Ironman turned successful businessman

Business & Invest
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Zane Holmes spent 15 years competing in Ironman championships and winning nearly every major event. While the athlete is officially retired, he is still contributing to the sport in a big way!

Together with business partners Simon Hunnybun and Ironwoman Kristyl Smith, Zane manages Dolphin Surfcraft – one of Australia’s largest manufacturers producing custom handmade craft for the elite of Surf Life Saving competitors.

The business was originally founded in 1992 by John Holmes (Zane’s father) who sadly passed away in 2003 during a downwind paddle to his home at Kawana Waters.

While Zane admits it was a sudden decision to enter the family business, he says he wanted his father’s legacy to live on within the company he founded.

“It wasn’t a plan to enter the family business at the age of 23 but my dad passed away and the business risked being sold,” says Holmes.

“I didn’t want to see that happen after it being in the family for so long so I decided to jump in.

“It was probably a bit premature for me to come into it at that age but I certainly don’t regret it – it was a great decision.”

Dolphin has a well-earned reputation of quality and service within the Surf Lifesaving movement in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Europe, UK and the USA.

The core of the business caters to the surf lifesaving market, manufacturing lifesaving rescue and lifeguard boards and also high performance racing boards, racing skis and nipper boards.

“That is how the business started but it has evolved into producing stand-up paddle boards and other high performance ocean boards with the new brand we developed about six or seven years ago called DEEP Ocean Boards,” says Holmes.

While the business is still operating from the same premises of its humble beginnings, it has expanded immensely now occupying the entire block of factories at the Burleigh Heads address.

Collectively Dolphin and DEEP manufacture more than 1,200 units per year.

Holmes says both businesses are now focussed on overseas expansion and have utilised a number of City of Gold Coast trade missions to assist in growing offshore markets.

Dolphin and DEEP attended the City of Gold Coast Surf Expo Trade Mission to the USA, designed to assist the Gold Coast’s board and action sports industry while encouraging export opportunities.

“We went to the Surf Expo in America last year to grow in that market and it definitely helped,” says Zane.

“We have landed our first container in the US this year as a result and we are now looking at doing another two or three into America before the end of the year.

“New Zealand is also a very big export market for us – we do a number of shipping containers to New Zealand each year. We have also been exporting to Canada for about 16 years and that is steadily growing and Japan is a growing market too.”

Zane says the next step is Europe.

“We are already there in a small way, but the European market is one we really want to crack,” he says.

“We are also focussing on our core business in Australia but our vision is to make our offshore markets as big as our local market here in Australia.”

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Zane and Simon design all of the boards – between them they have almost 60 years experience in surf craft design and production.

To ensure the business evolves with technology Dolphin uses the latest 3D design program. The business has developed more than 50 customised shapes to suit paddlers from 20kgs up to over 100kgs.

And it seems that professional athletes can’t get enough of the boards, with the business priding itself on having a large stable of sponsored athletes at the high end of Ironman racing.

“In terms of results on the world stage, athletes that represent our brands all hold major titles,” says Zane.

“Shannon Eckstein is the current Australian and World Ironman champion and he has been one of our longest serving and loyal ambassadors. He has been representing us his whole career which is great and is pushing on nearly 20 years. That side of things really makes it worthwhile; when you see athletes and people that we look after and sponsor, go out and perform on a national and world stage.”

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