In the beginning
Started by Andy and his friend Olly in 2002, Wavehunters began as a surf minibus taking “weekend warrior” visiting surfers to the best breaks along Cornwall’s north coast. “We just wanted to make enough money to live, and go surfing as much as physically possible,” laughs Andy.
“Back then, there were no webcams, and no high-tech surf forecasting – so the only way was to go and have a look, using your local knowledge to know the best places to check,” he continues, describing how their minibus would pick people up from the train stations and take them straight to the beach. “There was an answerphone service you could call – but that was often fake and sent you to the wrong spots!”
In those early days, the friends also ran a surf lodge for a couple of years, before they were approached by Animal to open a Wavehunters surf school on the beach at their home break of Polzeath. It really took off and the business grew from there – from its Groms Club teaching young local kids to surf, to stand-up paddleboarding in the very early days of the UK sport, to a series of winter surf camps in Morocco.
Before long, Wavehunters expanded beyond surfing to offer beach yoga and outdoor fitness classes, and bought its first boat to take people along the coast on wildlife spotting trips. It now has three RIBs running marine life safaris out of Padstow and Rock, as well as a water taxi in the estuary.
Wavehunters is now one of the biggest surf schools in the UK, with a team of 40. “We’ve grown really organically, and it’s taken us a long time,” says Andy. “We haven’t had any specific strategy, it’s just built around a love of being in and on the water, and wanting to help more people experience that.
“Our team has worked together for a long time; it sounds like a cliché but we really are a family business where we work together and play together, all year round. Outside of work, we love to meet up socially and surf together, go out on the boats, and have parties – our shared love of the water naturally brings us together.”
A big part of Wavehunters – and one that excites Andy the most – is its Groms Club. This started for local children to come and learn to surf at a discounted price. It was really popular, so grew into a number of local schools. “Many of the kids who learned to surf with us have gone on to surf on the British Tour and be sponsored surfers,” says Andy.
“Lots more have ended up as surf instructors working at Wavehunters, as well as opening their own surf schools all over the world. It’s a massive part of why we do it, and something I’m really proud of. It can be quite scary though – seeing people who learned to surf with us as kids, and when I ask them what they’re up to now, they tell me they’re a surgeon… which makes me feel so old!”
Andy’s looking forward to setting up a new Groms Club at Watergate Bay too. “We’re not just here to work with visitors,” he explains. “We’re really excited to provide a new children’s surf facility in a great location, that’s easy for locals to get to as well.
“I’ve surfed and competed at Watergate Bay since being a grom myself,” Andy concludes. “I’ve admired what Carl’s created at the Extreme Academy for a long time, so taking it on is a dream opportunity to build on the brilliant work he and his team have done.”
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