Gavin Joule Interview
Interview by Larry Cecil
Gavin Joule is the founder of Finshack.com based in Cornwall, UK. We spoke with him to learn about his surfing life and the inspiration behind his site that offers a hand-picked selection of functional fins and surf accessories.
When were you introduced to surfing?
Too late in life really, but in reality maybe there is a right time for everything. I was a city surfer for many years, catching a break on family holidays or surf trips with mates – besides it was bloody hard to have a quiver of longboards in a tiny London house. Moving to Cornwall from London really cemented a long held desire to be near the ocean and to surf more often, and to have a better life for the family. I think if I’d started surfing earlier I would never had the opportunities I have been so lucky to have. It all worked out pretty good in the end.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
It’s my alone time, even at a crowded peak it’s very easy to disappear into your own world, wash the troubles of the world away. It’s hard to describe the exhilarating experience of surfing, but nothing can beat that ‘in the moment’ rush of a good wave. It’s changed so many things, but as you get older most decisions made in life seem have the caveat ‘how will this affect my surfing‘ car choice, holiday choice, food, clothing. It’s hard to think of much that surfing doesn’t affect. I’ve made so many good friends too, doesn’t get much better does it…?
Which is your favorite board?
Seems like the easiest question, but different boards have so many different memories attached to them, specific spots or friends, waves ridden, it’s a hard one… okay I’ll pick one: My Skip Frye 9 8’’ Fish Simmons. I was obsessed with logs for a good long while, but once you feel the trim and speed of a Frye everything else seems, to say the least, sluggish. I’ve become a Glider convert, I have couple more on the way in the 11’ range from Marc Andreini and Tyler Warren. Gliders are not a very well known or understood board over here, but I can’t get enough of them, just want to try as many as possible. it’s the eternal search for that perfect board! Maybe a Skip Double Eagle might be the ‘one’ that fits the bill and can never be bettered, nice to have a dream, perhaps I’ll find one – one day.
Where is your favorite spot?
I think my favorite local spot is a wave here in Cornwall, it’s a right hand point that breaks a handful of times a year, our ‘Queen of the Coast.’ It’s infrequence makes it more special. In fact, I’m waiting for the tide to be right as we speak, fingers crossed. Apart from there, most of the breaks in California fit the bill also!
What was the impetus for you to launch your business, Finshack.com?
There just wasn’t anywhere you could see a good selection of fins here in the UK, in person or online. I’d bought a few online, one arrived after three weeks, the other wasn’t the colour I ordered. I thought even I could do better than that. It’s been a really great experience from the get go. I’ve met some outstanding people and am able in some small way help people get more from their surfing, which was always more important than making any money. Above all it’s great fun.
What informs the selection of fins that you offer on your website?
It’s quality and functional excellence really. It’s hard in any business to offer anything unique these days, but our mantra is the best fins the world has to offer backed up by solid customer service.
As we have grown, you get to understand the market as a global one rather than just your backyard, so you stock fins to fulfill that need. Brazil seems to like more performance orientated fins, Japan more esoteric traditional and design led stuff. It’s a constant learning curve, plus there is always something new coming out. Social media, like Instagram, Tumblr and their ilk have shrunk the world. Some small companies you would have never heard of in the old days become discoverable and accessible. In fact the web has enabled niche shops like us to thrive with a global marketplace, exciting times I think…
Who makes up your customer base?
The global surfer. There are not many surf spots we don’t sell too. In fact, I think we have sent fins to most parts of the world. It’s always good to hear from far flung customers, it’s not unusual for them to ask if we actually have surf here in the UK. But mostly we have a strong educated global customer base who know what they want and who come back time after time.
What is the greatest challenge your business faces?
Surprisingly there have very few obstacles, the greatest challenges have been creative or knowing when to stop and follow the ‘less is more’ approach, it’s very easy to get carried away when buying stock too. Damned seductive things these fins! The only slight bugbear I have is with the banks and their lack of imagination when faced with a business model they don’t understand. They were useless to be frank, a common theme for small businesses worldwide I’m guessing.
Describe your local surfing community.
Usual rag tag band of miscreants and ne’er-do-wells, myself included. A pretty tight knit and generally friendly though! If anyone fancies a trip down here and you like pasties, good beer and company you won’t go far wrong. Some great shapers and surfers too, just turn down the rain and the the sun up and it would be pretty much perfect!
Who or what inspires you?
Creativity, compassion and vision. People like Skip Frye, Yvon Chouinard, Richard Avedon, Dieter Rams, Ansel Adams, Mark Rothko, Jean Michel Basquiat, Tony Humphries, Francois Kevorkian, Robert Moog, and all my family and friends, Folk like that. Too many to mention really. Always look back as well as forward, too…
What is the greatest thing that you have learned in your life?
Follow your dream and the rest will work out. Easy to say I know, but seems to worked out so far. That and don’t forget to dance all night at least once in your life, that helps.
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done things differently?
Maybe have moved to California when I had a lifetime US visa. It;s pretty hard to get through each successive winter here, desperately need some sunshine by January!
What’s next for Gavin Joule?
Keep on surfing, few projects on the back burner that need attention, planning to do our own line of fins one day, shape a few boards, make some furniture, paint more, fish more. Oh and finish repainting the back of the house, must remember that… but basically have fun!
Photo credits: Gavin Joule, Frankie Casimir. Find out more about Finshack here.