I’ve been on a bit of personal journey over the past couple of years and to be honest it’s changed me, well changed the way I think really. I used to think I had to convey an image that everything was perfect in my world and with my business or people wouldn’t buy my products or join me on a course. But for a number of reasons, I am now realising that this is not the case. All I am doing is sharing my journey. There is no right or wrong, things don’t have to look a certain way, it is what it is, and is what it is meant to be. Some people will connect with my story and some won’t, which is all okay.
I figured, telling you a bit about myself and sharing my Red Leaf journey, is a pretty good place to start.
I’m a pretty simple guy really; I want to spend my time doing what I love – making surfboards - with flexibility and freedom to enjoy life along the way.
So first up, the boring bit, I’m Pete and Red Leaf Surfboards is my creation. I grew up in the UK, where I trained and worked as Furniture Designer/Maker, before immigrating to the stunningly beautiful New Zealand in 2013. I’m a beekeeper, surfer and craftsman. I love good food, good music and have probably never said no to a cup of tea in my life.
Back tracking a bit… I was working as a furniture maker in the 9 to 5 routine, I was happy enough but not completely - I had dreams; one of them was to live in New Zealand and one was to make my own surfboards.
Timber surfboards were the obvious choice for me. I love timber, I understand it and because I’m a bit of a closet hippy I appreciate that it’s sustainable and durable and beautiful.
In 2011 I had some shit show up in my life. I found myself without a house, without a job, on my own, with all my future plans out the window. I didn’t realise it at the time but this was both a test and a gift for me. A test to make sure I really wanted what I thought I wanted and a gift because I thought ‘Well fuck it, what have I got to lose?! Now is the time, let’s make some wooden surfboards.’
With no real idea of how to run a business, I gathered my tools, rented a workspace, begged and borrowed some machinery and just stepped off the cliff.
It was awesome, I spent the first year in business having the time of my life, being my own boss, making prototypes and developing my products, shit, I even won an award and ended up on the front cover of a magazine! I didn’t make much money, but who needs money, right?
Despite all the fun and all the money I wasn’t making, certain things had aligned in my personal life that made it the right time to move to New Zealand… my other dream. If I went into details here this post would turn into a novel and none of us want that! But what I will tell you is that every imaginable challenge that could present itself when immigrating to the other side of the world happily presented themselves in all their fabulous glory.
Fast forward a few years and I was finally in a position to re-awaken what I had started with Red Leaf and commit one hundred percent. But this is where things got interesting (for me anyway) and this is where the personal journey really started that has put everything into focus for my future and the future of Red Leaf - after all Red leaf is really just an extension of me.
So everything was set, I could live in NZ permanently, I had a house, a home by the sea, a workshop, a loving partner and even a mental little cat. And then boom - I got sick, real sick.
In 2009 I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition called Ulcerative Colitis; a condition the medical world says there is no cure for and doesn’t know how it is caused. I had a few little niggles with it early on but nothing very serious, then I had five years pretty much symptom free and I really didn't consider that I had it anymore. But at the end of 2015 it gave me a savage beating and made me pay attention. I’m talking hospital admissions (x3), blood transfusions, internal bleeding, anaemia, extreme weight loss and fatigue. It was pretty shitty….Errrm…Literally!!
I’m starting to come out of the other side of it now after 18 months, but it has kept me away from all the things I love. It kept me out of the surf, it kept me away from the workshop, it kept me away from life really. But as I sit here now writing this I feel kind of happy that it happened, which sounds a bit messed-up really, so let me explain….
I started working with some epic mentors who helped me to find the positives in my situation - As they say ‘The gift is in the shit.’ I used to feel like a victim to Ulcerative Colitis, that it was just happening to me. The biggest change came for me when I became aware that my actions had a part to play in triggering the disease and that I was fueling my condition with a lot of negative thought and behaviour. I have come to understand that I have the option to respond in a different way and therefore have a different outcome. After all - Attitude dictates experience.
The more accepting I became of my situation, the easier it was to let go of the negative thought patterns and stories I had running in my head. This allowed me to respond differently, get a different result and . . . . . . I started to get better!
But what the hell has this got to do with surfboards?
Spending so long out of the water, out of the workshop, away from being able to build the business has given me the time to think about where I really want to take the business. Now more than ever I want Red Leaf to be a journey about people.
I would love to share my skills and passion with as many people as possible, to share the stoke of building and riding beautiful, sustainable surf craft made with your own hands.
To share waves, laughs, stories, experiences and knowledge and to learn from everyone along the way. I want to set up events and gatherings, a community of like-minded people simply wanting to have a bit of fun and wanting to create.
This realisation is for me one of the gifts that was in the shit.
Now my focus is creating a new structure and new course dates for the build your own surfboard workshops and I will post them up soon. So if you’d like to get involved and become part of the Red Leaf journey, keep checking back, follow us on Facebook, Instagram or sign up to our newsletter.
Until next time,
Enjoy the ride,