Tom Kay is the founder and MD of Finisterre, an award winning ethical outdoor clothing company. Rapidly gaining recognition for creating innovative fabric technologies and cutting edge design along with transparent environmental stewardship. Based on the cliffs of St. Agnes, Cornwall, managing to combine hard work with a passion for his products whilst still writing the twice weekly Finisterre surf forecast and getting in the sea. I thought I'd try and get a bit of insight into what makes Tom tick...
How and when did you first start surfing?
I actually started surfing when I was about 16, but before that had massively been into windsurfing and I’ve always sailed.
Do you remember your first green wave?
Absolutely. I kind of took off and half swung down the face – just managing not to fall off – and then there was this wall of water extending away from me. I was probably only up for a few seconds, but it felt likes ages.
Is it possible to say what it is about surfing that so inspired you?
I’ve always done things on/around the sea and so it fitted into everything that I was familiar with in that environment. It also came at a time in my life where I was pretty hungry just to be in all the time and as we all know just out the back is often the best place there is.
What kind of board do you ride?
All sorts – I try and get in whenever I can (whatever it’s like) and conditions here are not always epic, so you have to get the right board for the day. With this in mind I ride a mix of everything from longboards, quads etc. A good friend of mine, Neil Erskine, has re-affirmed this philosophy to me many times.
|Carlos Burle, Finisterre Ambassador at G Spot, Ireland.|
Do you get any time to travel, and if so, which surf destinations appeal to you?
A bit – most of the trips that I have been on recently have been with our ambassadors to cold water spots. I always enjoy this – places with loads of character and lack of crowds. We went to Ireland with Carlos Burle and Al Mackinnon a few years back and last year we went with Ian Battrick and Tim Nunn to Scotland. Both great trips with a real expedition feel to them and good testing ground for Finisterre kit.
Do you do any other sports/activities?
I swim and fish a fair bit as well.
Is music important to you?
Who's on the playlist today?
I’ve been doing some writing today (having to concentrate) so I have had the Lord of the Rings soundtracks on.
Do you have a favourite book or author?
The best book I’ve ever read is Papillon by Henri Charriere. Unbelievable story of survival and will power.
Any particular people or places that have inspired you along the way?
I gain different forms of inspiration from different people and places. Home and family are always up there, as is anybody that fights against the odds and gets on with life when dealt a bum hand. Some of these stories just blow me away. I try and be appreciative for everything that I have. Lucky.
Ever been tempted to relocate yourself and the company, ie; maybe to Finisterrre itself? (or even somewhere warmer like California perhaps?)
Not at all – they’re both good places, but Finisterre has always been about Cornwall and the UK – we’re passionate about this – it’s home.
Finisterre has experienced huge growth in recent years. In general terms of active participants and accessible waves do you think surfing itself will ever reach a saturation point?
I wouldn’t say our growth has been huge – it’s actually quite a slow burn as we get the brand and product right. A lot goes into the design of our products and the transparency of the manufacturing process is huge – these things take time to get bang on and we’ve really committed to this, but we are getting there. Our products get better every year. With regard to surfing itself – this has seen massive growth and increase in accessibility, and yes I’d say that some places are close to saturation point, bringing out the worst in surfers. People need to realise this and adapt. It’s always good to get in. There are still places out there where you can get away from it all, requiring real dedication and I’d imagine that it’s only a certain type of person that can go this far, so hopefully such spots will always be there.
|Team Finisterre 2010.|
Finisterre is very much at the forefront of design and technology, yet the company vibe seems very down to earth and quite rootsy. Is that a fair appraisal and does it reflect your personality at all?
I’m glad that comes across and I’d say that it is a reflection of us all now. We’re all pretty focused and passionate about the sense of purpose behind Finisterre and what we want to achieve/change, but we also remember all those people – including our customers – that have helped and inspired us along the way. They are still there today and we wouldn’t be here without them.
To round it up, what's next for you?
Swim round the Aggie swim buoy and back for a green curry!
Thanks again Tom.
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