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A Day & Life with Steve & Angela Watts of Slyde Handboards

14 min read

A Day & Life with Steve & Angela Watts of Slyde Handboards

Steve & Angela Watts have been on the media circuit, but few knew them pre Shark Tank. 

Here's a day and a life of the married couple, conducted pre ABC appearance.

What did you do today?

ANG: I woke up, checked my email in bed, while Steve posted on Instagram.
Then I worked out, came home, answered emails of customers, did some of the shipping process, and completed some Amazon orders.  That's been my morning and afternoon.

STEVE  Because we have Black Friday coming up- we are getting prepared for that. We have some new boards in as samples, I’ve been vigorously taking photos getting those up on the site. I take care of all the design work and Ang takes care of everything else, so my day pretty much starts and ends with that.  

Tell us a little about yourselves, and where you grew up.

STEVE: I grew up in South Africa, actually Cape Town, on a small kind of cove/bay calledHout Bay- translated roughly into wood bay. That's where I got my first love of the ocean. Since before I could walk I was down at the beach, my mum used to take us down just to kind of hang out and it was easier for her to take control of us by just letting us run wild on a beach then keep us at home. Those are my earliest memories- I was too young to do stand up surfing, and neither of my parents did that, so it was more up to us.

Handboarding to skimboarding- really anything we could get our hands on we were out in the water, it’s freezing cold water though.  Then when I was about eight or nine we moved up the coast to Durban. Which is a very famous - South African surf spot. Famous surfers like Jordy Smith andShaun Tomson are all from there. It’s a place where a lot of surfing happens, because the waters a lot warmer. It’s on the Indian Ocean side about 2000 kilometers up from Cape Town,  the water is sort of lukewarm.

There was a lot more of being in the ocean and actually enjoying myself- and actually not freezing to death. So that is where I got into stand up surfing and that’s kind of where Slyde started to take shape as a business. It’s really where I got into board design too, I just started to rip apart old surfboards and stuff to make handboards, that was way back in the very beginning though as a kid.

ANG: I’m from the East Coast, from a little town called Westerly in Rhode Island. I grew up skiing in the winters and spending the summers at the beaches, going sailing on my Dad’s sailboat. I was always an athlete playing everything from soccer, basketball, to volleyball.  Then after high school I went to college up in New Hampshire where I studied physical education and health education. Right out of college I workedforAmeriCorps which led me to the bay area. I wasworking for a non profit teaching kids in low income schools physical education and health education. I ended up driving across country three times to California. Each time I fell in love with California more and more, finally making it my home.

How did you two meet?

STEVE: We met through a mutual friend Jess who incidentally, we are also having Thanksgiving with. The first time we met they were all finishing a marathon or a race down in Venice Beach. We were going for drinks with them afterwards and Angela shows up so that's like the first time we met.

ANG: Yeah we met at bar. In the afternoon, rooftop bar at the whaler in Venice. We were friends for a couple of months, but he actually met my mom before we were dating. Then he made the move- one drunken night, on a dance floor…

STEVE: I did indeed. And now we are married.

How has your other interests ie Art/Business/Consulting/lifestyle hobbies affected or influenced you in this business?

STEVE:   Well I am obsessed with rugby, but I would say most South Africans are. Just simply because we grow up with it, I played rugby as long as I’ve been in the water, I think I had my first game of Rugby when I was five. So thats a huge influence, (although I wouldn't say on slyde per say), but rugby is a great sport and teaches you to work hard, and that definitely is a huge part of my life.

I played a bunch of other sports too. Cricket, basically all the sports a lot of Americans never heard of or don't know anything about  - and then the regular sports kids do like football (soccer), judo, swimming. I was a fairly decent swimmer when I was at school. I was on the swim team, and we went to trials, nationals, and all that kind if stuff.

As far as other actual hobbies, other than sports, design is a huge one.  I went to school for product design in San Francisco and than I  transferred to a school in London, so I guess you could say I got my degree in London. Creating stuff that make people smile or just enjoy.  I think that’s the aim of design- or the aim of my design. Obviously there is different schools of thought on that.

Hopefully that is what Slyde is. Design is a huge influence on Slyde simply from that and everything we do is thoughtful in its approach. From how it’s gonna visually work and how it’s going to perform it needs to be heavily integrated. I think that's a lot of the reason we do so well, because we have such a connection to understanding design and understanding esthetic, that and of course I've been in the surf industry for a very long time. It helps that I’m a surfer myself, understanding what surf is and what people in this industry are looking for.

Ang what kinds of things inspire you?  

ANG:  I’m really competitive by nature and I’ve always wanted to make something of myself and just be someone that people admire and look up to. That’s really what inspires me- to inspire others and have something that takes care of my family and makes them proud of me for.

You guys have a little bit of everywhere in you and around you from east to west and across the atlantic do you think that influences how you live now? or what do you take away from those experiences and places? So much of your guys life is built around water and travel?

STEVE: Well travel is a huge part of my life, it’s another passion. I’m still traveling now- this is not my home country, I love it here but theoretically I’m still traveling. It’s a huge, HUGE influence on me and my life. When I was 19 I literally packed my bags and my surfboard, booked a ticket to London and I met my friend who also surfed.  

I wanted to go to Indonesia, so we saved up - well he never did, but I was waiting for him and couldn’t wait any longer. I  was said “Screw It,” and literally had a rucksack as a bag. I went away and ended up not coming back for a year. I spent 6 months in Indo. and then Australia for a year. That particular trip fueled me to go back to South East Asia and back to Indo.

