Garry Neave - North Narrabeen Wax Co.
When did you get your first surfboard and where did you start surfing?
I was 15 at the time back in 1969. My first board was a 5 foot 4 Keyo, and about 6 months after that I started teaching myself to shape. During this time I was out in the Hills district in Sydney but my beach of choice was Freshwater.
How did you get into shaping?
I taught myself really. Until this year I have never actually physically watched someone else shape a board. The first board I shaped, I got 18 orders within the first few weeks. From there I was set! I bought and sold 3 cars before I even had my license. I was only selling them for $50 bucks a board but I was still doing alright!
What kind of education do you have?
When I left school I went up to Noosa to do some shaping. I finished my Higher School Certificate but didn’t get real good marks. When I left school and kept shaping boards, I felt a little bit guilty because I hadn’t given it my best shot, so I went back and did my HSC again to try and get better marks. After that I had no plans of going to Uni, I just wanted to prove to myself that I could get those marks, then I went back to shaping surfboards.
Was that your career path then for quite some time?
I shaped boards until about 1976 and then I got into Real Estate and ended up with 6 offices with 60 staff. I was into property development, but the whole time I was still shaping. In 72 – 73 I started taking an interest in Surf wax. I knew that there was complacency in the industry and nobody was really striving to improve it. Everyone was just pumping it out and we were buying it, even though it would smudge and melt off in the sun etc. That’s when I started to think about ways to improve it. If you look at the way that surf hardware and boards have progressed over that time, wax has gone backwards at a thousand miles an hour. Nobody was paying attention to it.
How did you get into making the wax?
I got out of Real Estate with the goal to develop the worlds best surf wax in the mid 90’s. And that was it. We started looking at wax and the ingredients that were making it so inferior, then went about extracting them from the production process and replacing them. That took about 8 years of research.
You’ve recently started expanding outside of Australia, how has the reception been?
We went to the Surf Expo Orlando Trade show in Florida and got MASSIVE response out of there. They were calling it one of the greatest success stories to come out of the Australian Surf Industry over there. I was at the booth for 3 days and it was just 3-4 people deep constantly. I knew we would nail the U.S before we even went over because we’d been getting e-mails for years from guys over there telling us how they were using the wax and how happy they were with it. So we’ve moved around North America and South America and recently got started in South Africa and Japan. I’m on my way to a couple of expo’s in Europe very soon.
Do you have any further development plans for your wax to enhance it even more?
Yes I do, the funny thing these days is that you get all these people talking about the need for organic wax. Words like organic and natural get thrown around, a lot of the ‘natural’ waxes use things like animal fat in their production and that’s still not too good for the planet. A lot of guys like the Surfrider Foundation like our wax because it doesn’t come off the board and poison the ocean. You can still have this ‘natural’ wax coming off the board and getting eaten by fish etc, it’s going to do the same damage as any other wax. And at the end of the day, wax is the least of the worries when it comes to the impact of surfing on the ocean. Wetsuits, boards, flippers, they all leak artificial substances into the sea, more so than wax. In saying that though, we are in the process of developing a truly natural wax. It has been a 5-year effort so far, but we’re getting closer.
What is it that you love about surfing?
It’s just a family thing this industry. It’s full of people pulling together with this similar interest and using it for good. That’s why I love these expo’s and things like that, because we’re all working together as one. When you travel the world you meet amazing people based on the common interest of surfing, and anything we can do to help these people and others, we will try to do. From the beginning we’ve been dedicated to donating our money to charities that support underprivileged children around the world, and I think that’s a goal and mentality that this industry supports; the desire to band together and try to help out not just each other, but others.
Do you get out in the water much these days?
I hardly get a chance to get out and surf at the moment due to the expansion of the business. My main priority is to develop these products and try to achieve the goals I set out for myself like donating to these charities as I mentioned above. It doesn’t bother me too much if I don’t get out for a surf that often.
What is the best thing about your job?
That I’m not working! No in all seriousness I do work 7 days a week, but it just doesn’t feel like work. I’m happy to be there, and I love what I’m doing. I love turning adversity into opportunity and that ties back to the whole family thing.
Where can we find you online?
Posted by: Troy Roennfeldt, on March 31, 2014
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