Isidoros's Playground: Ikaria Surf School
TAGS: SMALL BUSINESS OWNER I PLAYS AT WORK
It was summer before Covid, we were among the waves and Isidoros said 'welcome to my office'. Now, I can see that meeting guys from Ikaria Surf School was one piece of the puzzle of why I quit my job. But of course, making what you love into your profession is not only fun! So what's it really like and what does Isidoros think is a secret ingredient of success? Find out below or listen to our unedited talk here 😉
Why do you do what you do?
When I first started giving lessons, I was feeling blessed because out of all the teaching professions, I choose one that my students appreciate. Imagine if I was a mathematics teacher 😛 Instead, I get to have a straight interaction with joy & when my students catch their first wave and come back with a smile, this is the biggest reward for me.
After 10 years it gives me even more:
Every lesson that I do is like a riddle because I need to understand my students, their fears and get them to trust me. You learn to adjust and respect everyone.
For instance, some people have phobias, others have social anxiety about how they will look and whether they’ll succeed. So we are there to give each individual what they need, without keeping the others back. This requires a lot of thought, a lot of energy, I really enjoy this procedure. Every lesson is a different result and it makes the nature of this job so interesting.
How did it all start?
First of all, my origins are from Ikaria. I was born and raised in Athens, but I was spending my summers and Christmases on the island and it is here that I feel at home.
I started surfing as a teenager and in 2009, together with my high school friend and now co-owner Vassilis Missas, I went to the UK to get instructor certification. We had an idea to have something that can help us go abroad and make some living.
But you didn’t open a school abroad...
No. When we finished the certificate our instructor asked about surf schools in our home country. At the time, surfing was something totally new for Greece. And nobody even believed that we are surfing here!
They were mostly mocking us, so we were doubting how can we open a school in place and with a mindset like this.
However, that same instructor shared that 30 years ago they were in a similar situation. Surfing was new and people were making fun of the idea too. Years later, the economy of coastal England is reliant on surfing and many BnB’ and restaurants opened because of it. He added ‘don’t think about those people. See it like a startup and as something new to offer.’ So in 2011, I opened the school. Two years later, Vassilis returned from abroad, joined me and we’ve been running the Ikaria Surf School ever since.
Could you describe your typical day?
A common misunderstanding about having your hobby as your profession is that it’s only fun. And of course that it is, but it's also a serious business and requires a lot of organization and a big responsibility to teach people and keep them safe inside the water.
We run daily lessons and also have weekly surf camps. My work usually beings around 11.00 when I start with the first lesson. During the day, we take turns teaching and when the sun goes down we catch up on the logistics of the job, answer emails and finish administrative work. We do try to do some surfing ourselves, and we have a lot of fun with our team and the students who often become our friends.
So even though I am working hard, I also feel that the whole day is gone very quickly and that speaks for itself.
What makes a successful business?
Success will depend on many factors, but the important one is what energy you want to give to what you're doing!
The best lesson that I got is that whenever you do something, do it with all your heart. It is always emotional to think about how many friendships I have made through the years. And the connections that we established with the local community and how they trust us and bring their children for surfing. This is something really important for us. I have so many good memories and doing this has changed me as a person.
Do you have advice for someone who would like to start their own business?
Do you know that before opening the school, I decided to give up my studies? For Greek society, this was very radical, but I dared to do it. And I'm proud of it. My parents, even though they invested in my studies, said 'if this is what you want, we are with you'.
So with a lot of respect for all the support I received, I can advise staying away from typical paths. Don't let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do. If you have something that you love, go for it. You won't know if works, until you try.
However, when you do start, don't confuse that because if you enjoy it, it won't be a lot of work. It is often that everybody is surfing except me. So as soon as you realise this, you can find pleasure in the fact that you're doing what you chose, you can find new ways to be better and give something good to people.
What do you think our world needs more?
I would say more respect. More respect towards nature, towards society, each other and each other's space. In general, we need less judgment and instead more open-mindedness and an open heart.
P.S. Are you curious to try surfing? Find Ikaria Surf School here.
P.S.S. Do you want to work on something you love? Playground is an anti-procrastination platform. Check if Playground is for you.