Quick talking with Fred Kloren - owner of Xelerator Kiteboards
Fred came to South Africa to escape the rat race and embrace a Cape lifestyle. Then one fateful day on the beach he met Andrew Johns and became involved in Xelerator kiteboarding. The result is a product that is shattering world records and looking really good doing it too!
Full Name: Fred Klören
Years kiting and windsurfing? Kiting 6 years, Windsurfing 25 years
Live now? Cape Town, South Africa
Lived before this? The Netherlands
Are you the sole owner of Xelerator Kiteboards? Yes, since the tragic death of my friend and business partner Andrew Johns.
Background and qualifications? Bsc. Industrial Automation – Process and Control Engineering
What did you do before Xelerator? From 1999 till 2004 I worked for one of the largest automation companies in the world - ABB. I worked as a quality control consultant in the pulp and paper industry. In 2004 I decided that the rat race was no longer for me. I packed my bags and moved to South Africa. I had been coming here every year on a holiday since 1998 to windsurf and kitesurf. I always enjoyed the lifestyle here, a lot more than in Europe.
Due to the employment equity quotas at the time it was impossible to find a job as an automation consultant. On a Saturday morning in the beginning of October 2005 at Big Bay I ran into Andrew Johns, the founder of Xelerator Kiteboarding. We chatted and he was looking for some one to start a Kiteschool to promote his boards. I didn’t want to go back to Holland and decided to give it a go.
I became more and more involved with Xelerator and started doing the marketing. I put my Automation knowledge to good use and started to optimize and change the way the boards were manufactured. This was necessary to be able to stay price competitive and compete with the bigger brands.
It must have been tough when Andrew died, but Xelerator seems to be going from strength to strength lately - congrats:
On the 5th of August 2007 I was in Mozambique on honeymoon when we received the terrible news that Andrew had fallen 300m down the Matroosberg and died. Besides the fact that I lost one of my best friends, it also had huge implications for the business. 2008 was a very tough year for us but we had great support from both our clients as well as our suppliers. At the moment we are going strong and I hope that where ever Andrew is now he looks down and is stoked with what we have achieved.
What are some of your new innovations?
Since 2007 we have designed all our boards in Autocad. After prototyping and intense testing with our teamriders the final designs of the boards are captured in a Computer Aided Drawing (CAD) program. This design program is then used to computer shape the cores(CNC) including the inserts in the boards. All the other pieces as the ABS rim and end plates are CNC cut and make sure that all the pieces of the puzzle fit perfectly and human error is eliminated.
What is some of the other technology behind your brand - setting it apart from others?
For 2009 we have developed a new press system where we are no longer using fixed moulds. The main advantage is that we can now put any shape of board in and it will be evenly pressed under a pressure of 4.5 bars. It allows us to design the flex of the boards by changing the thickness of the wood cores instead of trying to change the flex by using different glass fibers.
Your boards are making waves in the speed industry for sure – as your website states
"Highest Top speed 60.2 (gps), Highest 250m average 54.3 knots(gps) and 5 National records currently on our boards." "Xelerator did prove that there is only one way to Xelerate:"
What goes into getting creating a great speed board?
We compare the Speed discipline with Formula 1 car racing. All the new techniques developed in F1 racing will sooner or later be implemented in the normal production cars.
During the last Luderitz Speed challenge Seb did over 60 knots top speed on gps. Control at these high speeds is the limiting factor to going fast. As soon as you hit the slightest bit of chop you loose control. We have put a lot of time and resources in experimenting with different flex patterns as this is the key to going faster. Another important item is the construction of the board. Speedboards are very narrow and bend more than 45 degrees. This makes it more difficult to make them strong and prevent them from breaking without making the boards stiffer. We have learnt a lot with regards to flex and construction from the testing of our speedboards and this is being used again in our twintips.
Is speed your specialty, or are the other designs equally good – I see there is a wide range?
We have a board range that suits everybody’s needs and if not then we can always do a custom board to suit their requirements
What have been some of the highlights of the past year ?
Seb winning Fuerte for the second time in a row.
Seb being the first to break the 50 knots barrier over 500m.
5 National records on our boards as well as highest top speed 60.2 (gps), Highest 250m average 54.3 knots(gps)
Who is your biggest market, is it SA or are you in demand internationally?
In the past years our export market has been our biggest market. For this season I expect that we will grow our local market substantially.
The rand dollar rate will affect the price of the imported products substantially. I think local is going to be lekker this season. We have two new dealers in South Africa, Best Kiteboarding in Cape Town and Kitesports in Durban, two shops who provide great service and know what they are talking about.
What is the focus for Xelerator for the upcoming season?
Our main focus is to extend our dealer network and produce cutting edge products with a bite.
What can we expect to see in the new range - any surprises?
Our new range has eye catching graphics. The most important however is that the boards are extremely easy to ride and our range will have something in it for every one.
Who is your typical customer?
We still manufacture a lot of custom boards like speedboards, raceboards, and waveboards for the pro’s. This pushes us to stay ahead of the game and the innovations are implemented in our standard board range so that the average kiter will benefit.