Ben Horvath – Marketing Manager The Perfect Wave
Ben Horvath's life is the kind of life that orbits around surfing. He got his hands on a surfboard at pretty much the youngest age you can get started in the sport and was determined to pour out his passion for it into his professional career. His experience within the surf industry will take you on a great journey through different landscapes: from making a life competing in surfing contests to organising luxury surf concerts in paradise.
(Ben at the first Big Day Out in the Underground Surf Magazine days. Photo Mike Newling c/o TPW)
When did you start surfing?
I started surfing when I was 5 or 6 years old.
What was your first board?
My first surfcraft was a Hanimex surfmat, then I progressed to a Kentucky Fried Chicken foamie, a Hanimex foamie and eventually a Frank Williams shaped, Martin Worthington sprayed Hot Buttered single fin.
How do you think surfing has shaped your career?
Surfing has totally shaped my career. Surfing totally consumed my life by the time I reached high school, actually even before that in year 5 and 6 I was hooked. Initially it was all about football (IE the world game) and surfing, and then surfing just took over every spare moment of thought like a total obsession.
In the 80’s contest surfing was a big deal. I never missed a club comp with Elouera Boardriders, teams events like The Quiksilver Surf League, State and Aussie Titles, Individual APSA events like The Byron Easter Classic, Capricorn 2,000 and Pro events like The Coke Classic Trials or Southside Open trials etc. When it became apparent that I wasn’t good enough to make the pro ranks, all energy was diverted into building a career in the then burgeoning surfing industry.
I had good relationships with sponsors like Express, Quiksilver, Riot wetsuits and O and E at the time, and they helped me find work. Also my parents were lifelong rag traders and had connections.
(Ben Horvath off the bottom and eyeing the lip in The Mentawai. Photo Andy Potts c/o TPW)
Tell us about your experience in the surf industry.
Like most, I started from the ground up. Initially straight after finishing my HSC at school i did the Real Estate Certificate course to keep mum and dad off my back. What i really did though was compete in APSA contests and work in surf retail at SDS initially. I only earned a few thousand dollars in combined prize money and sponsorships, so i would do a coupla shifts a week and started selling advertising space and writing for surfing magazines. I started with Terry Kavanagh at Line Up Magazine, then worked with Pete Morrison, Mike Perry and Glen “Rocky“ Rawlings at Australian Surfing Life eventually progressing to a dual role - NSW ad Manager and NSW editorial correspondent. Whilst selling ads i often fielded lucrative job offers – eventually i took one from Margaret Egan - Luke’s mum. Margaret had the Maui licence and her and business partner Peter Panny’s employed me as Sales and Marketing Manager for Maui and Sons back when Luke and Brett Warner and co rode for Maui. Maui eventually saturated the marketplace becoming available in DJ’s etc, so i bailed and started my own national Surfing/Music/Fashion magazine called Underground Surf.
I was the founder, the editor, advertising manager everything. We had support from all the major industry players instantly because it was a fresh concept - the precursor ,the mag that busted down the doors for current more commercial staples like Stab and Monster Children. Fortunately big players, guys like Shannon North at Billabong, Ricci Jansen at Quiksilver, Claw at Rip Curl, Richard and Jo Meldrum at Hot Tuna, Brian at O and E, Shane Moran and Eugene King at SMP, Tom Cyprus at SDS and General Pants, “Mogga”at Rusty, Micheal Vatti at Lush Productions (Ezekiel, Zoo York etc), Paul Bow at MCD and later Von Zipper and too many more to mention all supported every issue. We fused fashion, punk rock and left leaning politics and pissed a lot of conservative surf businesses off as much as possible for over a decade. It was a great formula that suited the times when Nirvana, The Offspring, Pennywise etc broke big.
Then in true punk rock fashion it was time to split in a puff of smoke when we were at our most popular –selling 25,000 copies, often more than the predictable ole staples like Tracks, Waves and ASL at the time.
Fun times – we sponsored so many parties and gigs, it got a bit outta hand.
When i quit publishing Underground Surf, I created a coupla cool clothing brands. One called Label slave, the other called Sponsored Garments Inc, both were a pisstake on the corporate/conservative state of the surfing industry at the time.
Label Slave killed it thanks to the eye for trends and designing skills of my long-time partner in crime - Katherine Kent.
Our garments – were available in Glue stores, Universal stores, GP’s, SDS – as well as a bunch of cool independants.
Three years in we had our son Cruz and I got offered a lucrative gig as founding editor of coastalwatch.com by the legendary Johnny Charlton – someone I totally respect to this day.
After much coaxing I was offered the then biggest salary in surf journalism in this country at the time, even though I’ll admit I was more surfer than journalist.
I tried to keep our Label Slave business going too, but it was all getting too much.
