In the parking lot of Duotone’s Munich headquarters, Craig Cunningham loads a shiny black camper van to its rims with kites, bikes and skateboards. In a new campaign for Mercedes, set up through his connections with the Makulo advertising agency, Craig’s secured the use of a factory-branded luxury camper van to drive across Europe, not as an athlete this time, but in his new role as Duotone’s team manager. The 4-cylinder diesel engine hums as he points the sleek camper south and heads towards the Swiss Alps, starting a week of side trips on the road to the first event of the 2019 GKA Freestyle World Tour in Leucate, France.
Stopping in Laax, Switzerland, host to one of the most famous snowboarding parks in Europe, Craig scores a session in the park before heading to Flims, home of the mecca of pump tracks. After a brief stop at Duotone’s French distribution center in France, Craig heads to the airport to pick up young Columbian hopeful, Valentin Rodriguez, and beelines it to the Mediterranean coast. Driving a camper van across Europe and working remotely as team manager for one of the industry’s largest brands never figured into Craig’s long term plans, yet it’s the logical outcome of applying hard work to kiteboarding passion while staying true to the ethos of living in the moment—and it’s put Craig exactly where he wants to be.
Growing up on the Canadian shores of Lake Eerie, Craig was the product of a typical Canadian childhood. Baseball and hockey games took up most of his time until, at the age of 13, he noticed a crew of young skateboarders in his local town. He saved up for his own board and started skateboarding while his brother and the rest of his friends went to hockey practice. Around 2005, Craig saw a few guys kiteboarding at his local beach, Long Point in Ontario, and noticed how kiteboarding looked like an affordable version of wakeboarding. He approached one of the guys on the beach, and the following day, local kiter Doug Ballentyne gave him a lesson and sold him his first kite. Craig rode all summer long at Long Point trying to figure out the basics in sideshore wind. At the time he didn’t understand the concept of staying upwind so he’d take tacks out, hitting the waves like kickers, but after only a couple of tacks, he’d have to make up the ground by walking back up the beach.
That winter, the obsessive upstart watched every action kiteboarding video available and devoured magazines—because in the dark days before internet videos and Facebook, that is what you did. Looking back, Craig chuckles because his first purchase was the Triple-S video when instead he should have bought Real’s instructional series Zero to Hero… To read the full article become a subscriber of Tkb Magazine.