Brenda Miley started Let's Go Surfing (LGS) out of the back of her van in 1995, as a way to get more women on the waves. At the time, she was a PE teacher, and her then-boyfriend-now-husband, Craig ‘Wacca’ Wachholz, was a jobbing muso and manager of the local Bondi Surf n Ski.
You have to know how to sell yourself when you work in the music industry, and Brenda thought her surf school could benefit from Craig’s PR prowess, so they decided to combine their skills. Twenty-five years later, their “accidental business” is booming, with nearly 100 staff and multiple locations across Australia. It’s also been voted as one of Sydney’s top three tourist activities.
How do they do it? “We’ve always made it up as we go along,” Brenda says, but of course, there’s a lot more to it than that.
To be a good surfer, you need to be resilient, patient and opportunistic, so when the Olympics brought an extra 6.3 million international tourists to Sydney in 2000, and people started “falling through their door” wanting to surf, Craig and Brenda were perfectly primed to jump on the budding market.
They created whole experiences to cater to overseas visitors, with pick-ups, coastal headland walks and lunches along with a surf lesson.
Then, when the post-Olympics effect started to wind down a few years later, they ramped up their efforts to appeal to travellers and still continue to do a roaring tourism trade – proving wrong naysayers who’d told them surfing wasn’t a “tourism thing”.
“We’re not entitled, we don’t think we deserve anything,” Brenda says. “A lot of people start businesses because they think they’re not going to work, or they’re going to make money, but I always say I’ve worked really hard to wear board shorts and thongs to the beach every day.”
Apart from their perseverance and work ethic, Brenda credits LGS’s incredible success in part to the fact they started at “Australia’s most famous beach”. Bondi is a “catch-all for everyone and everything”, she says, which “made it easy to trial new things”.
It also helps that this dynamic duo’s outgoing nature – they are both tireless supporters of their local community – and dream of being “the world’s best surf school experience” are so infectious, inspiring other talented team members to jump on board.
“From that mission of trying to do the best we could do, we attracted some amazing people, and we’ve got this incredible team around us,” Craig says. “Because people like what goes on and they want to be part of it. It’s a fun, positive environment.”
They’ve been really lucky, he emphasises several times, but as Brenda points out, “Isn’t luck where opportunity meets hard work?”
Surfing is more than just standing on a surfboard. It’s a spiritual pursuit. It’s a global pursuit too, and with all the travelling the LGS team does for work-related surfing, sales and tourism events, it makes sense to reap the benefits with Qantas Business Rewards.
“Aussies grow up travelling the world and Qantas was always ‘the airline’, and still is, for us,” Craig says. “So, as the Qantas Business Rewards program has developed over time, it’s become a bigger part of our spending strategy."
"Now, whatever costs we’re looking at, we say ‘Can we use our American Express® Qantas Business Rewards Card for that?’ because we know we’re going to get Qantas Points for every dollar that we spend* and that adds value for the business in another area.”
See how Brenda and Wacca's American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card benefits their business in more ways than you’d think.
"Most of our Qantas Points go towards flights and accommodation for the team*", but Craig and Brenda, who grew up in working-class families where sharing was deeply ingrained, also use them for gifts* – a case of wine for a supplier here, some headphones for a staff member there.
“It means that you’re doing things in a smarter way,” Brenda says. “You’re still spending your money, but you’re also gaining rewards.”