Embracing the Power of Unity - Interview
FANATIC FOILING AND WINDSURFING JOIN DUOTONE - The Boards & More Group is the world market leader in the water sports segments of Kiteboarding, Windsurfing and Wing Foiling. The Austrian group already caused a stir in 2018 when it decided to distribute Kiteboarding products under the new Duotone brand. Now Boards & More has announced that it will continue to distribute Fanatic products from the Windsurf and Wing Foil sector under the Duotone brand name in the future. So what's going on? A conversation with Till Eberle, CEO of Boards & More, Craig Gertenbach, previously Brand Manager Fanatic, Raoul Joa, Division Manager Windsurf and Klaas Voget, Division Manager Product & Marketing Wing Foiling.
Till the first question goes to you: Will Boards & More discontinue the Fanatic brand?
Till: "With Fanatic and Duotone, we have two powerful brands at Boards & More that occupy very similar positions. Fanatic has a heritage of over 40 years. We grew up with Fanatic and we made Fanatic great. But since we founded the new Duotone brand for our Kiteboarding products in 2018, this brand has achieved incredible strength, competence and acceptance among our customers. Duotone already covers a large part of the water sports world, from Kiteboarding to Windsurfing sails and wings for Wing Foiling. Duotone brings together a huge amount of expertise. That's why we have decided to offer the products from the performance sector, which were previously under Fanatic, under the Duotone brand name going forward in the future, i.e. Windsurf boards, Wing Foiling boards and foils. The logical sequence is that we are phasing out Fanatic in the Windsurf and Wing Foil segment over the next six months. In the commercial SUP (Stand-Up Paddling) sector, the Fanatic brand will remain. We are focusing fully on this segment with Fanatic and will continue to offer appropriate products to a much broader target group here under the Fanatic name."
What does Duotone do that Fanatic can't?
Till: "A key strategy for the future of Boards & More is that we don't only offer products, but also experiences that offer our customers real added value. These already include the Duotone Pro Centres, the Duotone Academy App, our Young Blood Camps and finally the Save our Playground sustainability initiative. In all these measures, we do not differentiate between the sports we own in the portfolio. And it also makes no sense to distinguish between brands. With concentrated brand power, we will be able to achieve much more here."
Raoul: "When we transferred to Duotone Windsurf Sails in 2018, it boosted the Windsurf division tremendously. Our Windsurfing customers welcomed this brand transfer with great positivity. Internally, we cross-fertilised each other with so much concentrated knowledge that we created a brand with a common goal."
Till: "And that's exactly how it is now with Fanatic and Duotone. Once we'd made this decision, it became apparent how much energy and creative potential this releases and how right it is. The combined expertise of the two brands is now bundled. We are segmenting the products in the Windsurf and Wing Foiling segments more clearly, and everything now comes from a single mould.”
Craig, you have been Windsurfing on Fanatic boards since 1995, then tester, Product Manager and since 2004 Brand Manager for Fanatic. How difficult is this step for you as Mr Fanatic?
Craig: "The hurdle was not that big for me. From the outside, it may look like a huge step, but for us, it is a natural development. You should simply never stand still in life. For years, Fanatic and Duotone have shared team riders, organised joint photo shoots and launched products on the same date. Actually, it is already one team and one brand, just with two different logos. And that is inefficient for everyone. The development teams for Windsurf boards and sails have been working together for years anyway. Daniel Aeberli for boards and Marco Lang for sails will take on more important roles as Product Managers in
the future. Raoul and I will accompany this with our experience."
Raoul: "The product lines are and remain as they are known. This applied to the Windsurfing sails that we have been carrying under Duotone since 2018: A Warp or Super Hero was and still is the sail that everyone loves so much. And this now also applies to Windsurfing boards in 2024: a Skate, FreeWave or Falcon remains a Skate, FreeWave or Falcon, only now it is a Duotone Skate, Duotone FreeWave and Duotone Falcon. The complete team remains, with product management, and team riders and so does the design process with our lead designers: Kai Hopf designing the Windsurf sails and Sebastian Wenzel working on the shapes of the Windsurf boards."
Synergy is always a nice buzzword. But how do you bring this to life at Boards & More
Till: "In development, we no longer work in individual sports silos anyway, we cross over. We were only able to establish Wing Foiling so successfully at Boards & More in such a short time because of the competent input that came from all our sports divisions. Ken Winner, the Duotone designer, who incidentally was also instrumental in the development of shortboards in Windsurfing, now develops the wings. Klaas, who tests the Windsurf wave boards, is now head of Wing Foil development. Our D/LAB and SLS series with the innovative materials from the Kite Division flow into wings and windsurf sails. Synergies in the development of different sports actually take the products for our customers a lot further.Together we are simply stronger. That has always counted at Boards & More. Without Windsurfing sales, our origin over 30 years ago, Kiting would never have had such great success. Wing Foiling as a new sport, on the other hand, could never have developed so dynamically without the resources of Kiting. This family of sports brands is so strong because we have a common platform with the Boards & More Group. Developers, importers, dealers as well as employees in Molln and Oberhaching – decades of experience and continuity is the cornerstone for innovation, quality and service."
Craig: "By co-inventing the new sport of Wing Foiling, our sport structure became intermingled. Wing Foiling built a bridge between Kitesurfing and Windsurfing, because part of the development came from each sport, so athletes from both areas discovered Wing Foiling for themselves. Suddenly the whole thing becomes blurred. Everyone is open-minded, which is highly exciting and lowers barriers. Here in our company alone, you see how many people are now doing all the sports. This is another reason why we use teams cross-matrix. Those who are good in a subject area should do just that. It is much more efficient and consistent to do this under one brand. From now on, everything in Wing Foiling and Windsurfing will also come from one source, as we have already established very successfully with Duotone Kiteboarding."
