Jon Byrne, the owner of Wake Up Docklands, based in the Royal Victoria Dock, talks with Source about some of the company history. In this interview, Jon tells us about how the park is running, what they are planning in the way of brand collaboration and how they plan to share their vision of combining health and wellbeing with board sports.
Tell us the story behind Wake Up Docklands. How and when did it start, who the key players are and current licensing details.
The park launched in Royal Victoria Dock back in 2012 ahead of the Olympics. A few different people submitted a similar idea to put in a small wakeboard cable park and were subsequently given a license to operate, on the proviso that they worked together. I came across the park in 2015, started coaching in 2016, then subsequently co-managed the park in 2017. When the opportunity came for me to take the business on for the 2018 season it was a bit of a gamble but one I am please to say has been worth it, as it looks positive that we will retain our operating license for the next few years which was my main goal for this season.
Who’s currently running the show?
Currently the park is run by my company: Riderr Ltd. and we trade under the original name of WakeUp Docklands (WUD) to keep the brand and image of the park aligned with how people already know us.
I wanted to create an environment at the park where people don’t feel pressure to perform or to participate because as we all know, London can be a stressful enough place as it is. Riderr (with 3 R’s) stands for “Ride. Rest. Reconnect.” and imparts a message to people that participation in ride sports can be not only fun, but also calming and relaxing. The opposite to the main stream’s fixation with all things “extreme”.
It is simply our aim to send people away from our waters feeling better than when they arrived, regardless of if they go out on the water. No stress. Just good vibes only. We also aim to promote the transformational health benefits these activities can provide, specifically in regard to improving mental health.
Which brands are you working with?
We don’t have ties to any particular brand (yet) however we are open to conversation. Up to this point we have used Jobe as a supplier of rental equipment for the past few seasons.
What’s your message to brands out there interested in partnering?
We have an extremely unique location in the Royal Victoria Dock, directly under the Emirates Airline that links the O2 to the Excel Centre. Unlike most other wake parks, we benefit from huge natural footfall that passes through our area, making our park highly visible to tourists and passers by. Our location offers some pretty amazing marketing & advertising opportunities that have, up till this point, been under-utilised. We are open to talking to brands that might want to support our park and help us service the thousands of Londoners who visit our waters each year.
Explain more about the setup – how many staff you have during peak season, number of visitors per day etc.
We have two System 2.0 cables at the park which can service 8 people per hour. Our blue (beginner) cable is best for people just starting out in the sport as it offers a great place to learn in open water. Our gold (advanced) cable has a variety of kickers and slider obstacles that will cater to all freestylers (intermediate to pro). We also offer paddle boarding experiences out into the Royal Victoria Dock also the BSUPA Ready to Ride qualification if customers want to undertake a certificate of proficiency course.
In the height of the summer we can service 100+ people per day and have seven staff members including myself. We are a small but tight team, with everyone of us coming from a ride sport background, whether it be wakeboarding, snowboarding, surfing, kiting, etc. This is really important as the passion for these sports has to come first and foremost from the staff. Their love of board sports directly translates to how far they are willing to go to service our customers and make sure they have a great time, every time they visit us.
How have you seen the UK wakeboard market change in recent years?
The clientele at our wake park has changed drastically over the past few years. We are seeing much more first time riders to our waters and have a healthy range of ages with a particular increase in the over 40’s category. I’m not entirely sure if this trend is being mirrored elsewhere in the UK, but word is getting out about our little corner of the docks and it’s great to see more and more repeat customers returning to our waters, year after year, which is driving the growth of our community.
Talk to us about your bigger plans for boardsports and wellness.
Health and wellbeing are at the forefront of the vision for both Riderr Ltd. and WakeUp Docklands. With social stigmas starting to lift these days towards talking about mental health issues, especially with more and more high profile people coming forward to share their experiences. We aim to promote our watersports offering as a complementary alternative to prescription medicine’s approach to mental health issues. In particular for people with anxiety, depression or PTSD.
It’s no secret that naturally occurring brain chemicals such as adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine are secreted during participation in these sports. Regular time on the water and social stimuli can help people with depression and can also reduce anxiety, improving both mental and physical health.
Having witnessed first hand some pretty incredible transformations at our club over the past few years, we wish to share these benefits with others. The long term vision is that someday, a person with anxiety, depression or PTSD could obtain a prescription from their GP to come and experience subsidised wakeboarding or paddleboarding activities with us. #prescribetheride would be the hashtag for future usage if I can actually start to mobilise this movement. It’s a big challenge but one that I’m passionate about, so if anyone out there has contacts with the NHS, mental health charities, ex service men and women, military veterans etc. then I’d love to hear from you as we will be looking to host more charity focused days next season.
I could end up chatting for days about all this, so I should probably leave it there. However, if any of this resonates with any of your readers, please feel free to connect to me on email at the following address:
Hope to see you at the park when we reopen in the Spring of 2019!