American, Newman Darby invents the ‘Sailboard’ which will not be recognised until the early 1980s as one of several iterations including that of Englishman, Peter Chilvers of Hayling Island England in 1958. Many court cases would be staged until finally both Darby and Chilvers become recognised as the inventors of a ‘first of type’ concept.
The Windsurfer@ is released, designed by Jim Drake and put to market by Hoyle Schweitzer through Windsurfing International (USA). A joint patent between Drake and Schweitzer will become the nemesis for many brands, though it will become the catalyst for a recreational and sporting phenomena that will change the face of water based board sports forever. Drake would go on to sell his share of the Patent to Schweitzer and become an altruistic figure head for the sport over the course of his lifetime.
The first USA imported Windsurfer® boards arrive in Germany through Calle Schmidt (photo) in Sylt Germany. Peter Brockhaus discovers Windsurfing while on holiday here. In 1973 he takes on the distribution of Windsurfer® from Schmidt. Brockhaus creates Europe’s first Windsurfing Magazine. Photographer Ulli Seer and Micky Garff work with Brockhaus on the publication. Graphic Artist, Ernstfried Prade is hired to make the layouts.
The Verband Deutscher Windsurfing Schulen (VDWS) is founded by Peter Brockhaus, Dago Benz, Horst Karrer, Klaus Gahmig, Ernstfried Prade and the Charchulla brothers in Peter’s home town of Plettenburg. Peter invents the ‘Dry Land Simulator’ fabricated by a relative of his. ‘Instruction Prior to Purchase’ becomes the strategy to sell the sport. In the USA no such instructional approach existed. The VDWS still functions today.
In 1975 Peter Brockhaus meets Hoyle Schweitzer on Association Island at the World Windsurfer® Championships. Schweitzer asks Peter to look into and strengthen his German Patent in order to protect their collective interests from emerging brands. By the end of 1975 and as a result of the ‘Instruction Prior to Purchase Strategy’ Brockhaus sells more Windsurfer® boards in one season than Windsurfer International USA had sold since founding in 1968.
Relations between European manufacturer Ten Cate of the Windsurfer® Peter Brockhaus and Hoyle Schweitzer of Windsurfing International are compromised by poor quality product and demands from end-users in Germany for improved overall product quality and functionality. There is no appetite for change which fuels growing frustration.
Brockhaus and Heinz Bader of Scobalit manufacturing form a partnership in 1976. Scobalit would be manufacturer, Brockhaus the Marketing Manager, Christian Muller-Kittnau joins to create Mistral Sportswear, Ernstfried Prade focuses on board design and components The Mistral Super Wind is released. Peter meets a young Robbie Naish at the Windsurfer® Worlds in Nassau, Bahamas.
In the winter of 1976 Hansi Fichtner takes on the roll as shaper and works with Ernsfried Prade to shape the Mistral Competition. This singular board combined with an outstanding apparel line, created by Christian Muller-Kittnau immediately set Mistral apart from the Windsurfer®. Mistral is officially released at the January 1977 Dusseldorf Boat Show, together the Mistral Sportwear line. Mistral would become the world’s first Lifestyle Brand. Late in 1977, Ruppert Fritzmeier (Plastics Moulding Company) becomes a third equal partner in Mistral.
From the moment Mistral was released at the 1977 Dusseldorf Boat Show in Germany, it was clear Mistral recognised Windsurfing as a lifestyle. The approach was unique through the fashion design of Christian Muller-Kittnau, the drive of Peter Brockhaus, the eccentricity of Ernstfried Prade, the photographic creativity of Ulli Seer and ultimately the genius and talents of the Naish family and that of Harold Ige and others, would elevate Mistral as the brand of choice within Windsurfing circles for decades.
Peter Brockhaus makes contact with Rick Naish in Hawaii and travels to Hawaii and a contract is signed that Rick Naish would be Mistral’s board designer. Rick designs the Mistral Naish and Kailua boards and presents to Mistral, though they would not be released until 1979 due to manufacturing constraints. Ulli Seer begins shooting images for Mistral and would become instrumental in promoting the Mistral lifestyle to the world.
