Tell me a little bit about Spooked Kooks
Tom and I are both from Auckland and have been best mates for years. I am actually a lawyer by trade and Tom is an actor but we are both avid surfers. We saw a gap in the market specifically for learners who found typical hard fibreglass boards too dangerous, so we wanted to challenge ourselves and the industry whether we could create something with a soft top that had similar performance. It felt like all the manufacturers who were already experimenting with these materials had never actually surfed themselves. We were also keen to play a key role in reducing environmental impact and set ourselves a challenge to use as much recycled plastic as we could. It had never been done before, and still hasn’t been copied.
What made you decide to break away from the norm?
For us it really was an opportunity to create a business out of a pastime that we loved, and we wanted to play a part, however small, in dealing with the global plastic problem. The fact that no one else was doing it already, and that lit a fire under us which gave us the urgency, and whilst it felt bold, it certainly wasn’t without its challenges. We wanted to be disruptors and it annoyed us that the surfing world is full of hypersexualised imagery, which feels super dated. We consciously decided we were not going to use those tropes, so all of our imagery is the product being used in action. It’s important sometimes to go against industry norms - just because something has always been done that way, doesn’t mean it always should be.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenge, but also arguably our biggest success, is the fact that recycled plastic doesn’t engineer in the same way that virgin plastic does. New plastic melts and cools in a predictable way, whereas recycled plastic can be a wildcard. We’ve had to work with expert product designers and plastic specialists to help us in the process, but we’ve had some amazing collaboration opportunities because people believe in the cause. Most of the plastic we use is post-consumer plastic waste, collected off the beach or in public, and whilst it isn’t the easiest material to work with, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
What has been your biggest success?
Shortly after launch we started to get enquiries from foreign markets and almost immediately we had distributors in Tahiti, the USA, UK and Europe. But the biggest success for me was receiving a photo from a kid who had spent his summer cleaning toilets to save up the money to buy one of our boards. It makes you realise why we are doing this in the first place.
We wasted a lot of money in our first year, but it would have been impossible for us to avoid that at the time. For example, we purchased a 40ft container of recycled plastic before we even determined whether we could manufacture boards with it. We had to pragmatically think it through and try to discover the exact problems, and work with specific suppliers to really break apart the problem and solve each part of it. There have been so many areas where we lack formal training, but we always seem to get there in the end. It’s part of the journey
Advice to anyone ready to do the same.
Be bold. If you enjoy it, then the rest will take care of itself. But if you don’t love it, then don’t do it. The passion for surfing and the joy of working with my best mates is what has kept me going through all of this. Get those fundamentals right and everything else will fall into place.
Check out Spooked Kooks at www.spookedkooks.com