Here at The Essential Cyclist we love all things sport. When it comes to extreme sports, we certainly do have a little soft spot for it. Al Gosling, founder of EXTREME in 1995 has spent the last 15 years of his life building his brand and helping many athletes in the process. We got to spend some time with Al and ask him some questions about EXTREME and the future of the brand.
Tell us in a nutshell exactly what EXTREME Sports is:
It is about the individual in the sport rather than the team. It is about person vs. person, gladiatorial sports that are focused on the person and their performance rather than a teams. We focus on sports that have a higher risk profile than mainstream sports. The attitude and thought process is shared throughout the sports; surfing, skating, snowboarding, they all have the same vibe.
What was the main focus of EXTREME when you first started all those years ago?
Basically it was TV focused with some athlete management. We produced extreme sports videos and these were distributed all over the world. I had this idea that a TV channel would be the next step, it was a whirlwind rollercoaster ride.
You are quite the entrepreneur with starting your own businesses before EXTREME, managing bands and selling board shorts whilst studying. How old were you? How did you get into it?
I was 17 years old and bumped into the right or wrong people, (however you see it) and they helped make it happen. I sold the board shorts for a type of pocket money on the side and built up the business from there.
Do you have any advice for young people who want to get into business? Does the advice differ as the person gets older?
Believe in yourself. It is better to do than not to and don't just talk about it. Go out and do it, do what you believe in. Make a plan and think it through fully, consider the positives and negatives and go out and make it happen. I don't think the advice does differ, it is all about believing in your goal.
You worked for a marine research company before EXTREME, that must have been incredible?
I knew someone who had a dive centre in the Bahamas and they gave me the opportunity to go out and travel and I grabbed at the opportunity. It was incredible! Looking after people and going diving was great and I was able to deep dive and blue hole dive, which is like caving but underwater, it is very dangerous!
You saw a gap in the market and launched EXTREME sports TV, how hard was it to get the funding?
It was difficult in the start, it took about a year and a half to secure the funding. We were tenacious in our approach and looking for the right people to back us. We just had to keep going.
Do you cycle? If so, what do you cycle, where, how often etc
I do cycle a bit, I mountain bike and road cycle however not as much as I would like to. I like exploring the Chiltern Hills around Oxford and cycling around the South coast. I don't have my own bike so I get to try lots of different bikes as I end up nicking my friends!
What is your main sports interest?
My main sport interests are mountains and water. I love skiing and climbing in Northern Canada and Alaska; I spent a lot of time in the Swiss and French Alps too. And then I love windsurfing and water-skiing in Southern Spain in the summer months.
What is it about extreme sports that gets you excited?
It was the lifestyle. The beach, mountain culture is very anti-establishment and this ran deep in me. Skating was my first experience of extreme sports and the attitude and lifestyle really spoke to me.
You've expanded into lots of different areas including hotels, destinations, attractions, drinks, fashion, personal care, electronics and gaming. What gave you the idea?
I was just taking the brand into what I thought would feel right. The areas we expanded into were right for the brand and were thought through to develop beyond television.
What is your ultimate favourite product EXTREME sells and why?
The sports drinks! They are in Tesco so great for distribution and I also really like the hotels. They are experiential and amazing, it is the lifestyle element once again.
What is the single most extreme thing you have seen in your life?
It would have to be avalanche skiing. Seeing people coming out of an avalanche, and watching them skiing or snowboarding right in front of you, whilst filming them has to be one of the most extreme things I have seen.
What has been your proudest moment to date?
My two children, they are amazing! It would also be launching the channel in over 60 countries, there was a massive celebration when that happened.
We read that you are a pilot and have an avid interest in flying, when did you take your licence? Tell us about that.
I took my licence, about 20 years ago. 20 years! That makes me feel old! I fly all the time too, we go down to Cornwall and I just flew to Scotland.
You sponsor athletes: what advice would you give to athletes looking for sponsorship?
My advice would be to focus on your sport and also appreciate that sponsorship is a two way street. It is about each side looking after each other and understand what each expect from one another. Some athletes understand this, and some don't. Athletes have certain responsibilities from being sponsored; we can make dreams come true.
If you had a mantra for yourself and your business, what would it be?
Live for today!
What is the future for EXTREME sports? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In the future I want to work with great people, continue to build the brand and work with great partners in each of the areas.
Many thanks to Al Gosling, Founder of EXTREME Sports for some great answers and an insight into how EXTREME started and where it is going!