Airwave Surfboards - Designer surfboards, made in Chester
PUBLISHED: 00:00 29 October 2015
Chester's Josh Moffat never thought a surfing hobby would turn into a business. Rebekka O'Grady finds out more
‘It all started out as a creative outlet for a frustrated designer in an engineering job,’ laughed 24-year-old Josh Moffat, from his office space at Chester University’s Riverside Innovation Centre (RIC). ‘I decided an office job wasn’t for me, so I pursued what was initially a hobby into a full time career.’
The Chester native, who spent time studying mechanical engineering at Nottingham University before gaining a master’s degree in product design and management from the University of Liverpool, launched his company, Airwave Surfboards, in late 2014. Airwave’s core function is surfboard design and manufacturing, offering both custom and off-the-shelf high quality designs for surfers of all ages, abilities and surfing styles.
‘I started surfing when I was 17 on family holidays to Cornwall. In Nottingham, I became involved in the surf club and for my master’s degree I studied surfboards, so it’s something I have a passion for. I was making them in my spare time and before you knew it I had people asking me to make boards for them too.’
The young businessman then decided to apply to ‘ACCELERATE’, a programme set up for entrepreneurial students and graduates from the University of Chester and beyond to help and provide the opportunity to turn ideas into a reality. Following nine pitches, six businesses including Airwave were successful in receiving funding, courtesy of Santander, and/or office space. Josh was fortunate enough to receive both office space at RIC, along with £2,000 - the highest amount of funding awarded.
‘The set-up here is fantastic. It’s a great base to get your business going with lots of support. For the time being, it’s an excellent place to find your feet and get into the business mindset, but I may move in the future.’
Some readers may be thinking that Chester is an odd base for a surfboard company. You could hardly go out and hit the waves on the River Dee. However, Josh sees a benefit for his location up north, as he is the closest company to Surf Snowdonia, an artificial wave pool at Dolgarrog in the Conwy valley that opened this summer. It is the world’s first inland surfing lagoon, and the UK’s only artificial surfing lake.
‘It recently held the inaugural Red Bull Unleashed competition (the world-first stadium surfing event), so it’s very much in the media spotlight at the moment. I do have a strong base in Cornwall and Newquay too. The majority of my boards are manufactured down there and then shipped up to me here to fine tune.’
Airwave Surfboards are proud to be the only surfboard company to bear the ‘Made in GB’ marquee. It is an integral part of Josh’s brand and corporate responsibility, to retain manufacturing in Britain and support British surfing. ‘I was invited to take part in the Best of Britannia event which was exciting, the reach they have is amazing. I want to start underground, to form my own identity and get away from the big names. The aim is to build my own lifestyle brand, and be a bit more edgy than the mainstream.’
The future looks bright for Josh, who, at the time of going to press, was set to launch his company online with a shop and order platform. The young entrepreneur told me that his 17-year-old self would have laughed in disbelief if he thought that at 24 he would be launching his own company and making surfboards.
‘At Christmas, I’m going to Ireland to test some new boards - it will be really cold but not crowded. Next summer, I will travel to the Tropics to test more. Moving three to five years down the line, it’s exciting but I don’t know exactly where I will be. A pop-up store in Boxpark, Shoreditch and Boardmasters Festival, Newquay, would be great. Then maybe international domination?’