years after the accident, Eric became the third person to kiteboard Cabarete's waters and made a full body recovery.

With the immense popularity kiteboarding enjoys in Cabarete, it's hard to believe it was once not that way. At first many saw this sport as a risk to what Cabarete had been built on. Eric, along with a few other local 'windsurf to kitesurf' converts, felt like they were battling a bit of a war. It seemed like everyone - friend and foe - were doing what they could to limit kite-boarding's progress in Cabarete. Eric's passion for the sport prompted him to use his computer knowledge and create cabareteairforce.com, where he made it his mission to promote both Cabarete and kiteboarding - the local kite-boarders, the equipment, the tricks, etc. Seeing the sport grow as he had always prophesized, he turned his attention to making the tools of the sport better for himself. He tried every different make of kite, board, length of lines, etc., striving for the ultimate in performance. Then one day Franz Orly showed up with the first twin-tip kite-board Eric had ever seen (which Orly himself made). Having had previous experience building windsurf boards, snowboards and skyboards, Eric began to pick Franz's brain. It wasn't long after that Eric began using his past boardbuiding experience, engineering training and the Internet, to help him visualize design and locating the best board materials money could by. Two years ago Eric Hersten's first custom kite board was born.

Good things can't be kept secret very long - especially in a small town and with a sport where everything is new and the desire to improve is so strong. Having had no inclination to get into the kiteboard building business, Eric continued to make boards as a hobby, but only for his closest friends. He also busied himself with a side project of designing Brunotti's 'Lord of Hellfire' line - three models of asymmetric twin tips - 155, 145, 135 (The design was readily accepted and still used by Cabarete's best). Once a few of Eric's custom boards were in circulation, the demand just kept growing. Eric decided the best way to answer some of this demand was to share his kiteboard building knowledge via his website. It's here that Eric details every aspect of kiteboard building - the materials used, where to buy them, designing the board, the building processes, etc. Even though Eric continues to share as much knowledge as he can on his site (including step by step pictures/video), the site receives about 500 e-mails a month from people, on this subject alone.

Has this allowed Eric to take a bit of a break? Not at all. It seems there are still many people wanting to shell out about $1300 US for an Eric Herstens custom kiteboard (he even makes the fins!). Why so much? Almost entirely due to the type of materials he uses - carbon fiber, kevlar, Core Cell (high-density foam) and epoxy - don't come cheap. It takes at least 20 hours to build a board and that's after he's spent time designing the board to 1) suit the conditions where the kiter sails; 2) match it to the type of kite the person uses; and 3) their skill level. What's the difference between an Eric Herstens custom board and a brand name kiteboard? It's not just the way it helps the kiter moves through the water. Eric's boards weigh 1kg to 2kg, half the weight of most boards on the market, with one even more important difference; Eric's boards don't break!

Does Eric want to get to a point where he's selling to the masses? He doesn't think so. He's thoroughly enjoying building kiteboards and sharing his knowledge with as many people as he can. But this is balanced with Eric's real priorities in life - his family and kitesurfing. As long as it doesn't interfere with these, Cabarete will continue to have a celebrity kiteboard builder in its mist.

For more detailed information on kiteboard building and Eric Hersten's custom boards, visit www.cabareteairforce.com and www.kiteboardbuilder.com

Text by Leslie Milne commissioned by CabareteKiteboarding.com


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