Issue 66: ProFile: Chris Goff

Dubbed “petite phenom” by some of his French competitors early on, Chris Goff has earned a reputation as one of the top dual line freestyle pilots in the world, with hand speed and combination abilities that would make anyone’s head spin. Now entering his 20’s, Chris is still very active on the European kite scene by way of competitions, the Red Bull kite team and the first official manifestation of some kite design work he’s been doing for the past few years during his apprenticeship at Carl Robertshaw’s well known Kite Related Designbusiness.

What drives today’s youth, how does kiting fit in, and where can it go from here? These are big questions around our office… With so much experience in a wide variety of kiting venues and as one of the best known sport kite fliers on the scene, we thought it was high time we featured Chris in the pages of Kitelife, to find out what fuels his interest and creativity.

Okay, Chris. Let’s start this interview off the same way we start ‘em all. How did you first get started in organized kiting? When did that happen, what got you rolling, and what really grabbed your interest so that you stayed?

I started flying when I as around 6. My dad bought me and my brother a cheap kite each and we all went out to fly. That day a local kite shop owner, Ken Perry spotted us and called me a ‘natural’ and since then I’ve been hooked.

Once you got started, who did you fly with and who acted as your teacher or mentor? Did you join a club, or hang out with a group of fliers, or just fly alone?

When I first started I flew a lot with Ken and his wife Penny. They lived close to us so me and my dad always bumped into them over the local park. I used to watch kite videos every morning. God knows how many times I’ve watched Trickery Flickery. After a short time we started going to kite festivals where I started to learn by imitating others around me.

Sooner or later, you got to the point where you wanted to compete. Was that a natural outgrowth of flying, or did someone approach you directly to start competing? Tell us about your early comps, Chris.

I first competed at a Brighton trick out 98. We’d been to the festival before and seen this competition watching the likes of Andy Wardly and Tim Benson battle it out. Entering a competition like this with no serious rules and regulations was a great start. After doing this, the next year I was straight into full STACK competitions. The first competition I ever won was the Bristol Kite Festival Trick Out 1999. I had just learnt how to backspin and in the final I clearly remember doing it continuously for the complete 30 seconds to the beat of the music.

Okay – by this time, you’re firmly entrenched in the Sport Kite competition scheme in the UK. And about now you probably have gathered some sponsors, and are well on your way in that regard. Tell us how the sponsorship deals got started and what all that entails.

Well first I used to fly the Area 51 by Dave Mullins. But I was far too young to be tied down to a single kite. I still needed to find my style and way of flying, so I was never officially sponsored by them. Then I flew the Dot Matrix prototypes and I loved it. I knew this was the kite for me. Being such a small kite, and my size at the time, it was like perfect scaling. During this time I started to build a reputation of my own and started to develop my own flying style. I began to fly with Axl Ferraro at festivals and soon Carl Robertshaw began to treat us as sponsored fliers. It wasn’t until the Fury.85 came out that I turned into an official sponsored flier, but it was all a very natural process and I’m glad I had the time to develop before I got tied down to a manufacturer.

Also, assuming that dual-line sport kites where your initial entry-point, you added some other disciplines…  including quad-line kites and team flying somewhere along the way.  Were these just natural outgrowths of your initial passion for dual-line sport kites, or were there other circumstances and reasons that prompted adding these to your repertoire?  Tell us about them, please.

I remember multi-line kites had always interested me and I was eager to do as much flying as possible and learn as much a I could in the kite world. So I saved up and bought my first Rev. It was the first kite I’d ever bought! I didn’t take to it at first, only flying it like once or twice in the first year. But I remember gradually getting better and so decided to enter STACK mutli-line competition the next year. I borrowed lines and possibly even the kite from Steven Hoath, and loved it. I felt great to be competing in familiar competitions but it was like starting from scratch.

I first started team flying after standing in for Sasha Reading in the Scratch Bunnies at Berck. It was the first time I had even thought about flying in a team. It was such a learning experience and it was perfect timing to join because they were just writing a 6 man routine. So I’d spend the day learning how to team fly and the night helping write the routine. It was so good to be flying alongside Carl and David Morley and this has brought a lot to my flying in general. Learning more about discipline and visualizing the wind window.

