Mike Smith

PRO­FIL­ING THE HARD WORK­ING MEN & WOMEN OF THE SURF IN­DUS­TRY TO UN­COVER THE LIFE­STYLE OF THEIR JOBS.

New Zealand Surfing - - Between Sets -

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

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