Craig Cunningham takes #TRUEKITEBOARDING to heart and leads the first Duotone Grom Search with the support of world-leading riders and International teammates. Caiupe, Brazil has delivered some of the industry’s best talent over the years and was the perfect spot for the event. More than a search for the next World Champion, it was the start of an exciting cycle that aims to develop the sport in general and grow the local scene. The guys at Duotone caught up with Craig to hear more about the event.
Why was it the right time for Duotone to launch the Grom Search?
With the rebranding of the former company into Duotone, we had an opportunity to continue down the same path or cut out a new identity. Of course our followers and customers still associate us with everything we did in the past, that’s a good thing and we are proud of that, but we also want to create a new vibe around Duotone, something fresh, something organic something fresh, something organic, and the Grom Search is one of many projects we have in the pipeline.
Why Cauipe, Brazil?
We picked Cauipe, Brazil, as the place to do our first ever Duotone Grom Search as a lot of talent has come from this area over the years. The province of Ceara and specifically the small town of Cumbuco, has produced some of the best freestylers in the world and is home of the current World Champion. In a place where most of the locals are struggling to eat daily meals or even have a roof over their heads, kiteboarding is a way out! For these kids, becoming a football player is no longer the only dream.
What was the vision behind it?
At Duotone we take #TRUEKITEBOARDING to heart, which means pushing the sport in every direction and discipline at hard as possible. That being said, we also try to support the best athletes across all the facets of kiteboarding and freestyle is no different. We are looking for a World Champion, but we are also looking to develop the local scene. It seems that a lot of the local riders and kids trying to get on tour are dropping out of school to focus on kiting, which is crazy! You can only kite so many hours in a day, so why not use your free time productively? We wanted to show that at Duotone, we’re not only interested in the riding level but also academic potential. We don’t want to sponsor a kid who can do all tricks but can’t properly read or write.
For the Grom Search we wanted to go to the beach with an open mind. No list of reasoning on who or why we are selecting the kids, no heats, no competition; get out there and do your thing. It could be because of pure talent, power, style, personality, potential or a combination of these characteristics. The winners would not only get supported with Duotone gear (quiver of choice + board of choice + boots + small Click Bar and a harness) but English lessons as well! We will stay in contact with their English tutor and if they complete monthly schooling and keep progressing in their riding, they’ll get new gear the following year when the team returns.
Then they’ll have the opportunity to give their old kit (that we gave them this year) to a local shredder of their choice, and so the cycle starts. Hopefully, this will set the tone with the locals so that they understand that staying in school, speaking other languages and being capable as an ambassador to the brand is just as important as the number of tricks in your bag!
Tell us about the support from the international team?
It was pretty cool to see so much of the team as hyped on the idea as I was! Believe me, everybody wanted to be there but that just wasn’t possible with travel logistics and everyone’s schedules. In the end, we had a handful of the team come out that day to show support, give advice and spread the true stoke of Duotone! Noé Font is always a massive help behind the scenes and spent the day shooting video. Mika Sol was there to help translate and give advice alongside Paula Novotna, Hannah Whitely, Artem Garschenko, Valentin Rodriguez and few more. Even though a lot of the team was elsewhere, I received a lot of messages from our riders from around the world stating how proud they were to be associated with a brand that supported events like this. It wasn’t just a good thing for us, but for the local community and the sport as a whole. It really was a win, win, win situation!
What was the response from the industry?
I have to say it’s all been super positive! There hasn’t been a single negative comment surrounding this concept. The response for peers, coworkers, friends and acquaintances from other brands was outstanding. I even had people from other boardsports messaging me saying how sick the concept was with the idea surrounding the schooling combined with the riding! I think we will see more of this in the future and hopefully, some of the other brands will launch some as well. Let’s grow the pie, not the slice!
What was your journey into the Duotone team?
I guess I was never really a kite grommet. I was studying Power Engineering when I first discovered the sport and took it up as a hobby. Pretty quickly though kiteboarding took over my life, I was addicted and I met some new friends who were already traveling. Then I started using all my free time to travel and kite. When I finished school I worked a normal job for 6 months until my good friend Sam Medysky persuaded me to quit and come to Brazil with him and a few others. From that point on I started doing a lot of odd jobs to continue traveling but didn’t really have any aspirations of going pro, I just wanted to cruise around and live the good life with my best friends.
I had surrounded myself with some of the best riders in North America at the time like Sam, Brandon Scheid and Eric Rienstra. Not long after Liquid Force started flowing me kites and a little travel budget. Fast forward 4 or 5 years and Duotone was searching for a rider from North America. I had a lot of content coming out at the time with the NA Blend crew along with a few good results in some park events. I had also just won the Rookie of the Year at the Triple S invitational to put the cherry on top. Long story short Boards & More, the umbrella company to Duotone and ION, offered me a contract that I couldn’t refuse and the rest is pretty much history. Now I’m super thankful that the Marketing team has to be given the opportunity to work behind the scenes as creative director on specialist projects like these, and recently, I took the position as Team Manager of the twin tip team.
What makes a standout grom for Duotone?
Someone who’s always smiling and spreading good vibes, that’s a must! If you’re one of those too-cool-for-school, unapproachable superstars that just lets the riding do the talking, you had better be on a whole different level. What we really want is someone who shreds just as hard off the water as on it! If you can manage to be the best or one of the best athletes in the spot, swell as friendly, compassionate and cool it’s going to go a long way. In a nutshell, we’re looking for someone who rides at the highest level and epitomizes the values of Duotone.
What can we expect to see for 2019?
This isn’t the end of the story, this tale goes on. We will be launching a recap video soon and we’ll be following the two winners throughout their years. And of course we will be holding the 2nd Annual Duotone Grom Search next year in Brazil!
This article was first featured on the Duotone website here: https://www.duotonesports.com/kiteboarding/more/about-us/news/detailed/the-first-duotone-grom-search/