Simon Nicholson is one of South Africa’s most celebrated surfers. His trademark style, incredible positioning and calm demeanour under pressure saw ‘Sims’ achieve at the highest level as a professional surfer. He represented his country and won numerous domestic and international events culminating in being crowned the 2000 US Tour Champ.
But for Simon, his talent was not only fulfilled in the ocean. With an entrepreneurial flare and a curiosity around business and marketing, the talented Durbanite achieved out of the water too. From starting his own fashion brands to looking after marketing and brand management for Volcom South Africa, to a successful stint in real estate, Simons’ experience in and out of the water have moulded him into the person he is today.
And now the family man has set himself a new challenge, with a recent move overseas, where he will be setting up the RYD business to service the UK market.
We caught up with Simon just after he touched down in England and found out a little more about this next chapter in his journey!
First up, tell us about the move to the UK…where you will be living, the thoughts behind the move etc.
Kimmy and I always saw ourselves ending up in Europe after the kids finished school, but lockdown really gave us time to look at everything and figure out what was possible… it’s sped things up for sure. We’re going to base ourselves somewhere along the south west coast. We are treating it like an adventure… explore until we find our happy place!
How did the RYD opportunity come up?
I was really lucky with the timing, I had seen the RYD brand popping up everywhere online and at my local beachie, so I decided to reach out to the guys and see if they needed a UK distributor. Everything just clicked from there and I’m really grateful for the opportunity.
You spent some time at the RYD SA HQ before flying out – what are your first impressions of the brand and the opportunity?
I actually thought the brand was an overseas company, so I was really surprised to find out it was conceptualized and born in South Africa! I flew into Cape Town for the RYD conference and met the team, I was blown away by the level of detail and thought that’s gone into each product. Barend is a legit accessory nerd! He taught me stuff about fins that I had never heard of in 30 years of using them! We got to test product every afternoon which was awesome going through the boards and equipment and getting to try it all out in super fun waves.
How do you see the RYD brand fitting into the UK market? What are the biggest opportunities you see?
RYD as a brand is all about the fun aspect of our lifestyle. Very inclusive, no ego, it’s not about being the best, it’s about having the most fun! The UK has a huge learn-to-surf market, so I think it’s going fit well. The quality is as good as the best brands out there, but the price is a little easier on the pocket! Something everyone can appreciate these days.
What will your first few months look like in terms of entering the market over there? And where do you envisage setting up?
I’ll be on the road a lot! I’ve got to spread the word far and wide, so I’ll be hitting the ground running and making my way through Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England in the first few months, seeing surf schools and retailers. Then will focus on putting down roots in early 2021 with a warehouse etc. At this stage I’m favouring North Devon to be based out of.
What are the biggest challenges you foresee?
I’m starting from scratch so that’s never easy, but the surf community is an amazing thing and I look forward to building relationships with some new faces and discovering some old mates! Just yesterday I was looking at surf schools in Wales and found an old rival from my junior days, Ingemar Cressy! I heard Dave Renaud is down in Newquay too, and I’m sure there’s others, so can’t wait to catch up with some old friends.
You come with some great industry experience – what part of that will you lean on most when launching RYD into the UK?
My early Volcom marketing days gave me invaluable experience. I ran underground events, visited stores around the country doing window build outs, and had to educate people what the brand stood for. This will be much of the same but on a much larger scale.
What are you most looking forward to through this process?
I’m really excited to be back doing something that’s been my life’s passion! At the RYD conference we got to spend hours dissecting fin base widths and epoxy twin fins! It’s not hard to get excited about that stuff! My kid is 11 and an absolute frother, so he’s super into everything too which makes it that much more fun.
The product is insane so I’m excited to make retailers see that for themselves and hopefully give it a shot. Always fun building something from the ground up!
All the best with the new adventure Simon! We have no doubt you’ll be a great success over there, and we’re so stoked to have you representing the RYD Tribe in the UK!
If you’re interested in stocking RYD product in the UK or just wanted to catch up with Simon, you can email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org