The Gold Coast is renowned as an adventure sports mecca but it is also fast becoming a major hub for international sporting companies.
It’s also home to an amazing number of board sports manufacturers, designers and producers including Billabong, Dolphin Surf Craft, Firewire, Shapers Australia, Jet Pilot, Fiik Skateboards and OBfive Skateboards.
One person who has enjoyed sporting and business success in this arena is Zane Holmes. A household name in Australia, lifesaver Holmes recorded an amazing 15 years of success in Ironman events. He is a two-time World Ironman Champion, an Australian national champion and won the gruelling Coolangatta Gold.
He’s also a major shareholder of Dolphin Surf Craft, which is one of Australia’s largest manufacturers of craft for the elite of Surf Life Saving competitors.
Holmes says there are significant advantages to basing Dolphin on the Gold Coast.
“Dad started the business in 1992 so for me it is my home town,’’ says Holmes.
“But there are significant advantages about being here because the area between Burleigh and the Tweed represents a huge portion of businesses in the surf industry and so there is a lot of industry expertise in the region.”
Holmes says the high number of elite sports people in the city provides another advantage for Gold Coast-based businesses.
The region’s beautiful climate, its beaches and world class training facilities have provided a fertile breeding ground for sportsmen and women and makes the Gold Coast an ideal base for board sports enthusiasts.
Thousands of athletes ranging from professional world champions and Olympic gold medallists to enthusiastic amateurs live and play in the city.
“The feedback we receive from our customers, especially from the elite competitors, is the number one way which we find ways to continually improve our boards,’’ says Holmes.
“We also use the feedback and the attributes that athletes are looking for from our surf craft to ensure we stay ahead of the competition.”
Dolphin is now using its competitive advantages that it gained from understanding the needs of elite athletes to expand offshore.
The company already has a strong presence in markets in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada but it is now firmly focussing on increasing its presence in the US market.
Holmes says the business has increased its manufacturing capacity in readiness for the push and he believes the company’s strong international reputation will help smooth the waters ahead of its American expansion plans.
Meanwhile, the massive popularity of surf culture on the Gold Coast has also spread into other board sports.
Kris O’Brien, the founder of surf-inspired OBfive Skateboards, says all the company’s designs are influenced by surf and its sponsored athletes and ambassadors are all surfers.
The company, which was launched in 2011, is already making its mark around the world with 30 per cent of its sales coming from outside of Australia.
“Last year we increased our business by 80 per cent which we are very pleased about and this year we are forecasting similar growth again,” says O’Brien.
“We are very fortunate to be able to base our business on the Gold Coast. Having access to some of the best beaches in the world as well as the thriving surf culture and amazing weather are all the reasons that make the Gold Coast a great place to develop a skateboard brand.
“Kids love our brand and aspire to our surf rich lifestyle and that’s what is unique about the Gold Coast.
“There is no other place in Australia that has all of these elements congested in one small area.”
O’Brien says it is amazing how much support his company receives from the local community.
“Everyone is excited to support local businesses that are having a go on a global scale,’’ he says.
“We get a lot of really good feedback from our local retailers as well as lots of positive vibes across our social media. Having the support of the community really helps drive our brand.”
The growth of the board sports industry in the region has also led to the establishment of a substantial number of support businesses and allied product manufacturers.
One company taking advantage of the growing hub is Rack-It-Up Systems, which designs a range of storage solutions for water and board sports.
Rack-It-Up Systems’ Peter Castellanos says the business is now taking the products it designed for Australian markets into the larger markets in Canada, USA and beyond.
“We are the only company worldwide that produces a complete range of a polymer-based racking system for all board sports, kayaks and also bicycles,” says Castellanos.
“Rack-It-Up has a complete patented system which is unique in its industry. The business is growing every year with our turnover doubling from last year.”
Castellanos says he loves having the business based on the Gold Coast.
“The Gold Coast is a great place to set up our business because of its proximity to Brisbane and the ease of getting to work and we are surrounded by board sports and beaches.”
In the rapidly changing world of electric skateboards one Gold Coast company, Fiik Skateboards, is vying for a larger slice of the fast expanding market.
Fiik’s Daniel Quinn says his company is not only enjoying success with its range of electric skateboards, it’s also expanding into similar products.
Quinn says they are utilising the same technologies to design a range of land and water-based electric vehicles to meet the needs of different markets.
He says under the Fiik brand they are selling electric skateboards and a new electric trike which is designed for drifting.
Other products already on the production line include the Golf Skate Caddy – personalised electric vehicles for golfers; and the Kush Electric range which includes the Kush Transporter – a two wheeled electric board designed to help people to get around town, electric scooters and the Kush Steezer – an off-road Harley-style scooter.
Quinn says the Gold Coast is an ideal testing ground, both in terms of new product development as well as market testing.