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Relatively Speaking: we chat to surf-mad Portrush brothers Ricky and Chris

We ask personalities about the special family relationships in their lives

By Karen Ireland

Surf-mad Portrush brothers Ricky and Chris Martin are bringing their knowledge of the sport to creating a revolutionary new board through their business, The Skunk Works Surfboard Company. Ricky also owns the Alive Surf School and is married to Julie with whom he has two children, Callan (4) and Isla (2).

I love having all my family in the same place. We are a very close-knit family and I see my little niece and nephew every day, which is very precious - not as many aunts and uncles are as lucky. Having lived in Australia and Amsterdam there really is no place like home. I appreciate everything more since I have come back home, though I still go to Amsterdam every month, as that's where my girlfriend Liza lives.

Ricky and I have always been close - he put up with me living with him for a year in Australia - but we have definitely got closer since we started working on the boards together.

Like any partnership there were a few teething problems at the start as we worked out what each of our roles would be.

Now we both know what needs done and we trust the other person to get on with their side of things. If I was going out to hire someone to do the sales and marketing side of the business I would never find anyone as good or as natural at it as Ricky. I love the way he can just put himself and his product forward.

You can't buy that kind of skill - you either have it or you don't. With the surf school he is always in the papers and promoting himself, so he knows everyone.

He is also one of the most genuine people you could meet and I trust him completely just to get on with things.

I get itchy feet and I like to be looking at what the next thing is.

We are both really excited about the creation of the board as this is something unique that we have hit upon that has never been done before in this market.

The prototype should be ready in a few weeks and then we will go into manufacturing at our unit in Coleraine.

Name: Chris Martin

Age: 31

Occupation: Co-owner, The Skunk Works Surfboard Company

Relationship to Ricky: Brother

Our surfboard business came about almost by accident when all my boards started falling apart just as I approached the busiest week in the season. This left Chris and I in my garage with glue and tape thinking there has to be a better way.

We have both surfed all our lives and set about resolving the problem of what would be a better product for surf schools. Chris is the methodical one so he spent months researching various foams and materials. I carried on with the surf school while spending any spare time I had on the business. Chris has always had an entrepreneurial head on his shoulders, so I knew there was no better person to go in to business with than him.

After university, Julie and I moved to Australia. It's ironic that we lived on Bondi Beach but it's only when we came home to Portrush that we could appreciate beach life. In Australia, I had a great job and a beautiful apartment on the beach but I was working so hard I never had any quality of life.

Chris and I have always been close - he even followed us out to Australia and lived with us for a year. He then went to Amsterdam to live but we all ended up back here. It took us to go away to truly appreciate what we have on our own doorstep.

I am just back from a trip to California where three out of four companies gave our boards the thumbs up and said if they turned out as good as we all hope, they would be interested in selling them. This was a tremendous confidence boost for a wee company from the North Coast.

Name: Ricky Martin

Age: 35

Occupation: Co-owner, The Skunk Works Surfboard Company

Relationship to Chris: Brother

Company on the crest of a wave

  • Through their company, which was founded last April, Ricky and Chris Martin believe they have designed the most robust soft (beginner) surfboard in the world. The worldwide market for this is worth around £800m
  • While much of the basic construction of the board has been realised, there are still some key aspects of development to be worked out, such as its final shape and the laminating process
  • This has all been made possible by getting £50,000 in grants from investment provider E-Synergy to set up a manufacturing base in Coleraine

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