And rather quickly, it probably wasn’t long before you were competing outside of Great Britain.  Where did you travel to compete – what other countries?  And when did you decide that you wanted to join the international competitions?  And where else have you traveled?  The Caribbean?  The United States? The Orient?  What other parts of the world?

My first competition abroad was in Frejus in France for the Eurocup 2002 And I have entered every Eurocup since. And thanks to being part of the Red Bull team for the last 2 years I have had the opportunity to fly with international fliers in San Diego, Australia, Finland, Holland, and Switzerland. Experiences I will never forget.

Of course, somewhere along the line, you also began flying with some real hot-shots in the kiting game. What has being a part of the Red Bull Team meant to you, and what have those experiences done for you?

Being part of the Red Bull kite team has been amazing. I get to see people like Gregory, Mat, Richard, Carl, Yasu and Ramlal on a regular basis. Seeing them more than I see some kite fliers in the UK! And meeting Lam Hoac and of course John Barresi. Being part of the team has shown me how seriously kiting can be taken. Flying at the Red Bull events in some of the hardest circumstances, in unpredictable winds with no practice really piles the pressure on, and this has really helped form the team bonds. I don’t think I will ever trust anyone as much as I trust the guys in that team. Knowing that the guy standing next to you is the best kite flier in the world and being included alongside them is such an honour. Its been a pleasure to work alongside every one of them pushing and driving for the same goal.

And eventually you’re really pretty integrated into the whole international kiting scheme. What did the associations with other pilots, this “camaraderie,” mean to you?  And who were the “Hot” pilots you always ended up competing against?

I love the fact you could meet a kite flier in any country, not speak the same language and somehow still have a conversation about kites. I’ve always looked up to Andy Preston, Tim Benson, Andy Wardly, Carl Robertshaw, Mathieu Mayet, Gregory Raynes and Richard Debray since I started kite flying, and thanks to the Revolution Mega team and flying in the same group as Andy Preston I have now flown with all of them.

What are your favorite festivals and/or kite comps?  Tell us a bit about them, please.  And is there any event that you missed in the past, but would have dearly loved to attend?

I don’t think I have a favorite kite festival, they all are so different and I think that’s why I enjoy them all in different ways. I always enjoy going to Berck-sur-Mer, and I enjoy Bristol Kite Festival equally but they both have such different atmospheres. I always enjoy Brighton Kite Festival because I fly a lot of indi stuff at that event. One event I wish could be repeated is Guadeloupe, having heard the stories and Carl showing me the video.

Time to switch our focus a little bit – to designing and building kites.  When did you first start designing and building kites?  Presumably, you started to develop kites either because you found you wanted to build kites with features that weren’t generally available to you otherwise?  Or perhaps as a less-expensive way of getting good kites?  What was your motivation – and how successful were you when you first started?

Ever since I first picked up a kite I’d always wanted to fly one I’d made. The Element mainly started as a college final major project 2 years ago. I used the project as an excuse to start my own kite designing. There’s something about flying a kite you’ve spent hours working on.

Now, however, you find yourself involved in the creation of sport kites for manufacture and sale full-time, as a job and a “business.”  How did that all come about, and how successful is the business right now?

Well in 2004 I did my work experience at Kite Related Design and since then I have worked there on my school holidays. Last year, when I’d finished college I started working there full time. In September I hope to be off to Uni. Working at Kite Related Design has been amazing. Every day is different and it’s fascinating to see how kite ideas can be translated and used in so many different areas. The business is doing great and we are very busy at the moment making some sets and props for some very well known bands… but that’s this week, next week will be a completely different project!