I regret letting the label go and concentrated on Coastalwatch for 4 years until massive budget cuts hit the online space.
It worked out super cool though, as I met a much more relaxed bunch of people at The Perfect Wave and i love my job here now.
What is The Perfect Wave and what does your job involve?
The Perfect Wave is the world’s biggest surf travel experience company.
Our HQ is on the northern beaches of Sydney at Brookvale.
We have offices in Europe, Japan, New Zealand, The Maldives, Indonesia, The USA, South Africa and now Cronulla in southern Sydney too.
I am the global marketing manager, so I promote our incredibly diverse range of products to an ever-expanding marketplace.
I work with photographers, videographers, writers – all friends and connections I have established in over 25 years in the surfing industry, creating content and new products too.
We are developing a new website catering to our key personas, I establish JV’s with companies like Surfstitch, Ocean and Earth, Rip Curl and much more.
Our bread and butter products are Maldives and Mentawai surf charters and land resorts, but we send surfers and families to The Pacific, South America, Africa and of course all over Asia.
We also pioneered a bunch of exciting “Signature Series Events” whereby TPW Ambassadors like Occy, Barton Lynch, Bob McTavish and Pam Burridge host surf trips for their fans and we also developed a unique series of concerts that we call, “Surf Music In Paradise.”
Surf Music In Paradise series events are intimate gigs where you can sit less than 10 yards from the stage on a bean bag, a cold drink in hand, friends and family nearby. You can socialize and surf with the musos and like-minded fans. It is unbeatable. Read more here
(Tex Perkins playing at Surf Music In Pardise. Photo sproutdaily.com c/o TPW)
From all the places you have travelled to, where is your perfect wave?
I have been lucky enough to surf some insane waves in my 40 odd years of surfing. Sanur in Bali is one of my favorite waves. I love Hawaii, loved Puerto Escondido, love The Mentawai and Maldives of course, but funnily enough for me my best surfs have been on the south coast of NSW at various undisclosed locations and also on a lot of the local reefs and beachies around Cronulla.
What is it that you love about your job?
I love conceptualizing and building fresh, exciting events from the ground up. Surf Music In Paradise is fun. I know the super crowded, sweaty, over-policed festival gigs these days are no longer a fun option for anyone over 25. I know I would much rather combine my love of music and surfing with an extremely special week in paradise. Also I enjoy being on the other side of the media because I get it. I enjoy working with my former contemporaries in the media – I have a good relationship with the staff at all the various surf forecasting websites, the surf magazines and most importantly I love and appreciate the freedom and trust my current bosses Jamie and Rhonda at The Perfect Wave place in me.
(Ben on the back left with Some of the TPW team)
How do you fit in surfing around work?
Well in the past I have had difficulties, because for decades I always seemed to work on the northern beaches. Don’t get me wrong, that’s epic – I love it over there, I used to rise early and do the dawnie, but I live at Cronulla. It takes up to 2 hours to commute each way in Sydney traffic. Previous bosses never got that. My current employers at The Perfect Wave totally get it. We are a modern online company that communicate well remotely. The directors opened an office in Cronulla specifically to accommodate me and it makes so much sense because my output is greater and we have opened a whole new market. These days I only have to commute 1 day a week for management planning meetings or we meet via Skype, so I can get earlies and late surfs in when it is worthy. There’s also the odd work surf trip too, plus I’m productive for 8 or 10 more hours a week minimum.
Tell us about the Giving Back project. How does The Perfect Wave contribute to the community?
We fund a non-profit education centre in The Mentawai: Jamie Gray’s wife Marie is so passionate about it, driving it. We often have great fundraising nights – the other week we had Phil Jamieson play a free gig for our top 200 Perfection Pass clients. BL was there auctioning off special boards and photos etc. Another time we had Occy and Jack McCoy hosting.
So far we have built and opened the first English School in the Mentawai Islands, Indonesia. We run free English classes for adults and children, swimming classes mainly for girls, surfing classes and surfboard repair workshops. We also run environmental awareness classes with kids, including beach clean-up and have collaborated with Waves 4 Water and installed water tanks and filters in the local village of Pukarayat near Tuapejat.
If you want to help contribute click here
Any exciting plans for the future?
We have so many exciting plans. We have just started S – Resorts a Lifestyle Resort Group in surf friendly locales.
We also have big plans with Surf Music In Paradise. Donavon Frankenreiter hosted our inaugural series, followed by Tex Perkins, Phil Jamieson from Grinspoon and now Pete Murray hosting this year. Who knows where it could end up? Birdman in Bali? Eddie Vedder in Fiji?
It is an incredibly exciting project and once we build the brand I believe the sky is the limit.
Where can we find you online?
Posted by: Marta Gallardo, on May 5, 2016
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