Dani Aeberli’s Business Turn – Interview
At the end of January Fanatic announced that Daniel Aeberli, previously Brand Manager/Shaper at F2, has joined the Fanatic Team as International Product Manager. The 30 year old model maker, board shaper and brand manager, who gained a lot of experience working for F2, will now be a colleague of Karin and Craig Gertenbach and Sebastian Wenzel. We met Dani at the ISPO tradeshow in Munich and have caught up with him for an interview to get more background informations about his decision.
On of his first duties at Fanatic will be to travel to Australia and test 2014 Slalom prototypes. Dani: “I will test 2014 Slalom prototypes together with Peter Volwater in Western Australia.”
Read our interview below.
C7: After three years of working at F2 you have left the company. What are the reasons for that move?
Dani Aeberli: It was a great adventure at F2. I did work my ass off forcing the dream to get F2 back to life. This was very exciting and a great experience. I had to learn the hard way how to step up and get the job done. After a while the first positive signs were coming along and the brand started moving forward and growing again. Thanks to the great team riders and all the other people at F2 of which I am convinced, they will continue to be successful in the future. At the end of the day we have to be realistic. F2 is a very small market player and the real music is played at other brands. That’s for me the biggest challenge at the moment. We managed to get a Euro title in Slalom and a world title in Freestyle, but if the brand is so small then the world is not taking note of that. At a brand like Fanatic this is very different and that is what motivates me personally. I live for this sport and I want to make the products better and share this with every one that shares this feeling and for that I have to bring better products to a wider public. B&M (Boards & More) is the best place for me to reach my goals.
C7: We heard you had discrepancies with your chief?
Dani Aeberli: Not at all! I just didn’t take his offer for 2013….close case!
C7: Are you sad to leave F2 or are you happy to be ready for something new?
Dani Aeberli: Very sad on one hand as this company was a big part of my life for more than 14 years. But on the other hand I’m looking back very happy, because it was an amazing time. And yes, I am 100% ready to take off for Fanatic now!
C7: Did you have to many commitments to fulfill and too many fields to work?
Dani Aeberli: I had many battlefields to get sorted at the same time, but that was a great challenge for me and I gave my best to manage to get some great people around me helping to get the Back office and other projects running again. Looking back I have to admit now, that I reached my personal limit a few times – and it didn’t feel that healthy.
C7: In 2010 we’ve asked you in an interview the following: Where do you see F2 in 3 years? Your answer was: Our goal is to create a well structured and profitable company. After our recent restructions I think we are on the right track to become a well recognized competitor in the market. Were you able to reach the goals?
Dani Aeberli: I believe we did! In 2012 we sold over four times more boards than in 2009. Okay you may think now “…four Boards multiplied by four…”. But I believe we surprised other brands with a stronger comeback as everyone expected. For sure also the World Champion title with the Rodeo of Steven in 2011 and the Euro Slalom Title of Matteo Iachino in 2012 plus some decent results in wave comps like the one from Kenneth Danielsen in Klitmøller did help the brand to get stronger again. So, a big thank you again to all the F2 teamriders, who helped to push the brand back to action.
C7: Magazines wrote in their test reports, that F2 shows up with a last year shape in a new design. Was that true? Which boards did you create for F2 during these last three years?
Dani Aeberli: Many brands do face-lifts only. That’s not a bad thing, if a board is good. When you make a new one to replace it and it’s not as good as you expected, you just better let the good old one run a bit longer. You can tune so much on each shape like a change in construction, fin setups, insert options and so on. You can be sure if any brand keeps the actual boards for one more year, they will have given them a good update, and I do not just talk about a new graphics.
During the last three years I made the following Boards for F2: Rodeos Freestyle, Barracudas Quad wave, Rebel 2014 Trusters, Ventos/Vegas Freeride, SX Slalom Boards, Z1 Formula Board, all SUP and Kite Directional Designs. Looking at my register I created 193 prototypes in total since I started to shape at F2 in 2009.
C7: Some critics have claimed that most of the shapes are copies of Patrik Diethelm boards. What’s your comment on that?
Dani Aeberli: I mean, everybody have his critics in the neck. Yes, in the beginning one could find some of his style in my designs because he was the one, who taught me all my basic knowledge. We were a great team and I am still very thankful that we had such a great time together. He is a great shaper and hard worker and deserves his success. But over the years I learned a lot on my own and was inspired by my teamriders and friends. I was able to put all my fresh ideas into my board designs. So if there are today still some guys meaning that the latest F2 Boards are like PD’s boards they haven’t got a clue what they are talking about. I am happy to have many friends behind me, who support me so much to reach my goals. Special thanks here to Steve Christen, who helped me a lot on CAD-knowhow. Thanks buddy!
C7: Did you go to the limit as a shaper at F2 to find out new innovations or did you just follow general market trends?
Dani Aeberli: I believe with the Rodeo design I gave the freestyle world what it was looking for: short and fresh for new school action. Also on most of my other designs I got good test results and great feedback in general. So I think I did well.
