INTERVIEW WITH TILL EBERLE, CEO OF BOARDS & MORE
Till, many rumours have been swirling around over the last few weeks and months. Is it true that Boards & More is bringing a new brand to the kite market?
Yes, that's true. We’ll be launching the new brand Duotone on 23rd of July 2018.
What does the new Duotone brand stand for?
Duotone represents authenticity – being true – both in kiteboarding and in windsurfing. We will continue to offer high-quality products for all disciplines and will push forward as leaders in technology for the sports that we love.
Will there be Duotone products for kiteboarding, windsurfing, surfing, or even wakeboarding?
That is possible. However, our current focus is on kiteboarding and windsurfing. In specific terms, we’re likely to explore the foil sector. The major trend of foil surfing, i.e. in groundswell wave foils, is very exciting.
What has happened now for you to give up North Kiteboarding after 18 years?
Boards & More and North Sails Group America, which is owned by Oakley Capital, have somewhat differing views about the future of the brand. This is what motivated us at Boards & More to come up with our own brand. We have some exciting ideas for the future and are ready to take full control over bringing them about.
Is the Boards & More Group getting a new owner?
No, at least not at the moment. But few years from now this could certainly happen.
Will North Kiteboarding still be around?
That I cannot say. We, as Boards & More, will no longer be running the North Kiteboarding brand after a transition period ends.
So, you’ll be giving up North Kiteboarding. What does this mean for customers? If, for example, a customer bought a new North Kiteboarding kite in the spring?
That is all taken care of. We, that is Boards & More, work with the dealer where the customer bought his kite and will continue our cooperation with the dealer. We absolutely guarantee any warranty claims in legal periods. Even better yet, if the customer has signed up for our warranty extension program, they will receive an extra 6 months on top of the original warranty period. Additionally, we will also continue to be accommodating beyond that. As Boards & More we have a reputation for being reliable and we will continue to honour the service and warranty for any of the products we sell. And of course, as Boards & More, we also want to get our new Duotone brand up and running. We’ll do everything in our power to make our existing customers happy.
With the new brand name, is it simply a case of relabelling your existing products and now selling them under the Duotone moniker?
We’ll keep developing our products under the new brand, that’s for sure. All the engineering, the design of the kites, the entire know-how – that’s all knowledge acquired by Boards & More over the years. All of the products were developed by our employees, all of the patents are ours and all of the product names belong to Boards & More. For example, we created the Rebel and the Neo so there will still be a Rebel and a Neo available under Duotone, which will be identical in terms of flight characteristics and positioning to the Rebel or Neo of the past. We will also maintain our proven manufacturing setup to ensure that we are delivering the same superior quality to our customers.
So, next year customers will still be able to buy a Click Bar, NTT binding, Twintips with the track system or a Neo kite?
Yes, they will. Customers will get everything they’re familiar with and even a little bit extra.
All of your developers, team riders and international distributors will be staying with you?
We asked the question to everyone beforehand: Ken Winner, Ralf Grösel, Sky Solbach, all of the team riders, and everyone is on board. All of our developers and internal team have signed on for the next few years and are excited to see this come to life. Initially, many employees thought it was a joke – that we couldn’t just create an entirely new brand. However, now that we are in doing it, it is obvious, that many new possibilities show up and our employees, especially many of the younger team members, are more motivated than ever to leave their footprint.
What new freedoms are you particularly excited about with your own Duotone brand?
Sometimes a change can really inspire you. The Duotone brand belongs to us; we can shape it as we see fit. We’ll position Duotone where we think it best fits and where it might be cool for our customers. We have no connection to sailing anymore. Where you come from and what you stand for is the brand's new outlook. We can also develop Duotone in new areas, such as foiling or clothing if we so desire. Or if we want to bring surfboards to the market, that’s something we can do too. Now it's up to us what we want to pursue.
Will the launch of Duotone affect the other brands of Boards & More Group, i.e. ION, Fanatic and Arrows?
No, not at all.
You own the ION brand from which ION Club is derived. Why is the new brand not called ION Kiteboarding?
This is something that we discussed internally at length. However, we came to the conclusion that from a brand positioning perspective it is better to keep ION as an independent brand; even Cabrinha kiters or Slingshot fans can identify with ION and purchase these products. Our principle, when we created ION was not to offer any hard goods under this name, rather to create a neutral brand, which specialises in accessories – as a complement to ours as well as other hardware brands. For that reason, ION isn’t a perfect fit for our original idea of creating a new kite brand. Duotone is not a new name.
There was a snowboard brand from Boards & More with this name back in the 1990s. Why are you pulling this name out of the drawer again?
There was plenty of heated debate about the name Duotone in some forums. We think it’s very exciting because it’s a very emotional name with many meanings and interpretations. In the last two years, our kites have had this duotone effect in terms of their colour scheme; that’s how we stumbled upon it. When we were looking for a name for the new brand, we chose Duotone as the internal project name. The longer we worked with it, the more we realised that this name was a really good match for the new brand. On top of that, this name was already registered worldwide by Boards & More. And we really liked the double meaning associated with the name Duotone: Wind and water combined form a better unit, just like lightness and stability. This interaction between two factors crops up again and again in the creation of products.
And the fact that the name was associated with snowboards from the 1990s – does that bother you?
No, the 1990s was a long time ago and more importantly: Duotone was a very cool brand back then, high in quality and ahead of its time. That’s why we have few reservations.
Would you describe this new venture, for you personally, as more of a burden or a liberation?
I would say this is a massive opportunity. We’re bringing something new to the table, something which no one else is doing. I get this feeling of optimism again. It’s a challenge – but very exciting, creatively speaking. I would put it like this: If you want to ride a big wave like Jaws and show zero respect to the challenge or consequence, then that's not likely to have a positive outcome. A certain amount of respect is a good guide, so we’ve worked diligently to develop a thorough plan of action and welcome the new possibilities.
How do you plan to make the new Duotone brand known to the world?
Kitesurfing is a very tight community. There might be half a million kiters worldwide. Word has gotten around already that the new Duotone brand is about to launch. But naturally enough, we’re also planning a thorough marketing push from our end to ensure that the brand launch is a great success, which will also largely benefit our sales partners. Additionally, Boards & More probably has the best international distribution system in the wind-water segment which we will utilize to spread the word.
With the launch of Duotone, do you expect the price of second-hand North Kiteboarding kites to plummet?
I doubt it. Because a Rebel is always a Rebel and a Neo is always a Neo. The customer knows what he wants. He’s not simply after any old kite from a particular brand. From my experience, the specific model, the product name, is more important than the brand. And both retailers and consumers can be sure that there won’t be too many end-of-season, discounted sale goods from North Kiteboarding this year; we’ll be keeping a tight rein on overruns. The best guarantee for a good resale value is a modest amount of reduced products at the end of the season.
When are the new Duotone kites and boards coming to market?
The Duotone brand will be officially launched on 1st of August. Previously, the market launches of the Vegas, Rebel, Dice and Neo kites were spread from August to October. This year the Duotone Vegas, the Duotone Rebel, the Duotone Dice and the Duotone Neo will be available in-store in August. Our entire range of Twintips and Surfboards under the Duotone brand will also be available at that time. The second product push will then follow in February 2019.