Gideon Silverman grew up surfing the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia. While away studying at Stanford Business School, he found himself making frequent trips back to Oz to surf his home break, but the constant air travel was posing a problem: what to do about his boards.
Not only was he paying countless airline fees to schlep them across continents, but he was also putting his boards in danger of getting damaged along the way. At the same time he wasn’t willing to make the sacrifice of renting a not-so-great board for high daily rates.
This dilemma is something most surfers have faced, and – if they travel – probably understand all too well.
Last year, Silverman and friend and pro surfer Ace Buchan decided to do something about it, and Awayco was born. The program allows subscribers to borrow as many boards as they want from Awayco’s 20 affiliate locations – mostly retail shops – in the US, Australia and Bali, for a flat rate of $60 per month.
Silverman, who was most recently working as a product manager at Google, was able to seamlessly assemble a team that combines technology prowess and surfing knowledge under one roof.
“What makes this pretty special is that it’s a mix of people from both the tech and surf industries,” says Awayco VP of Brand and Media Taylor Paul, who hails from previous roles at SURFING and non-profit Waves For Water. “We are in the perfect location to do that, too, because San Francisco is obviously a thriving tech scene with really great surf. It’s pretty neat to have everyone together, learning from each other.”
The result has been a savvy aesthetic and common-sense approach to providing boards at surfers’ disposal, whether they are on the road to their dream locales or just itching to try something new at their home break.
The program is still in beta-testing – meaning that members must request an invite before gaining membership access – but Paul says this is necessary so that they can properly gauge how many boards to supply each location, ensuring everyone signed up has the best possible user experience. This also gives the team time to work out any bugs and nail down idiosyncrasies as they arise, Paul explains.
Working in Awayco’s San Francisco flagship location, Paul has seen the level of enthusiasm for the program grow first hand, and three very distinct types of members take shape: the frequent traveler, the try-before-you-buy consumer and the surfer who just wants to try something new from time to time to supplement their existing quiver.
“Those people are coming through and riding so many boards, and just having the time of their lives,” says Paul. “They feel like a kid in a candy store, wanting to try them all – and then they do.”
By listening to customer feedback, Awayco says they will continue to adjust the program, allowing for subscribers to take out multiple boards at a time, and to book for longer time periods (currently, members can book boards for five days at a time).
And while they are currently working with a roster of both international and regional manufacturers, from Firewire, Slater Designs, Channel Islands, JS Industries, Pyzel, and HaydenShapes to Northern California’s Travis Reynolds and Australia’s DP Surfboards, Awayco will continue to grow its selection to include more boards and locations.
“To get started we really needed to have that spread of bigger manufacturers, but we definitely want to focus over the next month on getting more regional shapers involved, not only to diversify the quiver, but also to support local shapers.”
The program has had an uplifting impact on those involved: Shapers get higher levels of awareness, and retailers get more people through their doors, resulting in increased board sales from customers who are “more confident to buy and not play the $800-guessing-game like they used to,” Paul explains.
As for where we can expect to see the next Awayco destination pop up, that’s something the team can’t share the details on just yet.
“I don’t want to say where exactly they’ll be will be, but I can say with confidence that we’ll be opening up dozens of new affiliates in various regions over the next year," says Paul. "People are loving the service now, but as we expand, it’s only going to get better.”
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