Giving it Back

Throughout Lewis Crathern’s immensely successful professional career he has always had a great reputation for taking the time out to encourage other riders and to fly the flag for the sport of kitesurfing. Now known more for his commentating exploits, you can still pretty much guarantee that if someone needs coaching, advice, or just wants to know how you go about getting into kitesurfing, he will be the first person to give up his time to help them out. A perfect fit for the Grom Search then…

“Play well today son and you could make it into the trials of a big team, there are lots of scouts watching”. I remember these words from my father clearly from my childhood. At 10 years old I was good at football, good enough to play in the county team and being told that I could “go somewhere” in the game. There was a lot of pressure and I distinctly remember one manager explaining: “If you don’t get in, you are simply not good enough”.

146 795x530 - Giving it Back 44 795x530 - Giving it BackFast forward 24 years and I am one of the team addressing the 10-year-olds, but in a very different dynamic…

The Duotone Grom Searches continue the legacy of the Young Blood Camps that used to run over a decade ago. They are designed to give the best up and coming youth riders a chance to spend time with pro riders, learn from the best, and have fun-based days learning from the pros both on and off the water. The emphasis on fun is huge.

In 2018 in Brazil, the Grom search launched in the famous Cauipe area in Brazil, where many talented riders have been produced. Seven international riders from the team were present to work with young riders. No heats, no competition: just get out there and do your thing. It could be because of pure talent, power, style, personality, potential or a combination of these characteristics. The winners would not only get supported with Duotone gear (a quiver of kites of their choice + board of choice + boots + Click Bar + a harness) but would get English lessons as well!

When I heard about this event I was so impressed, it was clear to me that these events are not just about trying to find the next world champion, they are aimed at giving something back to local communities and kiteboarding in general. Working with young people has been something I have been passionate about for years, stemming from my work within schools, so it was a given that I had to get involved in the Grom Searches with Duotone.

Learning from legends

This summer we also ran our first Grom Search in the UK. Team riders Aaron Hadlow, Tom Court and Jo Wilson were present and we started off inside, talking about what our job involves and what it takes to make a go of it. I was keen to translate to the audience that first and foremost you must have fun on the water and that there are many different ways to make a career in the sport. Thinking back to my football days, this was not explained to you. That you are either “good enough” or “not” is a message I would never want a young person to hear. For me everyone is great at something and your journey to discovering what that is is far more important. It is great to sit down and listen to the other riders like Tom, Aaron and Jo who have all had such different careers in the sport. Sitting there and listening to their stories, it’s easy to imagine being 10 years old, being one of the kids who all look like they are having the best time ever. Of course, the youngsters all want to get out there and ride (us too) but this time together inside is important. The day is carefully thought out, it is high tide so we can’t get in anyway, and there are no distractions. There is a lovely atmosphere in Hunstanton Sailing club (who kindly host us) where the participants sit right up the front, taking it all in, asking questions whilst in the background the parents watch quietly. Parents have a huge role in all of this and I believe they also need engagement during the events. It amazes me just how supportive and calm the parents are, and again I cast my mind back to my football trials with parents often going nuts at a poor performance or shouting and abusing the referee! I am sure it’s not just football and that this behaviour is present in other sports, but not in ours. Perhaps it is the type of people that we are as windsports lovers.

I tell them from my own experience how there are so many great life lessons that can be learned through participation in kiteboarding. The interaction with other riders alone is a superb way to develop social skills where the diversity of age ranges, backgrounds and gender can help to grow you as an individual. Travel also naturally widens our knowledge of the world – we do not typically visit your usual package holiday destinations as kiteboarders, which gives us great access to other cultures. And then – talking done – it was time to hit the water…

“Sitting there and listening to their stories, it’s easy to imagine being 10 years old, being one of the kids who all look like they are having the best time ever.”

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To Tarifa…

PANA6210 795x530 - Giving it BackFollowing this, I was invited to take part in another event in Tarifa. Here I found it really interesting to see many young riders progressing on a strapless surfboard. Naturally this called for a rider with more expertize than myself in this department: Matchu Lopes! Then Jerome Cloetens and I would coach predominantly on twintips. The set up at Pata Negra was superb to host this type of weekend, and this is also an important factor to a great Duotone Grom Search. The location must be ideal and the people involved must be naturally passionate about the development of young people. The crew at Pata Negra had this in abundance.

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During our time ‘on land’, Matchu, Jerome and myself delivered our messages. I worry very much about the new generation and dependence on electronic devices. The internet, phones, social media etc can all be so distracting. Of course it is essential that we use these tools as pro riders but I like to shape much of my talks about the importance of a healthy balance. My own life experiences have taught me that to make things happen it helps to be confident when talking face to face with people, and it was great to see all riders at this event were encouraged to introduce themselves in front of the group before we got started.

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I loved listening to Matchu’s approach to kiteboarding. He explained to the group that he deliberately does not take a pump so that he has to engage and talk with people on the beach. We can be so self-absorbed when we set up to go kiteboarding after a busy day, just rushing to go out. The act of sharing a pump might take a few minutes more time out of your session but will help to share the stoke.

“In 2018 in Brazil, the Grom Search launched in the fa­mous Cauipe area in Brazil, where many talented riders have been produced…”

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The team at Pata Negra also dedicated time to remind everyone of the importance of safety on the water. So often in kiteboarding doing the basics like performing a deep water pack down or assisting others can be overlooked. This is especially apparent as riders are progressing so quickly nowadays.

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Lewis uses a palm tree to demonstrate bar technique to the grams. Hopefully there’s not a kite up there …

Lunch, breakfast and dinner are great times to interact with both the parents and the participants and I find moments like these extremely insightful to their mindset. Sometimes I sit with the kids and sometimes I sit with the parents, and I like to hear what the kids really feel about kiteboarding and what their goals are. You hear so much and it goes without saying that a lot of times they explain they want to be the next world champion! I tell them about what I was doing at their age and about how kiteboarding became my job and the fun things it involves. I also explain that to get to where you want to be you have to be prepared to do things you don’t want to do. My part time job laying flooring, for instance, whilst trying to make it as a pro kiteboarder being a good example.

On the beach and with the wind up, we get a chance to ride with the groms. They will ride for hours! I split my time between riding on the water and walking around the shallows, calling in riders when I have some advice for them. With the support of Duotone within each country, I am able to coach on another level. So often with 1-1 coaching at any given location, a client will have their own gear. At times it might be holding them back, so when you have the full support of the brand and lots of different kit on the beach, it can make such a difference to the session. The equipment is already there and I can be the best coach I can be with that support. I can quickly encourage trying a slightly smaller board, a larger fin, a kite size 1m bigger or a different model without disrupting the flow of the session.

The Duotone Grom Searches are expanding all around the world and I look forward to partaking in as many as I can. I really can’t recommend these events enough to young riders, not only will they have a great time and learn a lot, they will also have the opportunity to start their journey in the kiteboarding world…

This feature originally appeared in TheKiteMag #35. To subscribe, head here.

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