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11th September 2018, Chonburi

Achieving breakthrough in surfboard design

The King Cobra proved a breakthrough product for Cobra, establishing the company’s presence as a manufacturer of high performance windsurf boards. © Cobra International Cobra International, a leading manufacturer of composite water sports products and a supplier of strong, light and beautiful composites for automotive, architectural, transportation and marine, is celebrating its 40th anniversary. To celebrate this milestone, Cobra has commissioned a 40 Years Book that will look at 40 key projects and 40 key people that were integral to the company’s growth.

In this book, among other things, the company recollects the story behind King Cobra, a breakthrough composites product for Cobra, which helped establish the company’s presence as a manufacturer of high performance windsurf boards and create global visibility for the Cobra brand.

Breakthrough in surfboard design

A chance meeting at a windsurfing event on Italy’s Lake Garda in 1981 sowed the seeds for what became Cobra’s first mass market success story – the King Cobra. Its story begins in Europe in the summer of 1981, when Bert Morsbach and Rainer Ramelsberger meet Klaus Simmer, a young windsurfing pioneer passionate about developing the next generation of high-performance windsurfing equipment.

Klaus had put his studies at the University of Munich on hold a year earlier and relocated to Maui, Hawaii, where he and his brother Malte started to push their windsurfing equipment to the limits in the strong trade winds and pounding waves of Maui’s North shore. By the time he returned to Europe in 1981, Klaus was full of ideas and had already designed several custom boards and started to shape them himself.

In the autumn of 1981, Klaus travelled to Thailand to join the Cobra team and quickly got to work on his latest ideas for a new board that would plane quickly in the stronger breezes, but also perform well in lighter winds.


During his initial three-month stay with Cobra, prototypes were worked up and testing sessions held in Pattaya and Phuket, allowing Klaus to refine the original lines and finalise the King Cobra design. At 12’ in length and with a volume of 220 litres, the King Cobra’s dimensions were similar to many other boards, but what made it special was in the outline, rocker profile and underwater shape.

By combining semi-displacement forward sections with a tri-plane planning surface in the tail, Klaus succeeded in shaping a board that could change mode easily from upwind to downwind. With the mast track moved forward and daggerboard down, it went upwind well, and as the breeze increased riders could move the mast track back, fully retract the daggerboard and lock into the footstraps for fast but controllable planning. The rounded pintail shape in the tail was the first time such a detail had been used in a series production board.


With the shape defined it was time for Cobra to add production expertise to the mix. The King Cobra needed to be light, but it also needed to be tough. It was for this reason that an epoxy sandwich construction with hard PVC foam over an expanded polystyrene (EPS) core was selected. Cobra had pioneered this construction method and used it in the King Cobra, producing a light, stiff and fast production board. Weighing under 16kg, the King Cobra offered high levels of performance not possible with a production board before, according to the manufacturer.

Whilst the team all believed they were really on to something with the new design and lightweight construction, some of most important feedback would come from the industry-leading test teams at the European windsurf magazines.  First tested by German Surf magazine in April 1982, the board was an immediate hit.

Breakthrough product

The King Cobra proved a breakthrough product for Cobra, establishing the company’s presence as a manufacturer of high performance windsurf boards and creating global visibility for the Cobra brand. Suddenly, the company was selling as many boards as it could produce.

“What I loved most about working with Cobra at that time was that, as a young kid – just 22 – with a load of innovative design ideas, I shared this great passion to make better boards and equipment with the owners, partners and top management at Cobra. They were just as passionate as I was and had the manufacturing technology to bring my ideas to fruition,” said Klaus Simmer.

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