Kiteboarding and windsurfing: When battle rages at the top

Research papers
By Denis Jallat

In 1996, Manu Bertin, a well-known French windsurfer, tested out being towed on a funboard by a nautical power kite that had been invented in 1984 by brothers Bruno and Dominique Legaignoux. The activity immediately became a craze. Desires to place the pursuit within an institutional framework were soon expressed. In 1998, kiteboarders turned first to the French Sailing Federation (Fédération française de voile; FFV) and then to the French Free Flight Federation (Fédération française de vol libre; FFVL). The FFVL opened their doors to them unconditionally. The FFV attempted to regain control of the pursuit when the idea of replacing windsurfing at the Olympics with kiteboarding was floated. Fierce debates and many conflicts broke out between the two federations.
This research is based on an analysis of the federations’ archives and the specialist press. My aim is to trace the main outlines of the institutionalization of kiteboarding against the backdrop of the conflicts (in the sense indicated by Georg Simmel) between the FFV and FFVL. I build in particular on the respective issues facing the two federations, which sought at all costs to be in charge of this rapidly expanding pursuit.


  • kiteboarding
  • conflicts
  • institutionalization
  • sportification of physical activities
  • federations
Go to the article on