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Q+A with of David Williams of Mokan Surf.

I spoke with David Williams today from Mokan Surf.Mokan Surfis a new, South East Wales (Porthcawl) based surf company.

Mokan's current products are designed around functional surf fitness. Although Mokan's current product range is small, David and his business partner Gels have plenty of ideas to continue to develop the brand into the future.

I got chatting to David online when I first started putting The Freesoul Project out into the various surf pages on social media, etc. He gave me some really good, constructive crticism and invaluable advice which I really appreciated and took on board. This made me instantly like his honesty and ability to be straight up. Since then we have discussed and shared a few ideas about the each others projects and I'm looking forward to trying out Mokan's products next week.

The story about how Mokan surf came about is both sad, inspiring and thought provoking. The way David speaks is very frank, honest and from the heart which is something I really admire and respect.

So without further a do, here's my chat with David Williams from Mokan Surf:

"The Dry Bell"

mokan surf logo"The Strokey"

Hi Dave, can you give us some information about Mokan and the history of the company and those involved?

Hi Dan, Thanks for having me! Yeah Mokan is a small - well, small at the moment - company based in beautiful, sunny Porthcawl, South Wales. We make and sell currently just a few surf fitness products and a couple of lines of clothing.

It’s a bit of a family business at the moment with my wife and me at the helm we have a team of freelancers who we work with for design work, online stuff and the retail side as well as the factories that produce the components of the products.

I’ve always been a bit of an inventor, I love the ocean and surfing and I guess we created Mokan to have an outlet for that creativity.  When I was a kid I dreamt of having a surf shop on the beach and always liked the idea of wearing my own branded products rather than anyone else’s. With the change from bricks and mortar to online retail my aspirations have changed, so yeah I’m not after a surf shop anymore!

We also felt ourselves potentially going in the wrong direction - focusing more on our careers and less on what’s important - I guess the message of Mokan is to be here and live now, live life stoked - not just be stoked for the moment you’re on the wave!

The commercial surf scene is highly competitive, what separates your products from other companies?

Ha yeah you’re not wrong! We’re not trying to be a massive multinational. You know Quiksilver and Billabong are owned by Oaktree Capital? They are owned and run by people who’ve never even surfed!

It’s so far away from where they started it’s laughable; they make decisions which are all about profit not because they want to do something good in the world. We’re kinda the antithesis of those massive brands - we’re small, we’re surfers and we care about what we do.

So yeah we’re not trying to be the next ripcurl, we make the products we want and use ourselves and as long as we stay true to that I think we’ll be ok! We are a teeny tiny fish in a big ass ocean - but we’re cool with that. We’re an actual local brand rather than some multi-national who pretends to be into surfing cos it’s good for their shareholders’ pockets. So to answer the question - we’re not trying to compete with those guys cos we don’t want to be like them!

You currently have two products in the Mokan range, can you tell us about them and any plans for future products and the future of Mokan?

Yeah we currently have the drybell - which is a waterproof drybag - the sort you’d put a wet wetsuit in - but we’ve designed it so it can be used as a kettlebell for working out when you’re travelling - you put water or sand in it and you can use it to keep fit wherever you are.

The other product, which we’re really excited about, is The Strokey - it’s a paddle training system to improve your paddle fitness when you’re not in the water. It’s the best thing on the market for training paddle-specific muscles and we’re really proud of it. It makes a massive difference to the amount of waves I catch. Even though I surf whenever there’s waves, working out with the Strokey in the evenings a few times a week means that when there’s swell I’m catching way more waves than I used to because my surf-specific fitness is better so I can stay out surfing longer and catch more waves that come my way.  I love it because I can’t be arsed to go swimming in a pool to stay surf-fit when there’s no waves or in the evenings and I can paddle the Strokey while I’m watching TV!

In terms of future plans - I have a couple of ideas for other surf related items which I think have a lot of promise - as we’re always on a shoestring I haven’t to got the funds to develop those right now. We’ll see how sales of the Strokey are and hopefully I’ll have some cash to put into my next product. We have so many designs for T-shirts - even our kids are making some pretty cool ones - and so many ideas for new products we’re always limited by time and money but that’s cool we’ll just keep on doing what we love and see how it goes!

On reading about Mokan, you mentioned that the death of a close friend made you question your life path at the time which consequently lead to the creation of Mokan. Can you tell me a little more about that?  

Yeah Ben was a legend - he died six years ago and I still think about him every day. When he died it made me reassess what was important in life.

At the time I was working in quite a cut-throat department where you had to really pull out all the stops to progress - you had to kiss the right arses to climb the ladder with no guarantee of getting a job at the end of it all.

I loved the work but not the path in front of me. I realised staying in that field would mean sacrificing a lot of surf and family time and probably even moving away from the ocean. When Ben died I spent a lot of time thinking about what’s important in life and if I died what decisions I might regret looking back.

I figured I’d be unlikely to ever regret spending time with my family or friends or surfing but I’d potentially regret working too hard and focussing on my career. I decided to change tack in my career and around the same time the idea of Mokan started forming. 

What advice would you give to other people who have a dream but are stuck in the "rat race"?

Ha - there’s a lot to be said FOR the “rat race” you know!...There’s so much these days about “follow your passion”, “dream big” and “shoot for the stars”, but the older I get the more I realise how much bullshit there is around the whole thing. We’re sold this idea that if we can make enough to never work again we’re gonna be happy sitting on a beach sipping a pina colada. But it’s a lie. I’m not saying that having enough money is a bad aspiration but the danger is to miss the happiness in the moment because we’re always projecting the idea of happiness as something that will happen in the future.

We think if we can get to buy this new thing it will make us happy, and eventually we buy it and it makes us happy for a bit until we see the next shiny new thing. We buy more shit we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like. And we do it because we think that having it will make us happy. It doesn’t.

When we learn to want what we have already, we can find true happiness… that’s what I’m working on right now! And that’s what I’m saying about the Rat Race - somehow we’ve been sold this lie that having a job is a bad thing. In fact, loss of connection with meaningful work is a massive cause of unhappiness.

So yeah if your job is shit, you feel unvalued and you have no control - for sure try and leave the “rat race” but you might find it a lot more valuable to find a meaningful workplace where your contribution is valued rather than feel you have to be an entrepreneur with all the risk and shit that goes along with that, if that’s not who you are.

I have to admit this is a pretty contradictory view to how I felt a few years ago. I now feel, while it’s probably financially ideal to have multiple sources of income, actually living on less, being grateful for what I have and focussing on the present is more likely the path to true happiness.

So advice for those wanting to leave the rat race? Stop calling it a rat race, stay in employment until your side hustle is making you more money than your job, work on your side hustle because it’s good work and it’s gonna be worth it even if it never makes you a penny, ensure that you have multiple streams of income so your eggs aren’t all in one basket. And realise that despite what a million on-line gurus will tell you, by far the best way to be financially secure is to live within your means, pay off debt and save money in an index-linked tracker fund which you never touch. Bloody boring I know, but that’s the best advice there is. I just wish I was as good at following this advice as giving it!!

Thanks Dan, best of luck with the project!

Wise words indeed! Thanks so much for getting involved Dave. It's been great to hear your story and I wish you all the best with Mokan Surf.

If you like the look of Mokan Surf's products you can contact them on their social media pages below. Their website is currently under construction but you can purchase their goods through this link:Mokan Surf on Amazon



The Freesoul Project 2019 - Made in Wales