FM – You had a very unique path into your job, transitioning from top pro to tester to management. Given not everyone can be a top pro, what advice would you give to someone wishing to work in the industry.
CG – Not that unique though, Svein / Starboard, Roberto / RRD, Patrice / Exocet and a few others have also managed to make the step across. There are obviously different ways to get into the business, but having experience in some part of the sport is very useful, if that is on a retail, product development or design side. And being realistic about the size of the sport and what you are able to achieve in a career within the industry is quite important too!
FM – Success is something that the brand strives for in board design or competition results – is there a management science or motivational techniques, mantras or culture that you apply?
CG – We do get some regular management coaching in fact, but I can´t say that this has changed anything in the way we do things – we are all very competitive people in our brand, if you look at myself, Sebastian, Daniel, Klaas or Karin – everyone is really passionate about the brand and being the best, regardless of products, marketing or sales. And I suppose that is then the natural culture, because everyone lives the sport 100%, in both work and leisure time.
FM – You are noted for identifying and nurturing talent, when you recruit a team rider what are you looking for?
CG – Nowadays it´s quite nice to have Klaas and Daniel doing a lot of the recruiting on the front end in wave and slalom, they also look for real team players – we like top performers with modest / low ego attitudes who are comfortable within themselves. Easy to approach guys whom you can send anywhere and they´ll make a great impression on every person they meet. This is easily as important as the results, if not more.
FM – A young rider approaches you saying they want to be a professional windsurfer, what do you tell them?
CG – Usually I would say set yourself realistic goals, starting from local to national and then to international levels, in both contests and media work. Make sure you spend at least 50% of your time marketing yourself, not just going windsurfing all day. That is far easier nowadays at least in terms of social media, Videos, online mags, Instagram etc., than trying to get into classic print magazines. And most importantly, look for out-of-industry sponsors, who you can work with to make a difference for their brand, to have sustainable long-term sponsors. And my favourite advice, don´t forget to enjoy it, these will be the best years of your life, regardless of results, income or fame!
FM – You’ve retained some of the best riders in the world for long standing relationships with the brand – how do you keep them and how do you manage losing a rider.
CG – We try to treat each of our riders with a similar amount of respect and support, to make sure they feel part of the family. Obviously, some might earn more, but we try not to have a big difference between support levels and certainly do our best to show as many of the riders in our media channels where possible. I think this is well appreciated and the first thing new riders comment on when joining our team / requesting to get onboard. Losing riders is never good, especially if they have been with the brand for a longer time, take Matteo for example, we took him from a top 20 rider and put him on the podium, narrowly missing a World Title, within 2 years. Similar with Brawzinho, but you have to accept that sometimes the guys simply have better chances at other brands to fully exploit their financial rewards and move on. No point in being negative and I try to stay on good terms with all our ex riders wherever possible, congratulating them on their successes / careers – the Windsurf industry is very small, I travel to a lot of events, I hate having negative energy around me, life´s too short for that.