April 18 (Bloomberg) — On a windy day in 1985, Bruno Legaignoux jumped into the ocean off France’s Brittany coast with a homemade kite harnessed to his waist and skis on his feet, letting the wind pull him across the water.
Then, suddenly, a gust of wind lifted the 24-year-old inventor into the air, before dropping him back down and sending him skimming over the waves. Kiteboarding was born.
“It took me by surprise,” recalled Bruno, now 47 and a millionaire. “I realized the sport had potential. It was fun.”
Now kiteboarders outnumber windsurfers on beaches from Hawaii to Corsica and a professional circuit is sponsoring 10 events in 2008. This week, more than 50 kiteboarders are competing at Mondial du Vent in Leucate, France, where 19-year- old Briton Aaron Hadlow is defending his freestyle championship.
The kiteboarding boom has made Bruno and his brother, Dominique, wealthy after they patented their kite designs. Now they are in talks to sell their patents before a new technology makes theirs obsolete.
“The patent can be questioned by counterfeiters at any moment and a new type of more-advanced sail can be invented from one day to the next,” said Bruno, who like his brother lives in the Dominican Republic. “I prefer selling quickly and getting it over with.”
The sale could earn the brothers at least 2 million euros ($3.2 million), said Pierre Veron, a patent lawyer in Paris.
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