How to start a surf-related business

March 16, 2022 | Surfing
World Surfspot Trumps: the playing card game created by Andy Gratton

My name is Andy, and I live in Hayle, Cornwall, United Kingdom, with my wife and two daughters. I have taught psychology for most of my working life.

However, in 2019, suddenly facing redundancy, I decided to resurrect an old design idea I had back in 2007, which evolved during a conversation with an old teaching colleague.

The said teaching colleague and I often discussed ways of trying to encourage our students to remember facts and figures in fun ways.

He came up with an idea of a kind of "Natural Disasters Trumps" for students to try and remember geography case studies - volcanoes, tsunamis, earthquakes - and encourage recall and comparison of key points, such as financial impact, numbers killed, years to recover, etc.

And I came up with a similar plan for psychology students who needed to recall and evaluate key details of psychology case studies and experiments - number of participants, cultural impact, ethics rating, realism, etc.

World Surfspot Trumps: a small surf-related business that started with a £4,000 investment

Trump Cards Featuring Waves

However, at the time, I also believed there could be a commercial application for a surfing set of trump cards featuring waves from around the world on each card.

I had considered featuring surfers themselves but figured permission from the surfers, agents, and photographers would be more complex.

I had been a surfer since about the age of 11, had been a surf instructor, and wanted to use my years of accumulated surf geek knowledge to produce something fun.

I tried to develop prototype packs, using knowledge of the spots I had gained from visiting them, reading about them in the growing number of guides on the market at the time and growing number of online resources, and using photos of spots copied from the internet.

I also used photos I had taken myself of spots I had visited, but this would be impossible to produce legally for commercial purposes.

Also, back in 2007, there were very limited opportunities to seek out and purchase photo licenses from stock websites.

So I tried to contact various guidebook authors, requesting how they obtained their photos and permissions for their books without revealing my very copiable idea.

At the time, I spoke to a patent agent about my idea who drew up a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for me.

Eventually, some of the "Stormrider Guide" guys got back to me when I revealed it was for a potential card game (as they were just about to launch their Stormrider Guide Playing Cards packs).

I was naturally gutted that someone else had come up with the idea just before me.

But when they were launched, I realized they were just playing cards - like a pack produced by photographer Aaron Chang, some years before - not trump-style cards.

So the idea was still in my head, and no one had yet produced any.

World Surfspot Trumps: each volume features 32 world-class surf spots

Market Research

Fast forward to 2019 and having been made redundant as a teacher, being given a temporary student support role for nine months to cover a colleague's maternity leave, and following a number of friends and family members who sadly passed away, I decided to explore the idea of investing some of my redundancy money in my old wave trump card game idea.

Having spoken with some old friends who had got into web design who explained ways of purchasing and obtaining photos and different types of licenses from stock photo websites.

I began to look at what was available.

Similarly, I began to look at data about water temperatures and wavelengths from various websites in the public domain and began to formulate a 2019 prototype pack.

I had a list of about 150 surf spots that I felt could be included but needed to narrow it down to the standard number of 32 for a trump set with a wide variety of wave types, heights, lengths, temps, etc., to ensure the games were interesting, but also had good quality stock photos I could purchase.

Unfortunately, there were some spots I wanted to include, like Mundaka, Raglan, and Thurso, that I couldn't find photos for.

So I made some tentative inquiries on Instagram, messaging strangers that I loved their photos.

They would send me a high-resolution copy if they were happy for me to use it in a potential surfing game. And if it would get developed, I would send them free copies.

Some never replied; some wanted money, but some were more than happy, so I used some images from Instagram contributors.

Finally, a very weird, fortuitous, chance meeting with the brother-in-law of a friend from down the road, who happened to be a graphic designer/filmmaker and avid David Bowie fan, told me about the card games he'd developed - "Bowie Trumps," "Britpop Trumps," "Film Director Trumps," etc.

This was it!

He told me all about the eco-conscious card manufacturer he used in Italy, his website, pricing structure, wholesale, sale or return policies, etc.

World Surfspot Trumps: a simple and entertaining game for surfers and non-surfers of all ages

Funding and Setting Up the Business

So I set aside £4,000 to put my old idea into practice.

I registered A30 Designs Ltd as a dormant limited company to protect the name.

The A30 is a main arterial road that runs through Devon and Cornwall, which at the time I was using a lot as a supermarket delivery driver!

I decided on a product name - "World Surfspot Trumps" - and set up my Wix website.

I bought some domain names, started business Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts, and attended some free online start-your-own-business courses.

In May 2020, I bought some bar codes, got my primitive word files with the cards on, and asked another graphic designer neighbor to convert them into Adobe files.

Then, I sent them to the printers to manufacture my first order of 600 packs and 20 points of sale display trays.

The first volume arrived about three weeks later, and I had their safety tested to allow the CE marking to be added.

World Surfspot Trumps: the playing card game contains technical information on each surf break, including water temperatures, wavelengths, accessibility, consistency, crowd, and localism

Pricing and Sales

I started selling online and wholesale in June 2020.

By contacting anyone/shops, I knew who would be interested in stocking them. The recommended retail price (RRP) was £14.99.

By November 2020, I had sold out, made a little profit, and reinvested it all and another £1,000.

I then reprinted Vol. 1 and added my, by-then, ready to print Vol. 2 and Vol. 3, which included many spots I didn't have room to fit in my first volume.

I also added some spots I didn't have shots for originally but now had, thanks to the huge kindness of photographers from around the world I'd never met before.

They liked the sound of the idea and were happy for me to use their shots for copies of the game if it eventually got manufactured.

I then got a further 800 packs printed.

By December 2020, start-up costs had been reduced, so I lowered the RRP to £12.99.

Then finally, as stocks started getting low again in December 2021, I got another reprint of Vol, 1, 2, and 3 and also got a fourth volume printed.

World Surfspot Trumps: the complete playing card collection

Product Development

I guess there is scope for a fifth pack, but training for a new career as an emergency services first responder has taken over a bit now, so I don't have as much free time as I have done recently.

Ideally, I would like to get the price down to £10 a pack which may be possible in the future, as with each subsequent reprint, costs do come down.

I'm currently exploring the idea of posters, air fresheners, etc., with the card images on.

I would love to look at the idea of global distribution or possibly collaborating with a big-name manufacturer as there is plenty of logo space on the reverse of each card.

But for now, it's a fun hobby and side hustle involving a product I've invested a lot of love, time, and happy fun research into, and maybe a microscopic piece of surf culture legacy that I'm genuinely proud of.

Andy Gratton: surfer, teacher, entrepreneur, and founder of World Surfspot Trumps

Who Am I?

Outside of my 20 years of teaching, I have always been interested in Art and Design.

I have made three t-shirt designs still commercially available through Newquay's skateboard manufacturer and shop, TR7 Skate.

Despite my age, I still skateboard when I can, and now with my two daughters in tow.

I regularly surf at Godrevy, Cornwall.

All the family is members of the Hayle Surf Life Saving Club, where I enjoy playing with the inshore rescue boats (IRBs).

I'm also a volunteer for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), play the bass guitar - very badly - in an old surf school band, and still, try to teach every now and again.


Words by Andy Gratton | Surfer, Teacher and Entrepreneur