Chris Thomson grew up on the Isle of Wight, learning to surf at an early age with one dream, ‘surfing’. Chris left school at 16 and went to Newquay to live his dream, he became a surf coach and had a successful competition career with big name sponsors O’Neill and Fat Face before starting ‘Errant Surf’. Chris also became Cornwalls ‘Young Business Person of the Year’ in 2009. I managed to contact Chris earlier this week and he has given us a brief insight in to how he has got to where he is today.
I started surfing on the Isle of Wight in 1992 at the age of 10. I spent my time on auto-pilot during the week, getting through endless lessons at Cowes High School. Waiting for the weekend to come so I could hit the surf.
That was if I could get a lift.
Living in Cowes is not really the most ideal location for any surfer to grow up. As an early teen it was near on impossible to surf had it not been for some key people that helped me get away from the sailing elite and to the beaches of Compton and Whitecliff Bay.
Fortunately I worked a Saturday job in Cameo Sports, whose owner Craig Holland was an avid longboarder. There was Craig, myself, my brother Nick (who now lives in Hawaii) and the other Saturday boy Dean Bowden.
The shop opened (around) 10am, which meant if you were keen for a surf it was going to be a early 5.30am pickup from the floating bridge, if you were late you missed out. Everyone knew the rules and nobody was late. After waiting all week, and getting up so early, there was no way we weren’t “going in” and subsequently we surfed all kinds of shit surf.
We would return to Cowes cold and stoked ready for our weekend of work. Customers would soon get used to Dean and I playing The Offspring “Smash” and serving them as the sea water drained out our noses onto the notepad we wrote down transactions on.
The shop itself, which sold auctioned off sports goods, was quite a surfing social hub. The likes of Tom “Rappas” Ramplin, Josh Jupe and a good bunch of other guys would pop in for a brew to chat all things surf.
Chris on the nose – image by Gabe Keegan (‘Surfing-Waves’)
When I hit 16 I was invited to the Careers Office of Cowes High. When I was asked “what would you like to do with your life” I sat back pushed my long blonde hair to one side and said “I want to get paid to surf”. The teacher could barely withhold his snigger and printed off two options for me; the Army or the RAF.
That was a real turning point for me and it made me realise if I really did want that I was going to have to make it happen.
Six months passed and a lot of washing up after dinner, begging with my mum and saving from my Saturday job I jumped on a train to Newquay, with one single goal, surf.
I stayed at the very cool (now gone) Fistral Backpackers and immersed myself in the good times. Surfing , drinking, girls and the beach. From the age of 16 – 18 I worked every low wage job going from daffodil picking to glass collector in the Beach nightclub. As soon as I was old enough I trained to become a surf coach.
Cutting a long, dizzy story short I spent the summers in Newquay surfing and surf coaching. The winters were spent moving around the globe surfing and not really working.
At the age of 22 I picked up a full time sponsorship deal to ride longboards from O’Neill and then later from Fat Face clothing. This allowed me to work less and surf/travel more. I won a few contests in the UK, including the BPSA night surf event and the Billabong Los Locos event in Spain amongst others.
I racked up my passport to include France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Canary Islands, South and North Maldives, Cape Verde, California, Japan, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Australia and The Gambia to name a few spots.
I made contacts around the world, and in 2006, aged 24, I met my Canadian wife Theresa. We soon had our first child Dylan and I realised that needed a full time job. The thought of working 9 – 5 to make someone else money scared the shit out of me and I found myself at the second turning point in my life.
I got busy.
Busy, creating a company I could relate to, enjoy and make some cash for the family. The company was ‘Errant Surf’. A surf travel company catering for all levels of surfers, offering holidays from Bali to Barbados, Morocco to the Maldives.
The business is now it is 6th year and growing from strength to strength and I still love it. I still wonder every day if I hadn’t got into surfing on the IOW what and where the hell would I be now.
I’m at the good old age of 30 and now live in the stunning Orkney Islands, growing ‘Errant Surf’, searching new waves on remote islands and spending time with our ever growing family. I will also remember growing up surfing on the Isle of Wight and smile at the great people, times and laughs it brought with it.