COGUA: A Colombian to Show.
Harold Granados, Colombian shaper, known in the kitesurfing world as ”Cogua”, had his professional coming of age on the Bon-Ba Cogua board, with which he won the first place in Cabaret and the entrance to the Cape Town Red Bull King of the Air in 2020, together with the Dominican pro-rider Luis Alberto Cruz.
A Life Story.
Cogua was born on the island of San Andrés in 1980, in a family of scarce possibilities. Caribbean, talkative, full of dreams, he was a restless child who used to escape school to stroll through the San Luis windsurf stations. His luck was as good and as bad that in his foolishness and playing with other kids at the beach, he knocked down the shelves full of boards of the Escuela de Happy, a school that used to function in San Andrés in those years. The ledge came down and part of the precious windsurfing material was broken.
And this is where a story about fiberglass and passion beings. A story about commitment and example. Harold, who didn’t know how to navegate nor to put fiber and whose unique skills were practically to speak the patuá Enlgish of his fellow islanders, to read and to write, made himself in charge of the damage he had done. At his only 12 years he went to see the German manager of Happy and asked how he would be able to repay the disaster, knowing that his parents would not be able to pay. Erick gave him a broom and told him: “You’ll come every afternoon and swipe the leaves on the beach”. Erick was a good person, besides being a fiber craftsman – he repaired, manufactured, sanded and polished and, not least of all, he used to go windsurfing every afternoon. Harold remembers him with appreciation: “he taught me two fundamental things in my life: to windsurf and to work the fiberglass.”
He conformed, he enthusiastically went to repay his debt and in little time he was already a beginner fiberglass craftsman and an advanced windsurfer; he was good at windsurfing, especially freestyle, as his height and low weight made him skilled on the board and he perfected jumps, loops and figures. He dreamed of making his own board. He worked on it for almost a year. The result: a board like a Titanic, which weighed more than 20 kilos, was impossible to navigate, but at least it floated. The challenge was how to lower the weight.
The Board Builder Path Was Just Beginning.
To those of us who know Harold, we know that his stubbornness and persistence have no limits.Thinking about his future as a board manufacturer, he decided to graduate “well” from the ITI school in San Andrés, to opt for a university scholarship on mainland Colombia. He knew from the first moment that he would have to study Industrial Design. He examined the map of the country and looked, not for the best university, but for the one closest to a windy place, where he could test his prototypes. He chose the Catholic University of Pereira, which was a short distance from Lake Calima.
“I made a living for a long time repairing sailers’ boards, so I learned, traveled, and windsurfed. On weekends we would see each other on the lake; they would break their boards, I would repair them, and at the end of the day I would sail with borrowed equipment. Around that time I started to compete, to win in freestyle, sometimes in races, in nationals, in some international competitions.
The fever was so great that with some friends we decided to go to Isla Margarita. That was crazy! There I could see the trends of the year, the changes in the designs, but it was expensive to test the boards, and paying for the stay was impossible. They had a rental system with insurance, people would break and take out the following table. So I took a risk and offered to one of the owners to repair the boards in exchange for using the material. Within a few days I was repairing and testing the boards all over the island. I went to Margarita for many years, I saved money, worked, did business, so I got the first capital to set up the factory in Pereira.
At the university the professors considered me to be an eccentric, they told me: Hey, Granados, there is more to the world than boards, you can also design jewelry, tables, jugs, furniture. I always focused everything on the boards. I made earrings and necklaces in the shape of boards carved in coconut, I made a table in the shape of a board for a bar. If the subject was accounting, marketing, administrative, whatever, I only thought of boards. In this way I learned to formulate the business.”
The Name COGUA
“When we got to the graphic design part, the name came up: Cogua, it was part of what I was experiencing in the workshop, boards made with coconut fibers and guadua (a type of bamboo): co-gua, and for the logo I was inspired by ethnic designs. But what interested me the most was using industrial design for solutions to specific problems. In Pereira I lived in an area with automotive workshops and I decided to try an edge for the kite boards made with old car fan belts. That solved the problem of boards chipping very easily. So I started looking for solutions to the very rigid board, which splashes the sailor, and which must support someone heavy.”
Each Problem Is for Me a Challenge
“Going to Talin was very surprising. Some people I met in Margarita were looking for a shaper and I went with them to Estonia. There I designed a collection of kite boards for their European brand. It was like a dream for me, I made a correction in the Auto Cad and two hours later they would bring me a prototype. I had designers, fiber makers, cutters doing my designs. Without English, this would not have been possible. I came back with a clear idea of setting up a serial production. I settled in Darien, Calima, and started with the sales problem. I was capable of producing the boards, but what about the marketing, the deliveries? So I made the decision to sponsor the best, to travel to all the kite events. Cogua has sponsored the Dominican Luis Alberto Cruz, winner of the MAI TAI / WORLD KITEBOARDING LEAGUE – CABARETE Republica Dominicana 2016. Ricardo Leccese, the Colombian Italian number one in the official ranking of the International Kiteboarding Assosiation (IKA) and the Colombian riders Jordy Timaná and Beto Gomez.
The main characteristic of our Cogua boards is that they are handmade, that we continue to use natural materials in combination with high technology. In Cogua we mainly make kite boards, but also longboards, surfboards, SUP boards, skimboards, skateboards, now we are making balance boards, which in this time of coronavirus are selling well, because they also serve to exercise at home. And of course we continue to service and repair boards to all sailors in the country.
Quarantine seemed incredible to me, because I went back to basic work, to fiber and sand alone. I am happy working on the boards, on a new design; sometimes with the hurdles of life one forgets what is essential, starts to market, de-concentrates, and the important thing is the origin, not forgetting the initial motivation, not losing the course.”
A handmade board? Don’t think twice, Cogua is the best option. Buy Colombian: https://coguakiteboarding.com/