WHAT started as a hobby teaching locals how to windsurf at Shoalwater has turned into a 30-year surf shop business at the same location for Seabreeze Surf Shop owner John Hawkins.
Mr Hawkins started his business in Safety Bay in October 1986, initially renting the premises before buying it.
He said it had been a tough industry to survive in, with more than 60 surf shops closing down throughout WA in recent years.
But the secret of his success has been keeping his overheads down and selling products that return a healthy profit margin.
“The main reason why I’m still in business is we’ve had low overheads and eventually we bought the building, did some renovations and we’ve been here ever since,” he said.
Mr Hawkins was a four-colour press print operator in Welshpool and had no business experience when he decided to follow his passion and open the shop.
“We got a load of gear on consignment from a surf shop on Dixon Road but our first year was pretty shocking,” he said.
“I decided that I wanted to run my own business and windsurfing was my passion at the time.
“We got out of windsurfing over the years and just stuck with the clothing and wetsuits and all the stuff that makes a good margin.
“You need that to survive but it took me a number of years to work that one out.”
Mr Hawkins said kitesurfing overtook windsurfing as a new sport about 10 years ago but the business was hit by online shopping.
“There’s no margin in big hardware and because it was a new sport, as soon as the gear came into our shop it was being superceded a month later by newer equipment,” he said.
“So I decided to get out of that and stick with clothing and everything else.”
Mr Hawkins has built up a large and loyal clientele over the years with customers spanning three generations liking his quirky upstairs/downstairs store and old-fashioned customer service.
“It’s really nice to see some of my old customers, I’ve made some great friends over the years,” he said.
“And if I hadn’t had this business there would have been a lot of people I would have never met.”
His daughter Sasha is also working at the business and Mr Hawkins is hoping that she might take over.
However, he is concerned about the future, particularly with the impact online trading is having in the current economic downturn.
“We have just had a really tough winter because it was so cold,” he said.
“But now the weather has changed everyone’s come out all happy and I just hope it flows on.”
Mr Hawkins said it had been a good industry to be in.
“For nearly 30 years I went windsurfing or kitesurfing when I needed to go for a sail and that was a good way of keeping it fun,” he said.
He is also a recent convert to stand-up paddle boarding, which is rapidly increasing in popularity.