PROFILING THE HARD WORKING MEN & WOMEN OF THE SURF INDUSTRY TO UNCOVER THE LIFESTYLE OF THEIR JOBS.
JOB Managing DESCRIPTION: Director RPM Clothing HOW SURF DID INDUSTRY? YOU FIRST I was GET about INTO 12 WORKING years old IN & I THE got a job cleaning the High Voltage surfboard factory in Mt Maunganui. After about six months choking foam dust I left & got a healthier job at the local surf shop- Island Style. By the time I was 13 I was already a veteran in the industry - haha. YOUR COMPANY, NOW ‘RPM’, STARTED OUT AS A BACKYARD HOBBY. ELABORATE ON THOSE EARLY DAYS AND THE DREAMS YOU HAD FOR YOUR VENTURE. When I was a grom I did a Europe OE & I got hooked on snowboarding. Returning to NZ I could see the potential we had for a snowboarding culture & industry. I thought it would be cool to make snowboards, which I looked into then quickly realized it was beyond my expertise. But I had a small amount of knowledge & resource available for apparel manufacturing so I had a hack at making some outerwear. WHEN DID THE TIME COME WHEN YOU DECIDED TO TAKE THE LABEL ON AS A FULL TIME BUSINESS? It took a good four years before I could draw enough money to live on. I was working at three jobs plus RPM for a while there. The Mrs & I had just gotten married & we had a grom – we lived very cheaply.. WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THE SURF INDUSTRY THAT DREW YOU IN AS OPPOSED TO WORKING IN ANOTHER INDUSTRY AND PERHAPS EARNING
MORE COIN? It was all I knew really. Dad was a former editor of Kiwi Surf & was a writer for a couple of surf features. Mum was a full on surf rat. Many of our family friends had business in the emerging surf industry - Coastlines clothing, Bodyline, Wild Surfboards, Jordan & Peak, High Voltage, Sidewalk Slasher skateboards, Island Style. Growing up in the mount I saw this stuff being made & it interested me, money was irrelevant. IS THE COMPANY YOU HAVE BUILT UP MORE LIFESTYLE BASED, ENABLING YOU TO STILL GET OUT AMONGST THE WAVES, OR IS IT THE TYPICAL HARD SLOG OF OWNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS? It’s both. Owning your own business is a hard slog, I’ve been doing this 15 years & most of the time things have been pretty tough. There’s been some really gnarly times. But the last couple of years have been great, so the lifestyle factor has improved.
WHAT DOES YOUR TYPICAL DAY INVOLVE? We have a big office/warehouse near Omanu Beach in the Mount. Everyone rocks up about 8am & just does their thing. I oversee stuff & make sure everything goes to schedule. Plus I put my five cents worth into every part of the business. We have great staff & I just support them & make sure they have sufficient resources to do the best job possible. Specifically, I manage our supply chain, so much of my day involves a lot of time on the computer communicating with people in foreign lands.
AND IF THE SURF IS PUMPING? We surf. We don’t get a lot of really good swell at the mount – so I don’t have a problem with the staff & I taking an arvo off if the surfs up. It would be tricky for productivity to have this attitude in Tara’s or Raglan; but you can at the Mt! DO YOU TRAVEL WITH YOUR JOB, AND IF SO DOES THE BOARD GO WITH YOU AND IS THERE TIME TO GRAB A SURF? We used to make our stuff in Fiji, & I’d be up there every six months & do a heap of surfing. But for a few years now it’s all been China & HK that I’ve be travelling to – so no surfboard unfortunately. IF RPM LAUNCHES ITS OWN UNDERWEAR RANGE WILL YOU BE MAKING A COMEBACK AS AN UNDERWEAR MODEL? In fashion you can never say never, but as I’m outside of our target market it’s very unlikely. HAVING BECOME A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS INVOLVED IN A SPORT YOU LOVE, WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THE SURF INDUSTRY TO ANY YOUNGSTERS OUT THERE THAT HAVE A SIMILAR PASSION TO WHAT STARTED IT ALL OFF FOR YOU? Yeah for sure. It’s a very competitive & established industry but in many ways this has created more opportunities & all sorts of side industries that never used to exist. You’ve just got to be in the right place at the right time. Plus be prepared to do it tough for a while until doors start to open.
ONE OF THOSE MOMENTS OF SWELL, WHEN MIKE DOWNS THE TOOLS AND MAKES THE MOST OF THE MOMENT AT HIS LOCAL. PHOTO: CORY