September 6-8, 2013
Orange County Convention Center
Mid-Atlantic Sales Rep Joe Sheridan discusses the increasing merger of freediving and spearfishing with the surfing and stand-up paddle lifestyle.
Story Courtesy Of Spearing Magazine
Explain a little about your company and what you do.
Joe Sheridan:My brother, Bryan Sheridan, and I run an independent rep agency servicing the Mid-Atlantic States in the action sports and sporting goods industry. I’ve been a rep for eighteen years and my brother Bryan has repped for fifteen years. We rep Smith Optics, Suncloud Optics, Dakine, Freestyle and Richardson Headwear
How did you get into spearfishing and how many years have you been diving?
I’ve been freediving and spearfishing for seven years. I got into spearfishing after taking a freediving course, where I learned I could safely hold my breath for over five minutes and dive beyond 100 feet. This confidence and knowledge opened up a whole new world for spearfishing.
What trends do you see involving surfing and stand-up paddling (SUP?)
The trend in SUP is that it has become an important category in surf and outdoor that includes both coastal and inland areas.
What’s your opinion on major surf and SUP manufacturers starting to take notice of spearfishing and showcasing the sport in their marketing?
The fact that pro surfers are using freediving and freedive spearfishing as a training session for surfing should open doors for manufacturers to embrace the sport. Guys like Mark Healey from Quiksilver are true ambassadors of our sport and help promote the reality that many surfers are freediving and spearfishing when there are no waves. Freediving, like surfing, is just as much mental as physical. Building confidence in freediving and spearfishing while underwater can lead to stronger mental strength in surfing.
Do you think many of the surf and SUP manufacturers can cross-market into spearfishing?
Yes. Freedive spearfishermen wear boardshorts, flip flops, sunglasses, and hoodies just like surfers. Trained freedivers and spearfishermen will wear the gear that’s most efficient for safe and effective freediving, but when it comes to everyday goods for the waterman, these same customers are going to their local surf shops, outdoor shops, and SUP shops to purchase the brands and goods they know and trust. Surf and SUP manufacturers can advertise the products they currently sell in an ad that involves both surfing and freedive spearfishing.
You’re also a certified freedive instructor. What drew you to teach freediving?
As a rep, I’m teaching and learning everyday. Whether I’m presenting a line, doing a clinic for shop employees, or simply stopping by a shop, I’m always sharing information while listening to what’s going on from the retailer’s perspective. We’re sharing knowledge on how to help each other’s businesses be successful.
In freediving, since it’s become an important part of my life and what I enjoy doing regularly, I wanted to be able to share this evolving sport safely within my own community on a professional level. I had taken several advanced-level freediving courses and competed in freediving competitions and spearfishing tournaments, but I felt that becoming an instructor was the best way to improve my own skills and knowledge while sharing the sport with others. This year I earned my Freedive Instructor through training with Martin Stepanek and the staff at Freedive Instructors International in Florida.
Who makes up the majority of your freediving classes?
Surfers, kayakers, stand-up paddlers, watermen, anglers, and boat captains. People who play on the surface of the water but want to safely see what lies beneath―and do so on their own breath. When the ocean is flat, surfers can still enjoy the water while training their breath-hold, spearfishing, or exploring underwater.
As an industry rep, freedive instructor, and spearfishermen, how do you see spearfishing benefiting the surf/SUP shops?
As an independent rep, I’m always looking outside the box for potential avenues for selling my brands while maintaining clean distribution. In suggesting new ideas, categories, or products to my retailers―backed by credible information and support from the manufacturers―I think it gives retailers something fresh and important to consider. Especially since their customers are now participating in the sport. Moreover, there is limited competition in the marketplace for dealers who cater to Freedive spearfishing, despite the high demand for products in that category. Freedive spearfishing is a sport, like surfing, that can be done year-round.
As a Freedive Instructor, I see that the clientele taking our courses includes the same customers going to surf and outdoor shops. There’s a demand to supply these existing customers with products that support their needs, plus build new business within our own community. A freediver explores the ocean on his or her own breath, just like a surfer. We’re fueled only by our breath, our minds, and our ability to perform. Surfing and freediving are both natural activities without the aid of anything other than our energy, our breath and our mental capacity. Offering freediving and spearfishing gear in surf and stand-up paddle shops makes perfect sense.
What trends do you currently see in the spearfishing industry?
The biggest trend in spearfishing is its addition to the overall waterman lifestyle. More and more people are packing their dive fins and spearguns in their board bags when they head to the water. What used to be an activity enjoyed by a small and focused group is becoming a key part of a larger way of life on the water.
Do you feel spearfishing can benefit current athletes who are mainly involved in surfing and SUP?
Athletes sponsored by surf and stand-up paddle manufacturers who also freedive and spearfish will be the voices to the manufacturers, the retailers, the reps, and the end users that not only are they talented professional surfers, but they are participating in freedive spearfishing to become more well-rounded watermen and better with their breath hold and mental aptitude for surfing.
Why do you feel it’s important for surf retailers to carry spearfishing equipment in their stores?
For one, there’s limited competition right now. Even though the demand is high, very few retail shops cater to freedive spearfishing. Spearfishermen have been purchasing online because the availability of gear locally has been limited. Within my own community, spearfishing tournaments have been collaborating with surf brands and surf shops to create awareness of the sport. Now we have retailers stepping up to the plate and coming on board with spearfishing and freediving gear.
Again, this category is maintained year round. Most freedive spearfishermen in the southeast, with the exception of Florida, wear a full wetsuit throughout the year for warmth and protection. This provides continuous sales on wetsuits rather than just seasonal opportunities. Surf retailers have a lot of pull within their communities, especially with the shops that have a long, loyal following. Their customers respect that if the shop makes a commitment to either a brand or a new category, that they are the experts and probably know what they’re talking about.
How can reps like you help to integrate spearfishing products into the surf/ SUP market?
Like many independent reps, we’re looking for a line that we can show and sell well and help our retailers improve their business with increased sales. Sometimes, it’s not necessarily an established brand in the industry, but an idea, or product, or new category that makes sense at retail. Reps and buyers willing to consider the retail potential of freediving and spearfishing gear have an opportunity to be the leaders of this new category in surf and outdoor.
Like SUP years ago, it’s not just for coastal shops. The demand of SUP on inland lakes and rivers is high. Customers are purchasing stand-up paddleboards in the mountains to explore waters far from the coast. Spearfishing and freediving is also a sport for anyone that enjoys exploring and enjoying the waterman’s lifestyle.
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