Meet the surfer running a business from his sailboat

Larissa Ham

Operating a business from a sailboat – or Indonesia, or anywhere with Wi-Fi really – is the stuff many cubicle-bound folk dream of.

But for Ryan Scanlon, managing his wetsuit business in this way is a daily reality, albeit one that was a couple of decades in the making.

“I’ve always wrestled between career and being a surfer,” says the 39-year-old founder of Need Essentials. “I’ve always worked three years on and taken two years off and travelled all over the world.”

About two years ago, Scanlon was working in LA, as head of global products and marketing for Quiksilver.

I’ve always worked three years on and taken two years off and travelled all over the world.

The Torquay-born entrepreneur, a fan of living simply, was living on his boat in LA, and driving his $1000 van to work. But something wasn’t right.

“I generally realised as I was getting higher and higher in my career that I was meeting more and more less content people,” says Scanlon, who felt he was sacrificing too much of his time for someone else’s business.

Instead he decided to create the lifestyle he wanted, while starting a wetsuit company that he says creates premium products at less than half the price of the big players.

Need Essentials does this by acting as a supply network rather than a brand. There are no logos on the company’s wetsuits, swing tags, packaging, paid ambassadors or store mark-ups. There’s also very little marketing except on Facebook and Instagram.

“This company is more focused on less bullshit and only focusing on things you need,” says Scanlon, who would prefer that surfers spend their money chasing waves.

We’re hoping to sort of inspire people to try and live a bit more simply and consume less.

So far, Scanlon has run the company during a five-month motorcycle trip from Aceh to East Timor, and spent winter testing wetsuits in New Zealand’s cool waters. He’s currently at home in Yamba, on the New South Wales north coast, running his business from his 40-foot sailboat.

Scanlon says making money is not his sole focus, but the business does need to sustain itself.

“We’re not trying to take a big piece of the pie,” he says. “We’re hoping to sort of inspire people to try and live a bit more simply and consume less.”

Running any business – even from a solar-powered sailboat – still has its challenges.

“With any business that’s your own it’s still a burden. You’ve got to pay the bills, you’ve got to pay for your next production order,” says Scanlon.

“But for me that suits me better than sitting in an industrial space in LA, working under fluoro lights.”

Larissa Ham

Larissa Ham is a Melbourne-based freelancer. She write for publications including The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The New Daily and Forge magazine, and also shares money saving tips at Hey, Little Spender!

Image: Need Essentials official Facebook page

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