David Trewern is considered one of the pioneers in eFoiling. We had the pleasure of meeting him for the first time in 2018. That was not the last time.
Since our first meeting in June 2018 were David was teaching me Fliteboarding on an Fliteboard Air in Spain, we kept in touch. It was time for an interview with David Trewern to find out more about the Fliteboard project and his motivation. David is a passionate Kitesurfer as you can see on the next picture.
Okay. Let's start with the interview with David Trewern from Fliteboard:
What did you love growing up?
David Trewern: I grew up in a small surf town in Australia called Merimbula. I learned to snow-ski, surf and sail at a young age. I windsurfed daily from age 10 with one sail, regardless as to whether it was 5 knots or 20 knots.
It didn’t matter as long as I was on the water! In 1998 I had a kitesurfing lesson with Naish in Hawaii and became hooked. In 2005 I broke the kitesurfing GPS speed world record (with a board I designed) achieving a 500m average speed of 44.9 knots.
Water sports has always been a very central part of my life.
When did you have the idea of an eFoil?
David Trewern: I have been racing on hydrofoil kite-boards since the beginning. I was looking at glassy water at a windless race event a few years ago when I had the idea of adding a motor to my foil. My initial idea was a small ducted unit that could be mounted between the mast and the fuselage and be removed.
I got very excited, spoke to friends, did a few drawings and started researching the physics required. Friends and I started working on ideas, but we were all busy with other businesses so it took a while to get moving.
In my research I saw the Evolvo motorised hydrofoil, and then a while later Don Montague's Jetfoiler up and running for the first time (I bought my first kite from Don, so have always had big respect for him).
By this stage I had sold my previous business and started a planned year off. Which not last long as I was quickly absorbed in Fliteboard seven days a week!
How did you first prototype look like?
David Trewern: I tried a lot of different things initially. We made more than 20 motor prototypes and fuselage combinations. From the outset the goal was to design the first commercial powered hydrofoil with the motor integrated into the fuselage.
I wanted to increase the effective strut length, better centralise the thrust source, and reduce drag by removing wetted surface area. We have achieved all of this in our final design.
Was your intention to build a business?
David Trewern: I was passionate to make something great and having fun, but initially cautious about doing this as a business.
I knew from previous experience that either you are all in, or you will likely fail.
As I was supposed to be having a year off after 20 years in business, I was initially reluctant to call it a business. I also wanted to keep it fun for as long as possible.
All of that is a history, as our team scales rapidly to deliver an outstanding product later this year.
When did you decide to make eFoils your business?
David Trewern: First I became absorbed in the engineering process.
This extended into developing the design language and brand. After some very intense months working as a mad professor, I reached the point where I knew that I needed to build the best team possible.
That was going to cost a lot and require full commitment. From that point on there was no turning back.
What were the biggest challenges?
David Trewern: Fliteboard has been as rewarding as it has been challenging.
I have always been obsessed with water sports, design, technology and business - so there could be no more exciting project.
However there have been huge challenges in bringing a product like this to market. I started my first business at the age of 23, and since have built two businesses that have grown to employ hundreds of people.
But none have had the complexities of Fliteboard. The board, foil, propulsion system, battery, and hand controller are each challenging hardware and software projects.
Each sub assembly requires complex and expensive R&D, tooling, testing, refinement and logistics.
There is a complex supply chain, regulatory, compliance and other issues.
Being a pioneer means operating in a highly dynamic environment in which the market can change rapidly.
Mixing salt water, electronics, high powered batteries and expensive materials requires great engineers from a range of different disciplines.
A lot more power is needed than initially thought, and shrinking existing technologies down and reducing weight while making a very durable product is more challenging than it may seem.
Which was your biggest success?
David Trewern: I am really excited about our unibody powered fuselage, and our (patent pending) Flite Box system - which I am sure all others will want to copy because it really is so good and so simple.
I’m also proud of our hand controller functionality, which will be fully outlined at a date closer to shipping.
Having experience in software user experience design has allowed me to look at all aspects from the perspective of a great overall rider experience.
So the biggest success is still to come; when our first customers smile from ear to ear riding Fliteboards.
This is a very personal mission for me, and we have made no compromises with our design, engineering or materials. We have developed a product that not only would we buy, but that we would queue up to buy!
How often are you riding your own boards?
David Trewern: I am fortunate to live right on one of the best beaches beach in the world, in Byron Bay in Australia.
I am out riding every day that the conditions allow, which is most days.
On rare days off, I now find myself now choosing a Fliteboard over my kitefoil, my regular kiteboard, my surfboard, or my sup foil.
What do you plan for the future?
David Trewern: This is the very beginning of a whole new water sports and transport paradigm.
Being a creative by background, ideas never stop coming.
However first and foremost is delivering the best eFoil in the world as quickly as we can to our first customers.
Anything else for your fans?
David Trewern: We are working with a number of water sports operators in Europe and around the world to offer lessons and Fliteboard experiences started in the second half of 2018. Stay tuned for more details coming soon.
Thanks also to Andreas and E-Surfer for this opportunity.
Thank you, David Trewern. If you have further question to David.
Last but not least a video demo of the first generation, which we created 2019 for the E-SURFER Youtube channel: