In the old days when I was growing up, your 21st birthday was the single biggest party in your life.
For me, that night sent my life in a direction I am truly grateful for. I had just returned to Un-Zud after a year living in Sydney, and my parents had the big event planned. A girlfriend of mine said to me one day, “I’ve got you a surprise for your birthday and I’m bringing him to your party!”
He was tall, gorgeous and shy, and without hesitation I announced to my whole family the next day that this was the guy I was going to marry! Over the course of the next year my VW beetle travelled back and forth from Auckland to Whangamata.
Each trip it was loaded with cases of wine, courtesy of my Dad working at a winery, and huge bones for the other lady in Mark’s life, a lovely German Shepherd named Saacha. By the end of the year we were married, and our journey as Mr and Mrs Ogram had begun.
Jedo arrived a few years later, after a six week holiday in Tonga. Conceived in a grass hut with gentle waves lapping on the beach, he was always going to be a water man like his Dad.
Life was good in Whangamata, but winters were cold. Mark’s brother Mike was living in Perth and he was always raving about the windsurfing and the good weather. So what do you do when you have a business, a great business partner, a beautiful home, a 10 month old baby and you are surrounded by friends and family but it’s freezing cold? You start a new adventure in a warmer place of course! We arrived in Perth mid March 1988 to a 10-day long heat wave, and the saying “careful what you wish for” ringing in our ears.
It didn’t take us long to find out that life in the city wasn’t for us. On our first trip Down South we decided then and there that Dunsborough felt like home. Our next waterman, Zak, had come along by then, so the old HG wagon was loaded up with our young family and all our worldly possessions. It was time to start the next chapter.
Like moving anywhere without knowing anyone or having full time work, it was financially very difficult. But in a beautiful contrast, our family time was rich beyond belief. Mark and I worked three days a week each, so while one of us was working the other one was with the kids. Sundays we all had together. I feel very fortunate that we both had all that time to share with our kids in those early years. It made for a tight family bond that we are all very proud of.
Having had our own business in New Zealand, the desire to once again be our own bosses and in charge of our own lives was always lurking in the back of our minds. In 1990 the Yahoo Surfboard label was born. We’re still waiting for Yahoo the search engine to make us an offer for exclusive rights to the name…
In 1991 Mark had the opportunity to make boards in Japan. This was the start of a 10 year stint whereby Mark would go to Japan for three lots of six weeks a year. The stints were a bit shorter towards the end but the financial rewards from doing this helped set us up for things to come. We both found these trips away extremely hard to deal with. The work for Mark was intense, with ridiculously long working days in cramped conditions. For me, the juggling of kids, work and long periods on my own was something I had never experienced before. “Character building”, is how I would sum it up!
In 1994 when Ronny Baker wanted to get out of H2O where Mark was working at the time, we decided that was the moment to set up our own factory and shop front. It was a busy time with a young family and we all had to pull in. Jed and Zak spent a fair bit of time there and got to be pretty handy on the end of a broom.
As a family, when we weren’t at work we were at the beach. The boys all surfing and me swimming, reading a book or, through the winter sitting watching from the car with the heater on! Our home was an open door and the boys always had mates around. Keeping the cookie jar full was paramount to avoiding mutiny. The family holidays to Bali, Rottnest Island and up North camping and sailing were always fun. As you would expect with three males in the family, our adventures were filled to the brim with mischief, mayhem and a fair bit of unplanned incident.
Today Yahoo Surfboards is still very much a family business. Mark is still very passionate about making boards and surfing, as are Zak and Jed. I throw my 5 cents worth in here and there and pay the bills. We have a great crew onboard with us who we also consider our family. Without all the ideas, feedback and challenges put to us by our great customers we wouldn’t be where we are today and we are thankful that we are all on the great adventure together.