Jamie Gray - The Perfect Wave

When did you start surfing?
I started off on a lid (bodyboard) as a grom. So I learnt to surf lying down, and then evolved in my early 20’s to stand up.

Where did you learn?
I grew up out west so we used to have to do these absolute missions on buses and trains out to Cronulla and Narrabeen. They were the main places we went before we had licenses and could drive anywhere.

What is your go to board at the moment?
It’s a Chaos Pea 6’2 quad fin.

Got many boards in the garage?
Heaps! I have stand up paddles, longboards, thrusters and a 7’6 gun.  I’m good friends with John at Chaos in Brookvale so he always looks after me, I’ve got loads of Chaos boards. Twin fins, swallow tails etc. There’s plenty of variety.

What sort of education have you had?
I left School when I was 15, my Dad was ill so I left to help him out, plus i doubt they would of had me back anyway. After all that I started a career in the print industry which I got out of very quickly and at the age of 18 I flew the coop and travelled around Australia for 3 years pretty much surfing, skiing and working on farms, hotels etc. My university education was on the road out of a kombi van or valiant. Then I left for overseas and didn’t come back for 8 years. I left at 18 and got back to Sydney at about 29.

What did you do in that time?
I did lots of ski seasons all over the world from North America to Austria and NZ. In between them I was kind of backpacking and surfing through places like Africa, Middle East, Asia, Indo, Europe, Southern France, Spain, Portugal, North America Etc. I was living out of London as a base for many of those years. So yeah, I pretty much spent a decade on the road surfing, skiing and living out of a backpack.

How did you get into the industry you’re in now?
When I first left Sydney and travelled Australia I started working in hospitality in hotels & resorts which was solid employment for me. I eventually progressed with a skill set of Hospitality management and ended up as a contractor setting up bars for companies like Hilton group in England, Italy, Ireland and Sydney, even for Tony Ryan founder of Ryan Air in Ireland. When I got back, my dream was to set up my own place so I set up a restaurant and bar in Sydney where we were nominated for best new venue in the Sydney metropolitan area and won the runners up prize. I sold that after about 3 years, which was when I found the industry I’m in now, the surf travel industry.

So having travelled for so long, this job would have been a natural progression?
The restaurant and bar we set up was travel themed, so everything I have done in life has basically been travel based. I feel very comfortable in this industry. I’ve been to a lot of places and done a lot of travelling and I love that about the world we live in. The fact that we have that opportunity there for us is just amazing, so to continue to follow my passions of travel and surfing as a career just made sense.

Tell us a bit about The Perfect Wave and how it started?
The Perfect Wave has been in operation for about 6 years now. When we first started, it was initially about being a lifestyle business. I had a young family at the time and wanted to spend more time with them, so it was initially an online travel agency. A surf travel company I had done a trip with previously had gone under which led me to do a market analysis and research the opportunities in surf travel, where I realized that there were only a few major players. So my business partner John O’Reilly and I thought, yeah let’s do it! We literally started under my house, one of our friends worked at Flight Centre, re-fitting all the shopfronts, so we went down while they were fitting one and pulled all the furniture out that they were going to throw away and fit it under my house and that was the birth of it.

Quickly we realized that due to the industry we were in, rather than just being a travel agent, people were counting on us to ensure that their trips were successful and that our expert advice is what they were counting on.  So I took that very seriously and have done ever since. So not only do we run our own operations, but if we don’t an operator has to complete our audit and 20 point check to be listed. Since that time we’ve gone multi-national with offices in Maldives, France, Japan and Indo with the U.S and South Africa coming soon. We’re expanding our Maldives operation to Fiji and Indonesia and we’ve created our own luxury surf resort brand called S Resorts. My goal now is to ensure that every person we send on one of our surf experiences gets the experience they expect and has an amazing time. We like to be able to try and control as many aspects of the trips as possible to ensure our clients get the best possible experience, within our power.

What is your role on a day too day basis?
Day to day I’m on a plane or in the field as much as I can. We have an amazing team here of 12 guys. I ‘m usually dealing with growth of existing projects and creation of new projects and just ensuring that we continue to evolve in the way that I want us to while sticking to our core values and ensuring that everybody is still dedicated to the service that we built this business on.

What do you like most about your job?
The variety and diversity, there is never ever a dull moment.

What is your favourite surf travel destination?
They’re all amazing in different ways but at the moment probably the Maldives seeing as it is where I go most often. 

Do you have a favourite wave or session?
Nothing beats paddling out with my little 8-year-old daughter. I may not even catch a wave, but the excitement of watching her and just being in the water with her is just the best. There are thousands of great sessions I’ve had around the world with great people, but paddling out with my 8 year old takes the win.

What are your thoughts on waves being locked down to resort owners for private use only?
It’s a delicate topic. My stance has and always will be that the surf is free to everybody. I don’t agree or believe that anybody can commandeer any surf break. Exclusivity needs to be ended in the Maldives as it has in Fiji.

Do you have any advice for anybody looking to get into the Surf Travel industry?
Give me a call! It’s hard to find the right people. There’s a misconception with surf travel where people think that you spend your whole time away surfing. The reality is that there’s a lot of organization and hard work behind the scenes to put peoples experiences together.  We’re generally after people who are passionate about surfing but are also able to relish in the detail and make sure that every point is correct. Being able to deal with the problems that come about is probably one of the main skills. You need to embrace problems, which is hard to do. All in all, It’s a great job.

Where can we find you online? 

Web: www.theperfectwave.com.au
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ThePerfectWave.SurfExperience
Vimeo: vimeo.com/theperfectwave
Twitter: twitter.com/perfect_wave
Youtube: www.youtube.com/user/perfecttravelgroup
Instagram: instagram.com/the.perfect.wave/
LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=118880584


Posted by: Troy Roennfeldt, on September 13, 2013
Categories: Interviews