The International Mistral One Design (IMOD) Association is established in England and would become the hub for the growth of One Design, founded with the Mistral Competition. Robby Naish (Hw) and Karl Messmer (Eu) are testing boards. The Mistral One Design would see evolutionary changes away from the Mistral Competition to the Equipe II, derived from Rick Naish’s Pan Am board.
The Mistral M1 Division 2 board is released, shaped by Hansi Fichtner overseen by Ernstfried Prade and Karl Messmer. The M1 would dominate this Division for nearly 3 years beginning with Karl Messmer’s World Championship win in Guadaloupe. Two years after signing Rick Naish, Peter Brockhaus, leaves Mistral to form F2. The Kailua and Naish boards are released with Pat Love sails. Brockhaus commissioned the art of Hawaiian Artist Russel Davidson.
Billion dollar company Aida acquires Mistral and invests heavily to transform Mistral into a windsurfing giant. The Mistral Dream Team is created as a marketing stroke of genius and includes the likes of Robbie Naish, Karl Messmer, Peter Cabrinha, Jill Boyer, Natalie Siebel, Natalie Lelievre, Tim Aagesan and Tomas Persson. They went on to dominate the World Cup Circuit. Theodor ‘Teddy’ Keifer would be their manager.
Rick Naish hires Harold Ige in Hawaii to assist with shaping and design as the work load was immense. It would be a productive and fantastic partnership that would see them contribute to Mistral designs for nearly 20 years. Christian Muller-Kittanu leaves Mistral having established Mistral Sportswear. He had also served as General Manager.
Mistral begin to make fun boards in response to the growing popularity as pioneered by Peter Brockhaus working with Jurgen Honschied. Windsurfing was becoming ever more high wind and surf orientated in Europe and around the world. In 1983 the ‘Take Off’ is released, a Rick Naish design, but is now already 2 years old and effectively outdated. Nevertheless it’s a new beginning.
Club Mistral is formed and set up in key locations and in 1989 Yola Bichler joins as an advisor and goes on to secure ownership, establishing 20 Club Mistral worldwide. This would be the peak of windsurfing during ’85-’86 and by towards the end of the 80’s the boom was over but the sport was well established.
In 1986 the Dream Team is dismantled however by this time, Mistral’s status is well established as a true lifestyle brand around which fashion had always played, and continues to play, an important part as established in the beginning by Christian Muller-Kittnau and recognised by Peter Brockhaus, essential to building brand awareness and a strong following.
Mistral is sold to Jacobs (Chocolates and Coffee fame) at a time when windsurfing was on a downward trend. A few years later Ernstfried Prade would leave Mistral and so too Robbie Naish and in 1989 Naish Sails is founded. Jacobs makes significant management changes and go on to purchase F2 and Fanatic in a bid to dominate and increase market share.
The Mistral Equipe II is released and in 1996 chosen as the Olympic Race board and again in 2000 and 2004. The Equipe began life as the Mistral Pan Am shaped by Rick Naish and later refined by Harold Ige and Nevyn Seyre. The Pan Am board, probably the most significant board to ocean racing ever shaped, had now evolved into the Equipe evocation boards.
1996 the Mistral Equipe II (One Design) is used at the Atlanta USA Olympic Games and sets new levels of popularity based on its well established world wide class that’s colourful and fast moving for spectators. 1996 Dr Kurt Svrcula, acquires Mistral manufacturing rights from Fritzmeier Group and in1997 he moves Mistral manufacture to Malaysia, then in 1998, Klaus Jacobs purchases F2, Fanatic and North Sails.
After an illustrious contribution to Mistral, both Rick Naish and Harold Ige stand down from Mistral. Both Rick and Harold had shaped and designed for Mistral for some 20 years, having created most all of the classic Mistral boards since 1977. Indeed the Naish family had been the backbone of Mistral’s design programme during all this time.
Mistral One Design is the board again used at the 2004 Olympics in Greece. However, there is growing pressure to change with much resistance from the sailors, the decision seem politically motivated to dismantle a good thing. This would be the Equipe’s last Olympics after 3 consecutive terms.
