Helmet Hair: The latest in marginal gains

Published on November 26th, 2023

It is not April Fools, but don’t let the ‘wink-wink’ of this International Kiteboarding Association report hit you over the head:

Helmet hair (definition from Cambridge Dictionary) /ˈhel.mət ˌheər/:
1. a person’s hair that is flatter than usual because they have been wearing a helmet (= a strong, hard hat that protects your head when riding a motorcycle or bicycle)

2. hair in a style that looks like a helmet (= a strong, hard hat that protects your head)

Over the past couple of seasons, Max Maeder has been one of the dominant forces on the Olympic kitefoiling scene. The 17-year-old from Singapore has been tearing up the track and setting new standards for others to follow, not least when he won this year’s World Championships in The Hague.

However, his younger brother, the 15-year-old Karl Maeder (above) is also turning over new stones in his never-ending quest for kiting excellence. At the 2023 Formula Kite Asia & Oceania Championships, Karl unveiled his latest secret, the culmination of a project that has been at least three minutes in the making.

Where the conventional wisdom has been that helmet hair is a bad thing, something to be avoided, the innovative teenager has embraced the opposite point of view. With kitefoilers hitting speeds up to 40 knots across the water, aerodynamics are almost as important as the hydrodynamic component beneath the surface.

“The evolution process is really important,” explained Karl, wearing a conventional plastic protective helmet, “because as the sport progresses were getting a smaller and smaller gains. So we’re looking into aerodynamics and all sorts of things.

“And, the helmets, they’re just too big, you know? So, so we’re gonna have built in helmets in the future, they’re going to be very sleek, very tight close, close to the skin.”

At this point Karl unclipped his helmet to reveal…Helmet Hair. 😉

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