I got my sea legs when I was a youngster, cruising around the sounds all summer with my family. Growing up close to the water meant I naturally gravitated to all things water-related, trying out anything and everything just to be out on the water; sailing, surfing, windsurfing, and of course fishing.
When I was big enough, I got my own dingy and took to the waters. There is always an adventure to have and no two tides are the same out on the big blue. Armed with my rod and lure, I caught my first kingfish when I was out on my own at 14. The thrill of the fight pulling up the fish ignited my passion for the sport. After school and in my free time, you could catch me on the wharf with my rod, or wading up a river with my tackle box. Always out there patiently waiting for that tug on my line, I was hooked.
After I finished high school it was only natural for me to find myself a job as a salesman at a local fishing and hunting store in Wellington, New Zealand. I wanted to work in an industry that I was passionate about. During my time in retail, I was always looking for new opportunities; I wanted to create a business around my passion for fishing.
I was 21, pretty green and very ambitious. Knowing what I did from talking with customers in the fishing shop and getting out there using the gear myself, I saw a gap in the market for affordable, high-quality fishing clothing. Thinking this would be a piece of cake I decided to import and sell the stuff on my own. So I went out, did some research, borrowed some money, and ordered a container of neoprene waders. I set off on a nationwide sales trip selling my waders and while I had a few good bites, I had many knocks. Fortunately, the good bites were enough to get me going.
The stock arrived and as I was living at home with my parents at the time, I filled their garage from floor to ceiling, you could hardly move! The waders were selling and reorders were coming in strong, so I got a second container of waders on the way.
By this stage, Riverworks as it was known back then, had a product out there in use. I started to get some neoprene waders returned. Initially, I wasn’t too concerned, but as the numbers started to increase it was clear that there was a problem. The company that made the waders did not have problems in other parts of the world which I knew to be true as we had done a lot of research before I made the first order. The reason we had so many problems is that Kiwis are hard on their gear; they hike, they climb banks and venture through blackberry and the like to get to their favourite fishing spots. I learned a valuable lesson here. This was the same reason why I was getting frustrated, while working in retail, with the significant amount of imported gear that was failing.
I needed to take serious action to protect my reputation and brand. I decided that I needed to reinforce the crotches and water test every.single.pair! This turned out to be a momentous task. So it was back to my parent’s place, as they lived down a long drive so we were able to set up a water testing station, drying racks, and glueing station. When I started this the weather worked in our favour to enable the glue to dry and was forecast to be good for the next week. I had hoped this would be a good amount of time to get the job done but I soon realised it was a much larger task than we initially thought. We were testing, reinforcing and re-boxing approximately 30 waders per day. Not a bad effort except I had 700 pairs to get through!
Then bad weather hit, the relentless Wellington wind and rain, and it was one thing after another. I was out in the middle of the night tightening up the tarpaulins to keep the rain at bay, then the stands blew over with 100 pairs of waders on. I needed another location to do the job. Fortunately, a mate came to the rescue and with the help of family and friends, I eventually made it to the end of the momentous task.