The Mistral One Design is dropped as the Olympic board despite the best efforts of Boards and More to retain the class. It was a travesty for the 100,000 strong fleet that had been built up over years. Industry jealousy and the idea that Mistral should not have a monopoly were certainly factors in the decision making. Boards and More were compelled to release Mistral, purchased by Ado Huisman of Holland with strong links with the brand from the past.
In July 2009 Anders Bringdal became the new licence holder of Mistral Windsurfing having been associated with the previous owner, Boards and More. Despite efforts to maintain the IMOD, logistics, time and money dried up for what had been a hugely successful race board. An Equipe III was created but it seemed the end of the road. In 2008 Mistral had released the Pacifico, its first SUP board. Ernstfried Prade returned to Mistral in an advisory capacity.
By 2010 Stand Up Paddle boarding was the next ‘new’ thing. No one could say for sure how popular it would be. Anders Bringdal was working on some SUP designs as was Ernstfried Prade. Anders was still working on a full release of the Equipe III from the Cobra factory in Thailand. A good range of boards were in place. But once again the Windsurfing market was under pressure from competing sports.
In 2012 Mistral Red Dod Division was established to create a line of SUP board and accessories. It was a brave step into the unknown and pioneering world of Stand Up Paddleboarding. The line featured all-round, SUP surf and M1 race boards all in laminated construction. Meanwhile licensing agreements were already being established for the use of the M-Dot / Mistral branding for a wide variety of garments, beach and footwear.
For 2013 Mistral release for the first time a range of inflatable stand up paddleboards while maintaining its range of laminate boards. With the production of inflatable boards, the growth of SUP was now based upon accessibility, transportability and functionality for the masses, while laminated boards were more towards the specialist. SUP was now a rapidly growing sport.
During 2014, Mistral contacts ocean sports pioneer, author and athlete Steve West, living at the time in Fiji. A pioneering windsurfer, SUP and outrigger canoe paddler with over 25 years experience and two Molokai Hoe titles, author of over 20 books covering various ocean sport topics, it was concluded, especial paddling knowledge was needed to take Mistral on a journey of rediscovery. SUP was now becoming the fastest growing water sport.
2015 would see Anders Bringdal relinquish the Mistral Windsurfing licence and in turn a temporary closure of Mistral producing windsurfing product. It was with mixed emotions being at the same time, Stand Up Paddling was booming and focus was now on nurturing this sector of the market together with Mistral’s licensees. Mistral would win the famous 11 Cities 5 Day SUP Race in both the Men’s and Women’s Division and other top international events, using a West designed Vortex board establishing itself as a highly competitive brand within the market.
New SUP winning West designed boards including the Equinox and Slipstream go on to win international races in the USA, Europe, Tahiti and South America, setting record times in the UK and South Africa. In 2017, Seychelle Hattingh, establishes a Guinness Book World Record, paddling the furthest recorded distance in 24hrs on a SUP board, using the Vortex 14′ board. In 2017 Mistral Awarded ‘Best iSUP’ award by leading USA Magazine.
Mistral begins to set its sights on ever more creative endeavours within the inflatable market. The global pandemic causes chaos in the markets for the release advanced innovations however Mistral maintains its position as a growing force in the SUP and water sports industry while gradually working its way back within the windsurfing market.
Between 2020-21 through various supply chains, Mistral becomes one of the largest producers of Stand Up Paddle boards, producing in excess of 200,000 units. With this success during a global pandemic, the new sport of Wing Foiling is now spreading across the globe. Mistral establishes a small team led by Steve West composed of hydrodynamics specialist and high level water sports participants to take Mistral to the next level, while at the same time, Mistral enters a period of renewed contemplation of its roots and of the classic windsurfing shapes from the hands and minds of Rick Naish and Harold Ige.
As of 2022 Mistral is active on four continents, spanning ten countries. It is today a formidable force in the water sports industry, embracing windsurfing, surfing, wing foiling, SUP, lifestyle and technical apparel. Mistral’s readiness for greater international expansion was confirmed when Dutch hands-on investor NMG took over the helm of the company: “Mistral is clearly surfing a big wave of growth. It has the stature, radiance and credibility to expand this success by building even greater business under the Mistral brand. We look forward to a great watersports adventure!”