Raoul: "Something else, too: In Kiteboarding, there is no separation of brands between boards and kites. In Windsurfing, on the other hand, there have traditionally always been board brands and sail brands. But that's an outdated approach. It doesn't result in an advantage for customers. Many of our customers practice Windsurfing and Wing Foiling or Kiteboarding and Wing Foiling. The mindset today is much more open. Narrow-minded thinking like 'I'm only a Windsurfer or only a kiteboarder' no longer exists.”
Craig, you will be taking on a new role with this brand transfer, right?
Craig: "Yes, my new role is Wing Foil Division Manager Sales. Klaas' new role is Wing Foil Division Manager Product & Marketing. I have been working with Klaas for over 20 years. Together we are now responsible for the new Duotone Wing Foiling Division, i.e. wings, boards and foils. For me, it's the opportunity to go further in the company, to learn new things. But it is also an opportunity for young colleagues in the Windsurfing sector to set new impulses. In the end, it's good for both areas of the brand."
Till: "Wing Foiling is the fastest growing area at Boards & More, so Craig's experience is needed there. But he not only brings with him decades of expertise but also a fascination for this new sport."
Craig, on the Bavarian lakes you have the reputation of being by far the Wing Foiler
with the most water time. If there is even
the slightest bit of wind at a lake, you will be there – an early wind at Tegernsee, thermals at Walchensee or a westerly storm at Wörthsee.
Craig: "Yes, I am totally fascinated by this new sport. Wing Foiling is so inspiring. We have developed this sport in a way that it is not only fun in 5% of the conditions like some others, but in 95% – even in flat water and little wind. On Munich's lakes, I get out on the water 3 to 5 times a week, and at Lake Garda every day. The material is compact and allows a wide range: When the wind gets stronger, you open the wing a bit, if it gets lighter, you still fly on the foil while the windsurfers slowly move around or stand around. Wing Foiling is currently experiencing incredible innovative leaps in development and it's a community like in the early days of Windsurfing. Everyone is having fun, giving each other tips, and cheering on the water. At the spots, many old friends also reappear whom I haven't seen for many years because they had retired from Windsurfing for family reasons. Wing Foiling is now bringing everyone together again, the community from the past and new people. Children and women are also learning the sport incredibly easily, and the learning curve is impressively fast for all. Wing Foiling knows no age limit. Some older people find kiting too dangerous or Windsurfing too strenuous – but they have a blast Wing Foiling. And ultimately, Wing Foiling is a good combo with Windsurfing. Exactly at the point where winging is no longer so much fun – rough wind, fast-breaking waves – that’s when windsurfing really starts to be a lot of fun . You will always find me Windsurfing in the waves of Cape Town."
Till: "You also see the combination of kiters Wing Foiling, it's not so much driven by the wind strength, but by the spots. At some spots, it's tricky to launch a kite. On the other hand, there are areas, at an onshore beach break for example, where winging is really difficult and you can't get out. If you combine both sports, you simply have more fun, and that's the point.”
Klaas: "All my Windsurfing mates go Wing Foiling on days or spots we consider not-so-good for Windsurfing. You have three times as much water time by combining these sports. “
Klaas, as Division Manager Product & Marketing Wingfoil, what synergies will result for you from the fact that Fanatic boards and foils will run under Duotone in the future?
Klaas: "In the Wing Foil sector, there have been so many synergies between the two brands from the very beginning via the development teams that develop wings, boards and foils together in parallel. We've seen Fanatic foils with Duotone and Fanatic Co-Lab masts. If the speed of the wing matches the foil, it is simply much more pleasant to ride. You can only get the best result in a shared world. When we were developing the new generation of foils, Craig asked at one point: Why do we have foils with different brand names for Kiteboarding, Wing Foiling and Windsurfing? That makes no sense! We need to create compatibility, for all settings, for all three sports – with one logo. That's the only way we can be a strong foil brand.' The decision then became clear relatively quickly: The strongest brand currently at Boards & More is Duotone. Duotone now appears as an overall brand. For Kiteboarding, Windsurfing and now Wing Foiling."
Till: "Wing Foiling has opened our eyes and broken down barriers for us."
Klaas: "But the important question is: What
is the clear customer advantage? The answer: Product excellence is strengthened. Duotone stands for quality and innovation. Our customers no longer have to match two brands, which makes sense regarding the foil, they get everything from one source. Keep it simple! And the foil range becomes compatible across all areas of use."
Does this mean that I can Wing Foil,
Kite Foil and Windsurf Foil with a Duotone foil in the future?
Klaas: "Yes and of course also Prone Foiling, Wake Foiling, Downwind Foiling, Pump Foiling, and so on. During our testing, we noticed that windsurfers and kiters suddenly appreciated foils that we had originally developed for Wing Foiling and Wingers began to use Duotone masts under their board because it is slimmer and therefore faster. Until now, there have been different mounting systems for Kite, Windsurf and Wing Foiling. So the logical step is to unify this into one mounting system and to create a sensible, common range for the different segments. The requirements for an excellent foil are the same across all foil disciplines. From 2024 onwards, there will be mast-fuselage combinations that fit perfectly for Kiteboarding as well as for Windsurfing – and also for all the other areas mentioned above. In addition, there are the front and rear wings for differentiated areas of use – of course, individual wings are predestined for special conditions – but everything is compatible with each other."
Till: "An overall Duotone brand brings so many advantages for our customers by bundling expertise and thus moving together much more strongly into the future. What belongs together grows together."