RYAN Scanlon is all about work life balance.
The Jan Juc-born businessman used to be the Senior Vice President of Global Products for the world’s largest surfing company. Now he lives on a sailboat and travels around the world looking for waves.
“I was spending all this time working under fluoro lights,” explains the former executive who worked in LA in an office for four years.
“I had plenty of money but I was time poor. I could afford the gear I needed to surf but I had no time to actually do it.
“After decades of hard slogging, designing and building products I realised I was sacrificing too much for a big salary. So I quit.”
But Ryan, 38, has far from left the industry. He’s found a way to harness his skills in order to live the lifestyle he loves.
On his sailboat he has an office and from this floating place of business he has recently launched his own wetsuit company, but not just any wetsuit company, it’s an entirely different way of looking at the industry.
NEED Essentials makes wetsuits without branding, packaging, swing tags or marketing. There is no advertising campaigns, marketing, surfer sponsorship or athlete royalties and they’re sold almost exclusively online.
“This means we can make high quality wetsuits for a fraction of the price, I call it a supply company, not a brand, because we don’t have a logo or anything on the suits,” Ryan explains. “We stay well away from fashion and trends. I just focus on premium wetsuits that are warm, comfy, that last and are cheaper than big brands.”
This means more money saved for the everyday surfer, allowing them to enjoy a passion that is based on nature and a healthy active lifestyle rather than money and costly brands. Allowing Them the ability to put as much money into travelling and finding waves as they can, rather than on branded wetsuits,” Ryan says. “It’s for the guy who surfs every day and loves it.”
The name is simple. It refers to our essential needs and asks us to question the materialistic nature of big brands.
“In my life now I live as simply as I possibly can,” says Ryan. “I’m not trying to build an empire or be a millionaire.
“This is as much a passion project as a business. I started it to support my lifestyle.”
And it’s a lifestyle that Ryan, who grew up at Bells Beach, was practically born to live. Ryan has spent most of his working life so far trying to find the balance between surfing, a successful career and following a passion.
He originally studied fine art and started designing art for Quiksilver in his 20s.
“I would work as hard as I could and save for three years and then take two years off to travel,” says Ryan, an avid-traveller and explorer who has ridden a motorbike across Indonesia, surfed in Iceland and was one of the first few pioneering surfers in the outer atolls of Sumatra when he was 18.
After studying a Masters of Business, Quiksilver then put him into an executive role in the USA, but after a few years, Ryan started seeing changes in the industry.Ryan lives on his sailboat and also launched his business from it.
“I saw the whole surf industry change over the years,” he explains. “The big brands began to focus more on fashion, branding and profit and over time began to neglect the genuine essential needs of a surfer – function and cost.”
The divide in the surfing community between surfing as a brand-supported sport and a nature-inspired ritual is well known. As surfing becomes more and more popular there is a fear of the industry becoming over-monetised.
But there is a movement against what the big brands represent, by people who just want simply to surf, and NEED Essentials seems to be a reflection of that.
“The cleansing part of surfing really appeals to some people,” Ryan explains. “For a lot of surfers, it’s not a sport but a ritual. They use it to wash off all the rigours of life, so to speak.
“Now, after 40 years of being fed brands, this person can have a choice.”
Ryan is humble about future plans for NEED Essentials. He has ideas of becoming more philanthropic and he hopes to provide some jobs and support a few families in Torquay. But for now, as he works from his boat, with one eye on the swell and the world maps mentally spread in his mind, Ryan’s focus is on the lifestyle.
“I’ve realised what’s important and it’s balance,”