'I'd like to see this as the very start of an adventure centre'
Late in the summer of 2011, John and Aoife McNulty tested the water, so to speak, with a new business venture with ten sit-on kayaks, a location on Bray seafront, a wing and a prayer.
Three years later, rock climbing, paddle boarding, raft building and hillwalking have been added to the repertoire and East Coast Adventures has won the Bray & District Chamber Endeavour Award for Tourism.
The biggest challenges they faced in those years were getting equipment, getting fully qualified and balancing work and life.
'I wanted to see if there was a need for it,' said John, who has been a surfing enthusiast for more than 20 years. He was first introduced to the sport in New Zealand in 1992 and 'became an addict'.
When that first half-season showed that demand for his beloved water sports was out there, John signed up for a year-long Fás course in Delphi.
It was a big decision for the family. While he was coming home at the weekends, he was leaving a wife and three children behind to train in the wilds of Mayo every week.
'Delphi was tough work, but enjoyable,' said John, describing a punishing schedule of outdoor activities and training with assessments, often in very cold weather. 'If you're going to build anything you need a proper foundation.'
However this was for the sake of the business and his family. Between September and June, John earned his qualifications in surfing, kayaking, rock climbing and more including first aid and cardiac response. Since then he has become qualified to teach snorkeling and has more equipment in the Bray base than most adventure centres.
Another incomplete season followed as John was in Mayo for the first part of that next summer, however they are currently in their second full season, which runs from April to around the start of October depending on weather conditions.
'I'd like to see this as the very start of an adventure centre,' he said. The shop storing a range of different types of kayaks, surfboards and wetsuits is located in the couple's front garden on Strand Road.
They explained that they received a grant towards equipment from Leader – a rural development programme backed under the tourism scheme. 'We were up against ten or 11 other projects and they backed me,' said John, adding that the grant covered a portion of the cost with him coming up with the rest.
As well as being out on the water instructing school tours, summer camps, individuals and groups of all ages, the job involves marketing, advertising, administration and seeking funding.
Aoife works as a special needs assistant at Glencullen and also manages social media, marketing and scheduling with John.
'It's definitely enjoyable work. I used to work in construction,' said John. 'There's no comparison. It's also great to pass it on to others as we also train trainers.'
However, so far, the business has not made any money and won't this summer as various items are being paid off. The plan is very much a long-term one. 'It's something I want to keep going. Bray is the perfect place with a beautiful strand, a nice river, the harbour and Bray Head – there's so much in one location and there's the population.'
They haven't received a complaint since opening and notoriously fussy TripAdvisor reviewers have given East Coast Kayaks (its original name) five stars.
Schools, language schools, hen parties and those serious about furthering their qualifications are some of those showing interest in the every-growing project.
For more information go to www.eastcoastadventures.ie.