And for heaven’s sake, before we go any further here, please tell us what makes the “Element” so special? What separates it from “run-of-the-mill” kites, and even from current top-calibre kites like the Fury and the .85 Fury…

The Element was designed to do the more up to date tricks I couldn’t do on my Fury such as Yo-fades, Wap-du-waps and multi Lazies easily. It has a ‘kink’ in the trailing edge to allow for multiple Lazy Susans, trapping the line and not allowing it to travel further along the trailing edge. This also helps line up the lines for yoyos, getting rid of the need for roll bars for multiple roll ups. With a flat sail it allows it to do the old school flat spins which some of the latest kites lack. It is designed to do combinations, and never ending trick sequences. It pushes me to add new tricks into my common repertoire during competitions.

So, that pretty much brings us up to date Chris, with only a couple of exceptions – so, what’s next?  Will you be spending the summer a.) making Elements for sale at Kite Related Design, b.) out showing the Element to all hot pilots everywhere, c.) competing all over Europe, as usual, d.) creating the next new Goff design, or e.) all of the above? 

I’m working at KRD until September and am hoping to do a fair bit of traveling not just to show off the Element but I’m sure that will be part of it. If anyone over there want to have me over just shout! And I do have a nice little indoor single line kite prototyping at present so we’ll see where that ends up.

What’s the story on the manufacturing side? Obviously, the buyer picks colors and perhaps a frame-set, and someone sews the sail up, and it gets framed, packaged shipped, invoiced, and paid for…  Who does all that?  Do you?

Well my part in the process is to first off cut out the panels for the kite after the order is received. I frame up the kite and bridle it and once it gets quality controlled I package it.

Obviously, you also need to stay on the European competition circuit too, flying both dual-line and quad-line in STACK comp events.  How have you been doing recently, and who are your major competitors at these events?

Well last weekend I beat Carl Robertshaw in Dual Line Indi, so I’m doing all right! Well obviously Carl and James are in the UK, in Europe Richard Debray in Dual and Guido in Multi Line. I’m looking forward to Eurocup this year, I think if sponsors can be found and the event goes ahead, I have a good chance.

And as you also know – a kite design is never done, which means there’s always something new cooking in there somewhere.  So what ideas are in there percolating now, what new concepts, adaptations, and designs?  And where do you want to take it all?

Well like I said earlier I have a single line kite in the mixer, and as you say a designs never done… so time will tell.

And somewhere “in the mix,” there’s also that part about Chris Goff, the 19-year old human being.  I understand he’s a hot-shot kite pilot, a bit of a Rock drummer, and probably still a student too, and.. and…      So how do “you” survive and thrive in all this, as a young man about to reach the ripe-old age of 20 years old?

Well flying kites is an obsession. When I am flying it clears my head completely, and I find it really relaxing. At the moment I don’t have much time but I try to fly at least once a week. Its just balance, obviously I work kites during the week and at weekends I go to as many kite festivals as I can so I just have to make sure I fit in time for friends and other 20 year old ‘stuff’ when I can.

Okay, we always like to finish these Profiles with a few last questions about the individuals.  So with all the “stuff” you pack into your daily life, is there some part of it that REALLY makes all the difference, that keeps you pumped up when nothing else will?   What is it that keeps Chris Goff focused and ahead of the game?

Haha, well I guess train rides, as stupid as that sounds. I have a long journey to work every morning, I pass the time with my headphones on thinking. It’s surprising how creative you can be in the middle of a packed train.

Back to kites for the final question.  So to end it all, if I could magically transport you to the “perfect” kite-flying place – where would you like to end the Perfect Kite Flying Day?  Location… Time of Day… Wind/Weather conditions…  Other people around you???   No – Kitelife will NOT be paying for your airfare and accommodations, but maybe we’d join you there if the opportunity all comes together somehow!

I don’t think it would be anywhere in particular, if you are surrounded by all the people you know in the kite world you could be anywhere and still have a good time. So the perfect kite flying day would be with every kite flier I know gathered in one place doing what we enjoy.

Chris, thank you SO much!  Kitelife is always pleased to feature the real “Hot- Shots” in the kiting, and your thoughts and comments above show that you’re already a strong, integrated part of that kiting community.  Thanks so much for joining Kitelife in doing this ProFile, Chris!  Best of luck to you in the coming months and years. 

Warm Regards –