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InflatableBoarder.com recently had the chance to interview Loco Surfing Founder, Joe Thwaites. Founded in 2012, UK-based Loco Surfing has a diverse range of high-quality SUPs, surfboards, and kiteboards…
How were you initially introduced to the sport of stand up paddleboarding?
I tried it first on holiday in Greece about 10 years ago. It was a bit tame on flat water but I saw potential for it in waves. When I returned to the UK I made a bee line for Cornwall to try it in the surf and was hooked from then.
What ignited the spark in you to get involved in the industry?
My financial recruitment business was hit hard by the credit crunch so I decided to start the North of England’s first SUP/Windsurfing School as a new career which lead onto me starting Loco about 6yrs ago. The original plan was to just make a standard school board shape but after meeting my original shaper (Bouke Becker from Witchcraft Sailbaords, Fuerteventura) I returned back to the UK with three performance shapes of which the smallest board went on to win the British SUP Surfing Champs just 6 months later powered by Jersey rider Andre Le Geyt. Things took off from there really.
How important have good employees been to your success?
Not that important as I do much of the work myself and outsource stuff like design, shaping, and manufacture. We’re at the point now where employees may become more relevant although our ambassadors and riders do a great job promoting the brand and provide referral sales business so why pay someone an hourly rate unless they can really add value.
If you had a chance to start your company over again, what would you do differently?
Not that much to be honest we have a great brand and growing following all over the world. The only thing I might change is embracing iSUPs a bit earlier as we could have been further ahead in that market before everyone and his mate had a punt at setting up an iSUP brand.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
Production problems in the Far East have been the main issues in the early days which have resulted in painful warranty claims we’ve had to honour when suppliers haven’t played ball. Thankfully that’s all behind us now but it takes time to build decent relationships on the other side of the world whichever business you’re in.
How many hours a day do you work on average, and what does your typical day look like?
I work all the time 7 days a week although the winters are much quieter. I do everything from website amends, blog posts, photo shoots with riders, R&D, marketing and social media to the boring stuff like accounts and AdWords. It keeps things interesting but I’m often mad busy.
What motivates you, and who has been your greatest inspiration?
The prospect of having to admit defeat and rejoin the rat race I guess. Been there done that and it wasn’t for me. My greatest inspiration was my late father who invented lots of products in his lifetime and I guess my creative juices and drive come directly from him.
How do you define success?
I don’t have to sit in rush hour traffic and take orders from the man. Money isn’t everything for me, it’s all about work life balance and I think I’m finally approaching where I want to be after 6 years of hard graft. It’s not been an easy journey in an industry awash with back stabbers and certain individuals and companies continue to try and stifle Loco’s progress. Thankfully I’m hard headed and will lock horns with anyone so bring it on.
What do you enjoy most about being involved in the SUP industry?
I get the biggest buzz out of R&D which I take a very active role in. Loco is all about producing the best products using the best materials as I believe that quality always shines through. I also enjoy getting out there doing demos and supporting my competitive riders at events as well as my own paddle surfing time up here in the East Coast and further afield over the winters.
Where do you see the paddleboarding industry in 10 years? 20 years?
If the politics and obvious sales agendas haven’t killed the sport off completely by then I think the future is very bright. I think we’ll see more multi-person iSUPs with a host of clever accessories to improve the touring and adventure experience for couples and families. We’ll see more diversity in the ranges offered across inflatables and composite with hard boards weights being vastly improved once the cost of materials like graphine come down in price.