Print
Personal Business

Risks, Rewards In Outdoor Industry

By David Dean, posted Apr 20, 2018
Capt. Dave Tilley, shown on Wild Rover III at Carolina Beach, works as a charter boat captain, hoping to run six to 18 passengers on fishing excursions each day. (photo by Chris Brehmer)
Living the dream isn’t easy. When Capt. Dave Tilley makes his way to the Wild Rover III in the Carolina Beach Marina, he’s not sure what his day at work will bring. Never the same job twice, it could mean spending time rebuilding a fighting chair or engine. Ideally, it’d be running six to 18 passengers on up to three separate outdoor fishing excursions up to 150 miles offshore.
 
Or it could mean simply doing nothing at all.
 
“Weather is 90 percent of the battle. I canceled 30-plus trips last year due to weather; a normal trip for us brings in about $1,000,” Tilley said, adding, “You take 30-grand out of what you make in a year and tell me how that makes you feel.”
 
Tilley and his 18 fellow charter boat captains operating out of the Carolina Beach Fishing Center deal constantly with the day-to-day uncertainty of whether or not they will be able to make a living. For these and other local entrepreneurs running outdoor businesses, balancing risks and rewards is part of the package of pursuing their dream jobs.
 
Research shows that there’s consumer demand. According to Economics Program Manager Adam Stemle, preliminary data from an N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries survey shows for-hire fishing guests spent $78 million in 2017.
 

Spousal Support

 
Stemle said weather is indeed one of the challenges facing boat captains, but there are others.
 
“The majority of their health coverage and insurance came from spouses’ employment,” he said.
 
This is true for Tilley.
 
“My healthcare comes from my wife, who has a job at the hospital,” he said.
 
Tilley said most fishing charter boat captains in the Cape Fear region have spouses with “normal lives” that help balance out the unpredictable nature of their career pursuits.
 
Spousal support helped Rocky Godwin make his dream of opening a surf shop possible. He was an insurance agent, wearing a suit and tie every day. A competitive surfer, the idea of a career at the beach kept gnawing at him. His wife, Lisa, told him he needed to get it out of his system.
 
In 2011, he opened 50 South Surf Shop on Topsail Island, living the dream by taking some time for surfing before walking from the beach to work to shower and change into his new business suit of shorts and flip-flops.
 
“It’s a lifestyle career more so than one that is going to make you wealthy. If I was doing this for the money I would never do it,” said Godwin.
 
Peak season for Godwin brings with it less time for surfing and longer hours dealing with about 100 customers each day who want to buy surf apparel and accessories, surfboards, paddleboards and skateboards as well as rent equipment. The constant hustle amounts to packing a year’s worth of business into three months.
 
“I kinda relate it to being a farmer. You take care of the soil, get your fields ready, plant your seeds in the spring. Then you do all your harvesting during one season, and recoup the benefit. It’s a string of long, hard 14-hour days, but that’s when you make your money,” Godwin explained.
 

Non-Traditional Endeavors

 
Across the street from 50 South Surf Shop, Ecological Marine Adventures is one of a growing number of non-traditional beach businesses joining the ranks of outdoor entrepreneurs. Owner Taylor Maready and his instructors teach classes full of 10-15 students ages 5 and older about the ocean, inspiring them to want to learn how to protect it through hands-on programs. Home-school groups and afterschool classes keep business booming all year long, but spring break and summer camps take things to a whole new level. The snakes, lizards, and of course fish in Maready’s classrooms are part of the package, but being steps from the beach brings natural opportunities for learning.
 
“People keep coming to the beach and we’re busy doing a lot of different things. For me personally, this is a dream job. I get to be at the ocean every single day, toes in the sand, teaching my passion to future generations,” Maready said.
 

Sun and smiles
 

Passion fuels many of the region’s coastal entrepreneurs. For Paul Gregory, it’s scuba diving. He’d been coming to Wilmington to dive before he moved here, a journey that led him to purchase Aquatic Safaris in 2012. He and his partner Mike Winfield, a UNCW marine biology graduate, take up to 25 people a day out on scuba adventures during peak season, starting their day at 6 a.m. and ending sometime after 6 p.m. Their shop at the foot of the Wrightsville Beach bridge is packed with flippers, rubber suits and air tanks for sale, providing revenue year-round for this long-time business that’s been operating 30 years this April.
 
Still, for these passionate dive enthusiasts, their dream jobs come with an asterisk.
 
“It could be a picture-perfect day for beachgoers, but if the wind is blowing and it’s rough offshore, we may not be able to go diving,” Gregory said, adding that lousy weekend weather has made it tough on business the past couple years.
 
With the risk of canceled dive trips, long hours and physical demands of the job, why do it?
 
“It’s cool to see people come out of the water with smiles on their faces,” Winfield said. “Seeing people, especially kids, breathing underwater or seeing marine life for the first time and getting excited, that keeps us motivated.”
 
Ico insights

INSIGHTS

SPONSORS' CONTENT
20180514 104209 51418120638

'I Hate...'

Steve Adams - School of Learning Arts
Infinity 891835159

What is EMV and Am I Liable?

Kyle Thorpe - Infinity Payment Systems
Corey61

The Toughest Job There Is

Corey Lewis - Cape Fear Jobs

Trending News

Pier 33 Apartments To Start Construction In February

Johanna Cano - Jan 16, 2019

State Eyes $31M For Cape Fear Crossing In New Draft Plan

Christina Haley O'Neal - Jan 16, 2019

Marsello’s To Offer Casual Italian Dining On The Riverfront

Jessica Maurer - Jan 16, 2019

Serpentarium Building Could Shed Its Past, Become Dental Spa

Cece Nunn - Jan 17, 2019

Phun Pop-up Dinners Kick Off Countdown To Food Hall Opening

Jessica Maurer - Jan 16, 2019

In The Current Issue

Info Junkie: Adam Jones

Info Junkie Adam Jones, regional economist and associate professor of economics at the UNCW Cameron School of Business' Swain Center, on...


SportGait's Familiar Ties

For Cecil Reynolds, being a board member and investor for Wilmington-based SportGait Inc. is one way to support the community that fostered...


Hurricane Delays Aquarium Exhibit

Construction has been delayed for one year on a new exhibit at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher....

Book On Business

The 2018 WilmingtonBiz: Book on Business is an annual publication showcasing the Wilmington region as a center of business.

Order Your Copy Today!


Galleries

Videos

Health Care Heroes 2018
2018 WilmingtonBiz Expo - Keynote Lunch with Eric Dinenberg, Rouse Properties