Today we’d like to introduce you to Peter Belden.
Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I grew up on the beaches of Newport as a little surf grom and junior lifeguard. At 16, I became a seasonal ocean lifeguard and 23 years later, I’ve been able to keep the job and continue to serve our ocean-loving community as a reserve lifeguard in the summers.
After graduating UCLA in 2004 and also winning a National Championship as the Captain of the UCLA Water Polo team, I spent the next five years selling manufactured homes through my first business, Belden Premier Homes. Following the 2008 financial crisis, I later moved to San Francisco and spent the next five years selling data analytic software. I learned a lot in those ten years, but I always knew those industries were not for me.
July 6th, 2014 turned out to be the most pivotal day in my life. It was the day Ben Carlson, a friend and fellow lifeguard, drowned while rescuing a victim in 10-12 foot surf. He was arguably the fittest, most experienced lifeguard in the entire department and someone that I greatly admired. It hit me hard. It showed me how fragile life can be and that we have to make the most of it. I suddenly realized that I had spent the last ten years chasing career advancement and money, not happiness.
So within days I quit my job, sold my car, put everything into storage, and I left on a one-way ticket to travel the world with a promise of not returning until I found something that would truly make me happy.
I spent the next two months in Indonesia with a scooter, backpack and three surfboards to travel and surf the islands of Bali, Lombok, and Sumbawa. I then flew over to Australia and spent the next six months living in a van while traveling the Australian coastline. The purpose of this trip was to free my mind as to what’s possible and meet inspiring, successful people that could help me find my next true passion.
Then one day, after a particularly frustrating surf session using the wrong type of board, I sat watching the waves wishing I could access a wide variety of boards. That was the moment The Board Club was born. I thought to myself, if I were to get a large variety of quality surfboards that could satisfy a wide range of surfers, I’d be solving a huge problem.
I also found myself envious of the communal atmosphere of Australian beach towns. I quickly realized that accessing a variety of surfboards was not the only problem that I could solve. Back home in California, surfing communities are very competitive, fragmented and lack the cohesiveness that makes surfing more fun. So I decided to write a business plan that combines a surfboard exchange with an Australian surf club.
Since this concept isn’t exactly brain surgery, I assumed there was someone in Australia or back home already doing this. I soon realized that it didn’t exist. That actually frightened me more than inspired. Why was nobody doing this? What was I missing?
After spending the next four weeks writing the business plan in little coffee shops, I finally had the concept on paper and had thoroughly vetted the idea. I then meet with surfers and shapers all over Sydney to get feedback and it was overwhelmingly positive. This novel idea had merit and I actually found a new venture that was true to my promise.
I quickly booked a flight back home and nine months later, The Board Club opened for business.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
No business is easy. I understood the difficulties of starting a business from having already started one, working for tech startups, and knowing quite a few entrepreneurs that have shared their stories and challenges with me. So, I’d have to say The Board Club has been a “relatively” smooth road. I was able to reach max capacity (at the time) on my opening night and hit profitability within months. I attribute this to my hometown’s support and this new concept that could help so many surfers.
But part of what made this journey smooth is my passion and motivation for pursuing something that truly makes me happy. I genuinely want to come to work every day and the stoke that we spread to our members is the fuel that keeps me moving forward. Nothing feels better than seeing a big smile on a member’s face while they describe the best wave of their life. It’s certainly more fulfilling than selling mobile homes and software.
But my biggest struggle to date has been a recent one: expansion. After four years of proving the concept and learning the logistics and processes that make this surf club successful on a bootstrapped budget, it’s now time to fulfill the true version and build a “real” clubhouse with ALL the amenities and benefits that will take this to the next level. This next phase of growth will require fundraising, mid-level managers and a large staff, additional products/services, and much more. But those expansion plans have been slow because of how difficult it is to hand over critical duties and responsibilities to someone else. This is my baby and I care deeply about the experience that we provide to our members. But if I’m going to grow the business, I will be forced to change my focus from directly handling the day-to-day operations to managing them. It’s not an easy thing to do.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about The Board Club?
The Board Club is a Newport Beach surf club that provides unlimited access and exchange to a wide variety of quality surfboards while bringing the local community together through events and social activities.
Surfboards are one of the few retail products that you cannot try-before-you-buy and also can’t be returned. What makes the buying process even more difficult is that even the most skilled surfers can’t fully predict the performance of a surfboard just by looking at it or holding it. So how is the average surfer supposed to know what they’re buying? The Board Club solves this problem by allowing our members to surf any of our 200+ surfboards to better understand the different brands, models and surfboard types. Then, when they find the magic board, that exact surfboard can be purchased or they can go directly to the shaper for a new one or customize it with subtle adjustments. This takes the risk out of a very risky and expensive purchase.
In addition to the large variety of quality surfboards, The Board Club also provides showers, member surf meetups, swell forecasting tutorials, discounts on surf products, member dinners, movie nights, parking, WiFi, free water and sodas, and a backyard lounge with cozy seating and a hammock. A perfect place to enjoy a surf magazine and drink after a fun session.
Going from a beginner to an intermediate surfer can be a slow and frustrating process that takes patience, guidance, and the right surf equipment. Since The Board Club helps with all of these aspects, our members can expedite the learning process and have more fun along the way. Basically, one month at The Board Club is like a year on your own. We strive to help surfers catch more waves, improve their technique, and provide general surf tips that take years of learning the hard way.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, we bring the surfing community together so that our members can meet new friends and create real life relationships. We have a family-friendly atmosphere the promotes a welcoming attitude in a surfing culture that has historically been intimidating and exclusive.
In addition to membership, we also provide half-day, full-day, and weekly rentals for surfboards and wetsuits.
What were you like growing up?
I was a very active kid that grew up surfing in Newport and played a lot of different sports. Going into High School, I decided to focus exclusively on water polo because it was the most fun, provided the best long-term potential to play at a high level, and was great cross-training for surfing and lifeguarding.
I’ve been a very competitive person my entire life and still have a hard time excepting any type of defeat. That attitude always pushed me to work very hard. I’m fortunate to have learned and experienced the important life lesson that hard work will not always equal success but puts you in the best position possible for success.
- $150 – 1 Month Membership
- $90 – Monthly Membership (min 3 months)
- $990 – Annual Membership (Includes a free month)
- Short Term Rentals (variable pricing)
- Gift Certificates available
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: www.newportboardclub.com
- Instagram: @the_board_club
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/newportboardclub/