C7: What was your greatest moment during your F2 era? The freestyle title with Steven?
Dani Aeberli: For sure that was an unreal success. There is a photo at my parent’s home of Steven and me with the Golden Rodeo edition in Sylt 2011. After he won the PWA Trophy you can be sure I will show this photo proudly one day to my kids.
C7: What was your worst experience during your past three years?
Dani Aeberli: As I already said, sometimes I just went over my personal energy limit. I wanted to give all and more. But I had to learn even my body and soul needs to take a rest sometimes.
C7: Had F2 any growth in the windsurfing segment and how will F2 continue? How do you evaluate their chance to survive on the windsurfing market?
Dani Aeberli: To be very honest, I wish my old crew all the best to keep F2 alive. But the fact that I leave does not help them so much. But I was the one, who made it happen from 2009 on. But everybody is replaceable. For sure there will be a guy just like me, who will do the same again and maybe even better.
C7: Now you will start your new job at Fanatic in February 2013. That’s a comeback in the Boards&More group. What are your new duties at one of the leading windsurfing brands?
Dani Aeberli: Wow, I am very pleased that they got me on board! Craig Gertenbach and Sebastian Wenzel are real windsurfers just like me. They started as racers, came into the R&D/testing and now lead one of the biggest Board Brands in the World. We have been close friends for long time already during my time at F2. They did a great job in the last few years and I am more than happy to jump on this running train now, to help them to get even better as they already are today.
C7: So, you will stop with shaping boards?
Dani Aeberli: No, but it will be less than in the past, as I will focus a bit more on technical R&D and testing. But for sure I won’t let my hands off the styro! Sebastian is a super cool guy and I am sure we gonna have a lot of fun designing boards together. To be honest, at the end of the day I just want to ride the best boards and have fun riding them. I want to see all the boys and girls have a smile on their face when they get back off the water using a Fanatic board.
C7: How is you relation to the brand Fanatic? Do you have any connections from the past?
Dani Aeberli: I know every single guy working there for a long time. I like the office in Munich and will be able to spend some time there. But as you know I am Swiss and love to be home sometimes to get some good Italian pasta made by mum. In general I will be traveling a lot again to visit importers, factories, events and magazine tests.
C7: What are your personal goals at Fanatic?
Dani Aeberli: Let’s just follow the road they have already taken. Fanatic got the potential to be the world’s no.1 boardbrand already today. And I will give all my effort to make sure we get and stay there. But my personal goal, looking at it today…After they already got the PWA Freestyle world champion 2012, thanks to Gollito, and some good rankings of the wave guys like the wave team leader Victor reached, it’s now time to attack for a PWA slalom title in 2014.
C7: Do you plan to compete or visit any competitions in 2013?
Dani Aeberli: I will try to do as many as I can. I love the competition side of windsurfing especially in racing a lot. And you can just see and learn so much, if you race yourself against the heroes. Overall that helps a lot for the gear R&D.
C7: You run your own companies Choco Fins and Choco Fly. Will you continue to run both of these companies?
Dani Aeberli: Yes I will. They are my companies which I started few years ago with my own hands and cash. I am very happy and proved, that they’re doing so well and growing from year to year. It’s a dream for me to be owner of my own boy-toys companies. If there is something missing I just invent it! That’s so cool. But there will be some internal updates as I want to be sure I can make a 100% perfect job for Fanatic. That’s very important to me. My Dad is doing most of the work at Choco Fly and Open Ocean is doing a great job for me distributing all the fins around the globe.
C7: The work at F2 was pretty stressy. You did not show up that often at events as usual. You mentioned once that you hardly have enough time to make it on the water. Will you have more time in your new position or will it be even harder for you to make it on the water regularly?
Dani Aeberli: Ha Ha, that is very true! Hope Craig will see that and think the right way ”…Danny needs more quality time sailing…”. Yes, so true. I did not show up as much anymore. I was running like a maniac around the globe trying to hold all together by myself. I had to learn that one guy can’t do all by himself. Great experience. But I am more than happy to work in a team from now on.
C7: One last question: you mentioned in the interview of 2010 that it’s so much harder nowadays to compete as a brand on the windsurfing market compared to the 90ties. What’s the main reason for that? F2 offers more than 60 different boards in their 2013 range. Back in 1991 F2 offered 11 different boards and were one of the leading brands. Just Bic with 12 and Fanatic with 14 different models had a bigger range in their program in the early 90ties! Is it the extreme variety of products, what makes it so hard to compete on the market nowadays?
Dani Aeberli: It’s the time… In 1991 windsurfing was still a very big sport. Many many boards were sold, cash got burned for all kind of stuff. I missed out that part, what a bummer. Where is my Porsche? Today the market is very small and you have to fight to keep moving. But it’s not dead! You can say if you’re working hard and doing good and innovative products, there is still a good market share. But you have to offer what the people ask for and for this you need many more different board types and sizes in your range compared to previous years.
C7: Good luck and thanks for the interview!
© continentseven.com 2013