AS YOU MIGHT HAVE GUESSED, the future of water sports is electric, specifically in the form of electric foil boards, or ‘eFoils’ for short. You may have seen this new novelty gliding across a bay near you; it’s the surfboard-meets-paddleboard, only motorised with hydrofoil fins that allow you to essentially fly over the water at the touch of a button—it’s a sight to behold.
Now, the world of eFoil just got a whole lot more advanced—and cooler in the process—thanks to the partnership between Australia’s premium eFoil company, Flite, and Marc Newson, the multidisciplinary designer and artist who is widely regarded as one of the most influential designers of his generation. The Australian designer has worked with the likes of Apple—he co-designed the Apple Watch— Louis Vuitton, Qantas, Ferrari, plus many more brands, mostly in the luxury sector. Now, Newson builds on his work of surf-inspired design by unveiling the world’s most innovative premium eFoil: Flite x Marc Newson.
“The premise of the Flite x Marc Newson range is that it’s designed with an ambition for higher performance, using the most refined materials,” says Newson. “One could liken it to the Formula 1 version of the eFoil. It’s almost entirely made of carbon fibre which enables the primary components to be moulded as a single entity.”
The groundbreaking collaboration sees the coming together of the visionary designer with the revolutionary watersports company to create the world’s ultimate premium electric hydrofoil that boasts unparalleled strength, responsiveness, and efficiency. Producing such a feat in the eFoil space was a process three years in the making, and one that Newson describes as “one big detail: it relies entirely on the seamless intersection of surfaces, not only on aesthetic grounds but on functional grounds—this thing is a highly tuned instrument.”
Like many of Newson’s creations, this exclusive eFoil range bridges the gap between design and innovation in unprecedented ways, in this case, taking the exhilarating experience of Fliteboarding to awesome new heights. To discuss the new collaboration in detail, Esquire spoke with Marc Newson at the conclusion of the global launch of the Flite x Marc Newson launch in London.
Esquire: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Marc. Congratulations on this incredible collaboration and design. Can you tell us how the collaboration with Flite came about?
Marc Newson: The collaboration with Flite came about through a mutual contact who introduced us. I was already an avid Fliteboard user, so I was very aware of the brand. I’ve always found that it’s much easier to be a consumer of the product that’s being made by a potential client than not – it gives you a vested interest in the designing a product that you’d actually want to use.
What did Flite’s CEO, David Trewern, and yourself want to achieve when you first came together to discuss the project?
When we first met, we didn’t have a specific goal in mind. We identified the fact that we’d love to collaborate and that we had a lot in common, and that David was aware of my work and my career, and I was a big admirer of him and what he’d managed to do in a relatively short period of time. We identified the fact that- above anything else- it would be fun to do something together and over a period of months, we mutually evolved a project.
What was your initial vision for this premium eFoil and how did it change or develop over the course of the collaboration?
The initial vision for this eFoil was to make a fantastic product and one that is even more refined than existing Fliteboards. The objective was to create an extremely high-quality version of the preexisting offerings. As I said, the product is already extremely sophisticated and is a market leader in terms of both design and performance, so trying to understand how I could add value in a meaningful way was a big part of the challenge. Over the course of the project, the vision didn’t change. We were able to execute the project in a relatively short period of time, we worked together in an extremely efficient way. There wasn’t that much time to evolve the brief, so to speak.
How do your design philosophies align with that of Flite?
Our design philosophies are fundamentally completely aligned. We didn’t have to second guess each other at any stage of the process. Of course, there was a rationalisation that had to take place as always, but given that I not only understood how the product worked but was an avid user of the product, it was a very smooth process.
In your opinion, what makes the basis of a good design collaboration and why?
Shared values and a good relationship with the CEO are crucial, both of which I have with Flite. Also in this instance, it’s important that I have been an owner of the product type I’ve been asked to design and so I stepped into the project with a degree of knowledge about what it is like to use one of these things, which informed my design significantly.
Your life as a designer and artist, it’s all about detail: what details were potentially the hardest to conceptualise or create around this project?
The hardest detail was the overall coherence of the object. The product itself is one big detail: it relies entirely on the seamless intersection of surfaces, not only on aesthetic grounds but on functional grounds. This thing is a highly tuned instrument, and ensuring that it behaves seamlessly in the conditions that it’s designed for is key. In many ways that drives the detail – as it should.
And were there any boundaries to what was possible with the design, and if so, how did you navigate?
The only boundary to the design was hydrodynamics – and to make the object as beautiful as possible.
How do you go about choosing – or deciding – on your next design project, Marc?
I like ambitious projects and I like to be challenged, so a project that doesn’t particularly challenge me would certainly not interest me as much. It also helps if I have a personal experience of what I’m trying to improve, so it’s a serendipity and a variety of different qualities that coalesce to make something compelling.
It’s not your first foray in watersport design. Aesthetically, how did the design process differ to say, your Nickel Surfboard design?
Well, this is a completely different project. They do share some fundamental hydrodynamics, but apart from that they’re different things. A Fliteboard could be likened to an aeroplane on the water – it’s an altogether more sophisticated dynamic. This thing is flying, in a sense, and has quite an esoteric functionality.
Surfing has been a recurrent theme throughout your work, could you explain your relationship to surf culture and how it’s influenced your designs?
Growing up in Australia, I had the obligatory surfing experiences, but it was the do-it-yourself, backyard process of making surfboards that I was more drawn to. It’s a native craft in a sense, and some of the only manufacturing I was exposed to growing up. A few of my earliest furniture pieces like the Embryo Chair, Orgone Lounge and Lockheed Lounge drew on surfboard production techniques, and the materials involved like fiberglass and neoprene because this is what I had access to.
Who is the Flite x Marc Newson eFoil designed for?
This Fliteboard is designed for someone that likely has already been using Fliteboards. I’d hazard a guess to say that they may be relatively experienced. It’s the highest performance variant of what already exists, but it would certainly be the ultimate product in the range.
Where do you see the future of eFoil heading? Will we all be riding on one in the years to come?
If you look at the future of watercraft, powered or not powered, foils of various kinds have been gaining popularity. You’ve only got to look at the America’s Cup. You want to have as little drag as possible when moving on the water, and this is the only way to do it: it’s an evolution. Foils are more energy efficient, and create a much higher performance. It’s more economical and it’s more sustainable.
What is inspiring you most right now in terms of technology (here and on the horizon), performance and design?
Hydrofoil technology has always seemed to me to be a magical and compelling invention, and for a portion of the last century it was frequently used for passenger and military vessels, but it has become less popular in recent times. This project has been a fantastic opportunity to work with this technology within consumer devices. In Greece, where I spend a lot of time, you still see hydrofoil ferries, but these are huge things compared to a Fliteboard. A few years ago, I did some work with the America’s Cup, where the AC75s are absolutely the most advanced evolution of foil technology and they are breathtaking in action. To me – and I have discussed this at length with David – this space is open to a lot of experimentation and development.
What’s next for you, Marc? How’s the rest of the year shaping up?
I have a couple of other very large marine projects, and some more work in the so-called luxury sector coming up with some of my usual clients like Louis Vuitton. I also have my monograph coming out soon, published by Taschen, chronicling my entire career which will span four decades this year!
The Flite x Marc Newson eFoil is now available for pre-order through Flite’s official website and Authorised Partners worldwide and is available in a limited release of only 999 boards.