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British surfing champion Johnny Wallbridge created a business around his hobby

Johnny Wallbridge told Real Business how being passionate about his hobby led to the creation of yakwax.com.
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The unusual hobbies of corporate leaders has long been an area of interest. Elon Musk collects James Bond memorabilia, Warren Buffet plays and teaches the ukulele and Walt Disney famously loved model trains. But what about the interests of SME founders such as Johnny Wallbridge?

When it comes to running a growing business, every minute counts. But in order to recover from inevitable stress, many either dedicate their spare time to family and friends, or find themselves a hobby. Intrigued by the later idea, Real Business sought the most unusual ways entrepreneurs spent their down time. We even came across a company co-founded by a street photographer and mixologist.

Next in our series dedicated to hobbies, however, is Johnny Wallbridge, who turned surfing into his career. In fact, there are lots of things in surfing that can crossover to running a business, he explained.

“Surfing requires a lot of self-drive and, like business, the more you put into it the more you get from it. Surfing is also a very individual sport that offers amazing freedom, but provides the chance to build amazing relationships along the way.”

It’s a sentiment shared by Phil La Duke, a safety transformation architect at Environmental Resources Management, who claimed that despite the lifestyle differences between workers and surfers, the ability to navigate waves could teach us much about succeeding in the corporate world.

Namely, a surfer waits for the best wave as chasing those you can’t catch will only lead to exhaustion. “Also,” he said, “I have yet to meet a surfer who doesn’t enjoy paddling out, even if water conditions are poor. Never become so focused on your job or your career that you forget to enjoy life.”

Johnny Wallbridge seems to have taken both suggestions on board – not only did he find a gap in the market, he lives life to the fullest.

The island of Guernsey made things difficult for him through its lack of suppliers when it came to surfing gear. And he chose to remedy that fact by creating his own business – yakwax.com is a store dedicated to providing clothes and equipment for surfers, skateboarders and snowboarders.

“Since I started surfing at age 14, I have totally immersed myself in the sport and its culture,” he explained to Real Business. “Having experienced and competed in some of the best surf locations in the world, I have a wealth of industry knowledge, which I have used to drive my company. I believe that having real experience and a shared passion allows us to offer first hand advice that customers can really trust and value.”

Much like Rashid Ajami, the former DJ turned entrepreneur that kick-started our series, Wallbridge has made a name for himself when it comes to said hobby. Since the store was founded in 2012, he has honed his surfing skills to new heights, winning the senior title at the British Surf Championships in 2015.

Check out our other hobbies-focused features:

Johnny Wallbridge shows off his skills

More importantly, despite what one may think, he hasn’t lost his love of the sport – and is unlikely to do so soon. He’s a great advocate for doing what you love, suggesting that even if the company you create hasn’t got to do with your greatest passion, whatever that great passion is should never be forgotten.

If you don’t yet have that special activity you can’t wait to do outside of office hours, then why not grab a board and wait for the next big wave like Johnny Wallbridge in his spare time?

Image: Shutterstock

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About Author

Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

Real Business