The story of Kite Control
François Berck – From the City Bank to the Banks of the Lagoon
This is story of KiteControl’s founder, François Berck. Everything started with a simple dream, he wanted to open his own kitesurf school.
Before discovering his true passion and after finishing his studies, François was working for a bank. He studied economics, and was working for BNP in Belgium. One day, after ten months, he quit. He started travelling and then started teaching kitesurfing pretty much fulltime while traveling just to pay off the bills and have fun. It was during this time in which he was travelling around the world teaching kitesurfing as a freelancer, working for all the kite schools around the world, that his entrepreneur dreams first came into his mind. He went to Canada, Greece, Australia, California, The Philippines, many places where the kitesurfing community had relative presence. Eventually he just felt like he would not do that for his whole life, just traveling backpacking like that, he wanted to have his own business. This is his story.
François lived in Belgium until he was 24. However, before that, his interest in kitesurfing arose from going many times to the North Sea on holyday with his mom when he was just a kid. The kitesurfing scene there is quite big, lots of people do it as well as buggy kiting. He did buggy kiting as a kid and he also wanted to kitesurf, however he was too small and too young and didn’t really have the money. He lived with his mom for most of his life, due to his dad moving to France when he was eleven. His dad used to paraglide a lot when François was young, and when his dad moved to France, little François went there with him many times and started paragliding alone at 12 years old, after doing some courses with the school his dad attended. Since then, his passion for water/action sports never really stopped. After paragliding for a few years, at around 20 years old was when he got into kitesurfing, that’s when he took part in his first kite trip, 10 years ago. He just got really into it, he became addicted and went kiting as much as possible. Unfortunately, he was stuck in Belgium for his studies, living that kind of life that everyone thinks you should have, working in an office on a nine to five schedule, something François loathed. The office job wasn’t for him, that’s why he quit and pursued his passion. He was travelling a lot already to see his dad and for paragliding, therefore he was accustomed to travelling. He first went to Canada for one year to learn English properly, living in Toronto and kiting in Lake Ontario. While traveling, he worked in the hospitality sector for a brief period of time while teaching kitesurfing simultaneously. After Toronto, he moved to Vancouver for eight months where he snowboarded a lot and worked as a waiter. Then, he went to California for three months where he had his first kite instructor experience. After that he went to Greece where he also did a kite season. Finally, Australia, where he stayed for a year and a half. He taught kitesurfing pretty much the whole time, until bad luck finally hit him. He broke his ankle, and had to come back to Belgium. This was actually some sort of blessing in disguise, since it gave François the chance to slow down and think about his career prospects. While he was physically incapable of kitesurfing, he did various online courses about online marketing, how to open his own business, how to create a website, etc. Then he discovered kitesurfing in Portugal and the rest is history.
A friend of his made the logo and the name “kitecontrol” came up to François mind, there was not much to it, he simply wanted that name. So basically, he had everything ready, the logo, the name, everything was already in his mind. He just didn’t know where he was going to set up the school. Then, as he was talking to his dad, they discussed the possibilities of a kitesurf school in Portugal, because it’s a country where the tourism is still growing. They believed that kitesurf in Portugal had something to offer and that the tourism industry would still grow. For example, when you go to some areas like Lisbon, it’s already packed and Algarve is the same. But this place, Lagoa the Óbidos, is actually still quite wild, there are empty beaches everywhere, even in the middle of the Summer which is unbelievable. Thus, he visited Portugal with his dad. They flew to Lisbon and then they stayed there for two weeks and rented a car to drive all around the coast up to Aveiro and down to Setúbal. They pretty much did all the small lagoons, all the kitesurf spots and finally found THE spot, Lagoa de Óbidos. François reaction could be summed up to “oh my god”, it was the dream spot. So good. They had to fly back to Belgium where François worked a bit more on marketing and honing his managerial skills. He completed the logo with his friend, and then bought a van back in Belgium which he transformed into a camper van to go on a big trip all the way from Belgium to Lisbon, all along the coast of France, north coast of Spain and then the coast of Portugal. He stopped everywhere along the coast of Portugal. He already had some friends in Lisbon, and when he arrived the first year in 2016 he lived there and thought he would work for a kite school around Lisbon in Costa da Caparica to see how the wind behaved and how the kite scene and culture was like. However, he met someone here at the lagoon, Lagoa de Óbidos. It was a restaurant owner who told him he should go there and settle since it was a good spot and the locals would be more than happy to have more activities around the area. François figured “yes, you are completely right!”. So, after taking care of the website with his friend from Lisbon, he just bought all the equipment, set up all the licenses and it happened. François’ dream of setting up a school came to fruition in just 2 and a half months. “It was quite fun, I just went for it” he says nowadays, he just followed his dream to see what would happen. In the early days it was just himself and a friend of his who taught, it kicked in and they kept on going, second season the company had four instructors, third season six instructors and this season it made up of eight instructors. The business is booming, and plans are being made to open a guest house very soon.
What started with just François and a friend has now eight instructors in the mix. François got really involved in the local life, he’s renting studios from locals for his clients and just bought a house to open the guesthouse. He passed his instructor course in Portugal as well, to have the Portuguese certification. “I really like Portugal”, François says. His business tries to do the best job possible focusing on the quality of the lessons. They only do private lessons, one to one, and semi-private lessons of 2 students per instructor, to make sure the lessons are efficient, so people really learn how to kite surf. That’s what him and his team aim to do. To actually teach kitesurfing, to teach the ins and outs of the sport to those who enjoy it. This is the main goal. To do it safely and to do it efficiently, in a kitesurf school in Portugal, which allows to learn the sport while taking advantage of top-notch conditions and breathtaking surroundings. A kitesurf school in Portugal as never before sounded so appealing.