Visit Rhosneigr on a windy day and you’ll find dozens of sailors on the water with the remainder huddling at the shop door whilst clasping their hands around a hot cup of tea courtesy of Funsport. Rhosneigr has a great, team like atmosphere that has been created mainly by Dave Buckland. The camaradie in the shop has spurned many a decent sailor to higher levels of looping achievement and got others to just get out there when the conditions are just beyond what they think they can cope with!
But Funsport is also trying to convince us that Rhosneigr is also a good place to ‘learn to windsurf’ on those calmer days. With the launch of their Watersports Weekends, Dave Buckland gives a rare interview about life behind the shop door.
The story of how you came to own Funsport has gone down in local legend – talk us through it!
Dave: This windsurfing shop has been here since 1985. Gordon Way, in those days Mr SeaPanther and NeilPryde realized that this house on the seafront would be a prime location for a windsurfing shop. He got the property and put a manager in the shop. I remember the big opening day. I worked here as a summer windsurfing instructor and general dogs body. I tell you it was my destiny, I was drawn towards it! I got a job with Ultrasport in 1987. Myself, Dave Hackford and Mark Woods ran the Tiga Tour around the UK. It was a bit of a travelling circus, visiting windsurfing shops with Mark and Dave giving talks on their careers. We did 40 shops in one summer with every single visit ending up in a piss up!
"It was a windy Saturday
in the Easter holidays and
I opened the shop door for
the first time not having a
clue how to run a
After a few years I laid off the booze and moved on! I started doing building work, lost touch with the Ultrasport guys, injured my shoulder and consequently didn’t sail much. But I then opened a shop down the road from Rhosneigr in Trearddur Bay (this was 1998). I got back in touch with Gordon Way from Ultrasport to ask if I could buy wetsuits off him during the summer season at my new shop (which sold clothes, buckets and spades etc). Having run the shop from Nottingham Gordon seemed to ‘want out’ and offered me the lease in April 1999. I went to collect the keys from the current manager who was supposed to show me the ropes. He opened his door, threw the keys out and said, ‘Get on with it!’ It was a windy Saturday in the Easter holidays and I opened the shop not having a clue how to run things.
Then Alex Tritten walked through the door. He was from France but based in Manchester working on a part exchange as a language teacher. He was super keen on windsurfing and seemed to know more about running a windsurf shop than me. I offered him a weekend job there and then! Alex then worked for me more and more, teaching windsurfing, kitesurfing and eventually setting up his own kite school and a cafe (Mojo’s) on the high street with his girlfriend. He never returned to France.
Was it part of your business plan to promote local riders and get windsurfing events here or did it just happen?
No, it was a conscious effort to plan events and sponsor the best riders at the beach. When I came along in 1999, Phil Horrocks couldn’t gybe let alone do anything in waves. Ben Proffitt had just finished up his IMCO career and was busy learning to vulcan.
In fact, he broke his first wave board here (one of many in years to come). I could see they both had potential and were super keen so I gave them discounted kit and paid for competition entry fees – nothing too grand but I think it helped. Now, they are full time pros, everyone knows them and that really helps my shop and also the location.
"The Funsport shop: it was my destiny, I
was drawn towards it!"
You’re known for making endless cups of tea to freezing cold sailors mid-session. Has it always been like this?
Yes, it has been. I’ve worked at making a good atmosphere in the shop; put the kettle on, cup of tea, chat, no pressure to buy. Why? I suppose I wanted to be liked!! (Although it’s a bit different now with my Polish workforce, Lucas, who is much more of a sales man than I!)
Have the cups of tea and chats resulted in more sales?
I don’t think they have actually (ha, ha)! It’s always been about the lifestyle for me. I couldn’t believe I could go sailing and look back at the sea, see my shop and know someone was making me a few quid. I just couldn’t believe that this was my working day.
But surely you now have a family to feed?
