Saturday, June 22, 2024
From The MagCraig Cunningham - Team Manager

Craig Cunningham – Team Manager

Craig Cunningham is one of kitesurfing’s first generation of riders that just missed the OG category. We first met Craig when, as a 19-year-old, Kitesurfing Magazine invited him to Cape Hatteras to be a part of our offical gear test team. He moved on from Kitesurfing Magazine and became a pro team rider for Duotone as one of their first dedicated park style riders. He has morphed into Duotone’s Team Manager. 

The famous lagoons of Fuerteventura were where Craig was lucky enough to be “stuck” for a few months this winter! Lukas Stiller photo

Kitesurfing Magazine: What’s your roll at Duotone? 

Craig Cunningham: My job title says Team Manager, but I typically end up with a wide variety of tasks and projects on the go at all times! From youth development to planning photoshoots and everything in between.

What projects are you working on?

Craig Cunningham: My biggest project is always the team. Trying to increase efficiency and effectiveness while supporting them in the right ways and make sure we are getting the best out of everyone. I’m super lucky that at my boss Tommy Kaiser and his boss Till Eberle see the value of having a someone like myself around Duotone. I’m really happy to pass along what I’ve learned over the years and having such a strong and diverse set of skills on our marketing team gives Philipp Becker and myself the ability to really spend a lot time working with our athletes. Some need help with their communication, socials, actual riding, fitness, mental strength, life in general.  I’m always there to help and I’m never trying to be the boss, more of a tool to help guide them along the way or get back on track. Most of them are still pretty young and forcing them to do things, although it can work is not how I feel like you get the best results. For sure they will fail and fall but as long as they are leaning and becoming better people and athletes we are stoked. Right before the Corona Virus Pandemic hit we were on fire… with a number one in almost every discipline!

This may be the first time the iconic Fuerte lighthouse has a foil in front on the lagoon? Stiller photo

Other than the actual team stuff, For today I had a big focus on the “The De Havilland Beaver” episode we just released and the upcoming 2022 Vegas photoshoot which is coming up in a few weeks in Sicily. Video wise there is another “Out of the Box” in the pipeline, a project on our new solar powered board factory and a new project with Lidewij Hartog for the new Duotone Slick that I’m pretty excited about conceptually. Plus of course all the projects the actually team riders have on the go that we are constantly brainstorming and consulting for. Other work at the moment is just standard operating I guess you could say, a billion WhatsApp’s, emails and inter office messaging applications! It can be a lot of time on the computer and a lot of calls at weird times but connecting the dots and seeing the team riders grow and flourish and long term projects being executed and exceeding expectations, it’s all worth the extra energy and hours.

These days Craig is staying pretty relaxed on the water, compared to a few years back! Lucas Stiller photo

How did COVID-19 change team rider’s jobs and responsibilities? 

Craig Cunningham: Immensely, everything changed. With no world tour on or events at all for that matter, the social media warriors definitely had a head start. If content wasn’t already king, it is now! Hopefully we see the events starting back up but for now it’s been pretty interesting to see who can be flexible, adapt and thrive in the new normal. 

You are originally from Port Dover, Canada. How did you end up based in Portugal? 

Craig Cunningham: Well that’s a long story! Short version is, before moving to Portugal I had already been living in Hood River, Oregon for seven or eight years. I love Canada and am very grateful for my childhood there but I got spoiled as an athlete and kind of knew I wanted to be somewhere with a milder climate as I grew older. Fast forward to when North was rebranding to Duotone, we had already talked about me taking the job and then I really banged up my ankles that summer. I fractured my left ankle in five spots and had bone chips and cartilage clicking on the right. I needed surgery and something to keep me busy for the recovery time, so taking this Team Manager job was looking good! After a year or so of working remotely with some trips here and there to Munich I was started to get burned out a bit from the nine-hour time difference. I was passionate about everything I was doing and cared a lot about the people I was working with and in the end it was just too much time at odd times staring at the screen. So I knew I needed to move to a similar time zone. Tarifa, Cape Town? Wasn’t sure but at the last second I thought about Portugal since it wouldn’t be like a never-ending kite trip living there! It had waves and I had been surfing a lot through my ankle rehab, it had wind and some insane lagoons and it had some good mountain biking and skateboarding for the no wind, no waves days. Why not try it out for a year? Just over two years later it has been one of the best decisions of my life. I’ve never been so productive while at the same time spending so much time in the water! 

Lucas Stiller photo

Have you had a chance to tour much ofEurope? What have been the kiting ighlights for you so far?

Craig Cunningham: Yeah, I’ve been pretty lucky to get to see a good portion of the best spots on the continent over the past 15 years. If I had to pick a highlight it would probably be just wave riding around here lately. It’s not Cape Verde but right out my front door can be really fun sometimes. My body struggles to cop a heavy freestyle session these days and with no parks around I have been kitesurfing quite a bit and really enjoying progressing in a different discipline of our sport. I have so much respect for the top athletes in the waves, it’s pretty incredible to see what Pedro, James, Airton, Matchu, Keahi etc are doing.

You originally hooked up with Duotone because of your park style riding. How do you see park style evolving now that the watersports world’s attention is focused on free ride wingsurfing?

Craig Cunningham: Trends come and go. First it was boots and wakeboard tricks, then big air. I think a lot of people forget that or just weren’t around to hear or see it. Then wakestyle got popular again. At that time you wouldn’t really see any pros in straps, then big air came back and now you hardly see pros in boots. Kiting is still such a young sport and it still has a lot of growing pains to go through. It will be interesting to see where it goes and especially with the whole wing thing taking a lot of the spotlight recently. 

Craig Cunningham might be the team manager but he rips in the park as hard as anyone on the team. Lucas Stiller photo

Do you think this will inspire the kite industry to do more park stuff?

Craig Cunningham: I mean for me it’s the one discipline that you see across almost all the boardsports and connects board riders in general. So it will never really die. The one thing about park riding is you need a crew. You need friends with a similar mentality and work ethic. I guess I was really lucky to ride the wakestyle trend all those years with some of my best friends. We built, shot, edited, budgeted, started from scratch and had the best time doing it. Good times that shaped us into who we are today!

Buckle up and put on your seatbelts! Lucas Stiller photo

How does the wing fit into your world?

Craig Cunningham: So far it’s still in the plastic! I haven’t flown one but that isn’t to say I’m not interested. If I was still living in Hood River I would 100 per cent be winging or on the Great Lakes as well but here in Peniche, the town I’m living in, we have pretty good surf conditions almost all year round and when it’s windy I really prefer kiting. For sure I’ll give it a try at some point this summer though! What the top guys are doing is very difficult, don’t get me wrong but I still think it has a long way to go before it looks good. We’re just at the start though and I guess it’s the same with hydro foil prone surfing. I do a lot of that, it is super fun but it sure looks dorky pumping around like you’re having a seizure! Doesn’t matter to me though, I am having so much fun out there and at the end of the day, just do what makes you smile and try not to take it too seriously! 

Follow Craig Cunningham on Instagram.

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