Yes, when I had the kids, (Seren and Ossian courtesy of beautiful girlfriend Caroline), life changed a little. I was a builder before I took over the shop and to make any real money I had to do that again. After I had my second child, I decided to renovate a local property and make some quid. Along came Lucas; my internet bride from Poland. He joined me in 2006. With Lucas in the shop, he took over the day-to-day chores and oversaw the revamp of shop with more space for clothes as we realized we had to tap into that market of ‘wannabe surfy people’ who lapped up the lifestyle. This allowed me time to renovate the local property and also plan for the next stage to the shop. It’s now becoming much more of a business than in the beginning when it was a means to an end to go windsurfing.
So from 1999 to 2008: are you selling more kit and/or different kit?
I don’t think we’re selling to more people just selling more kit to the same people; Lucas is the ultimate sales man! I don’t honestly think there are more people windsurfing at Rhossy. A busy weekend is ’99 is still the same busy weekend in 2008 with around 60 windsurfers on the water.
"I’ve worked at making
a good atmosphere in
the shop. Why? I suppose
I wanted to be liked!!"
In terms of different kit, yes, the Freewave equipment has been good for us as for some reason sailors will buy it at a reasonable cost. Waveheads are always looking for a bargain, they just won’t pay the price but the freeride/getting into waves market see the benefits of a modern, new board and tend to pay up.
What’s your five year plan?
Funny you ask! My five year plan is to get rid of the old tearoom, build the new extension and cafe, move back onto the beach and spend less time working!
We’ve got to maximize what we’ve got and make the business more secure by diversifying. We’ll have a cafe, a clothes shop, a watersports hardwear area to cater for other sports like surfing, wakeboarding as well as being able to display all the boards. Then finally a teaching school and kit hire centre aimed at introducing people to the water. If one area of the business isn’t doing so well, one of the others should be doing better no matter what the weather is. That’s the plan anyway.
Ok, now for the easy questions:
Worst injury at Rhosneigr please?
Dave: You guys are sick! Ok, Martin ‘Goph’ Francis was probably the most serious (broken femur out the back after falling off a pushloop) but Duncan’s was the most spectacular. He got lofted by his kite, hit the sea wall which dislocated his hip, catapulted sideways and broke the fibre glass flag pole in three places then shot across the road and impacted into Alex Tritten’s van (impact mark still there to this day). He broke his femur, dislocated his hip, broke his wrist and two ribs. He was back on the water in 18 months – fair play!
Biggest day at Rhossy?
Dave: It always seems too been have bigger a long time ago but perhaps that’s because we were rubbish back then saying, ‘I’m not going out there, it’s far too dangerous!’Ok, let me think. It was about two years ago, a Wednesday (of course), sunny day, wind in the morning, quite big. The wind went and only the diehards who had nothing else to do hung around. It came back at 5pm and we had the best evening sail; port tack, 4 and a half meter waves, just Phil Horrocks, his brother Dave and me.
Watersports Weekends: tell us about them?
Dave: Well they are open to anyone who fancies having a go at watersports. The emphasis will be on windsurfing but if the conditions allow people can also try surfing, wakeboarding etc. I’d love to see more locals have a go as well as tourists who perhaps wouldn’t think of trying a watersport on their day at the beach. It’s a great place to learn right through to cracking that gybe and getting into the waves – you just pick your day.
"Iíve been into watersports
for 25 years and itís done
me no harm! I want people
to open their eyes to it."
People think you’re nuts going out when it’s windy and rough – they can’t understand it – but I’d rather they experience it as well. I’ve been into watersports for 25 years and it’s done me no harm! I want people to open their eyes to it especially those that live by the sea. I say; ‘don’t just buy the lifestyle, do the lifestyle’. But then I am starting to sound like a cheesy, old man so I think I’ll shut up!!
For more info on Funsport’s Watersports Weekends ring the shop on 01407 810899 or visit their website: www.buckys.co.uk
Or check out Rhosneigr from the Funsport webcam: www.camserv.co.uk/rhos
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