I specifically wanted to be in that area, I mean Indo is like Disneyland for surfing. Traveling teaches you absolutely everything - I could sit here for hours and hours, about what it can and did teach me but i'm just gonna say basically it taught me everything. I think the most important thing was resourcefulness, how to make your money go a lot further, which is great in a  business.

You go broke if you don't have money. Also the fact that I was testing boards while I was traveling. I always  had a handboard in my backpack, I surfed Indo on a reef break with it, doing that kind of testing was invaluable for the Slyde Handboards we have now. Even surfed it in Thailand in
Koh Samui,I really can’t say enough about traveling.

ANG: Traveling around the world just gives you more, being young with no money, it makes you more confident

STEVE: You can achieve absolutely anything, or you feel you can, and essentially you can. Once you have put yourself in the middle of a place like Bangkok, with literally next to no money and have to figure out a way- It’s like a puzzle and it teaches you a lot about business.

For instance you’re always in a tight position, whether it’s money or its deadlines. If you know you have been to hell and back, been in some hairy situations and you have gotten yourself out. There really isn’t much that can or will phase you. I’ve literally been in the middle of Australia with five dollars to my name. I went and got a beer, I was just sitting there thinking,  “whelp that's five bucks.” I ended up making friends with the guys at the bar and they had a job. So you get a job. I think it also teaches you don’t take it so seriously.

Do you think thats affected you in the business its half travel half water? this business will continue to have that travel bug?


STEVE: Slyde is me and Angela. Slyde is people. It has something from everyone that touches it. A bit of them in it. Absolutely that influences the company and travel is a huge part of what we do.

ANG: I love hearing from people from all over the world, like people we have never met. They tell us how much they love Slyde and invite us to come stay with them, and when people come here we get to meet people that have traveled all over the world with a Slyde Handboard, it’s just crazy and  just amazing.

STEVE: Right in the beginning of Slyde one of my questions I asked myself is why did I want to start a business? And there are many great reasons to start a business, one of them being I wanted to be able to afford a trip at some point. I wanted to be able to take myself and a bunch of friends to the Mentawai Islands. I wouldn’t do those islands anymore, that was 8 or 9 years ago that I had that idea, I would pick somewhere else now.

ANG: I’ve always loved to travel.  I’ve been all over the country and I’ve been to Vietnam (twice), Nigeria, all through Central America. I back packed through Puerto Rico, Belize, and have gone to Ireland, and we have an upcoming trip to go to South Africa next year. I think part of why I love Steve is how he has seen the world, and wants to keep seeing the world. We both have the same goals in life, which is just to not sit still and just keep exploring, no matter where we go.

STEVE: TRAVEL is literally the most important thing you can do in your life. I quite honestly believe that, although education is probably a close second. In my experience you learn more going and traveling, as a human being, as how you want to conduct your life.  Learning how other people live, has really taught me some things about the world.

Growing up in South Africa I did see more poverty than most, but people in the United States and first world countries don't understand just how lucky they have it. I’ve seen more poverty in Indonesia than I have anywhere else. I’ve seen an entire family, their house was on a swamp on the side of a highway, and they were washing themselves.

That was their life, on the side of a highway in a swamp. And we sit here and complain that our iphone is broken or something. Seeing those kind of scenes definitely gives you a perspective, in life you really need to be very thankful for what you have- even if it’s very small. We live in an one bedroom apartment and with our dog (cowboy), too me this is paradise. I think a lot of  people would think that is taking it a bit far- but this is my kingdom.  You just have to smile and be happy.

How do you unwind? When it's all work and no play? (common misconception of a surf company)

STEVE: I should be going out all the time haha. If you’re starting a surf company because you want to go surfing everyday, you’re doing the wrong bloody thing. It’s a lot of hard work, but the payoff is incredible. You get to work and meet some of the most incredible people. I’ve met people that in a hundred years I would have never thought I would have even spoken to.  I got a phone call from Laird Hamilton. I literally put down the phone and thought, “ I can quite now I’ve reached my nirvana.” There is a misconception that people in the surf industry, just go surfing all the time, but It’s like any other business, time for hard work and a time for play.

ANG: My favorite thing over this summer was that we worked Monday through Friday in the office and then every weekend went to the beach, we did demos,  and show people Slyde in action. It was exhausting but it was so worth it.

STEVE:  I mean you can not complain when you get to do what we do. When people have to go to a work events and they have to go to some stuffy conference room or business park or whatever.  I’ve never even been to one so I don’t actually know,  but our events are for surfing with a bunch of kids who love what you do and love what you make. The smiles we see and the a parents who are just so grateful that their kids have half decent people to look up to- it’s incredible. We meet a bunch of like minded cool people, there's nothing to beat it there really isn't.

ANG: I think that's why we have gotten so far ahead because we aren't in the water every second, or even as much as we want to be.

STEVE: To be honest with you it’s an addiction to me that if I do go in, I end up spending 5 hours out there. I’ll do it every single day, but you know that's what I did with my 20s. I knew this is what I wanted to do, so I  intentionally spent my 20s going to every single surf spot that everyone dreams about and sat on a beach lets say Mexico at point break and surfed for a month. Ive had my fair share and this is my time to give something back and work. But I still surf a lot so I'm not complaining just not everyday like people think.

Where do you see this going? Just boards? A line of everything? What? When will you feel like you've made it?

STEVE: We have a lot of fantastic things lined up, stuff we can talk about, stuff we cant talk about. its a very exciting time in this company, i think everyone can agree. and its super exciting time to be a part of the company. but as far as wheres its going, we are predominantly a board company that sells awesome boards, and we will start to broaden as far as apparel, we are new at running a business, this isn't our fifth start up. we are learning as we go and so we are getting what we do right which is make boards. we do it and we do it well. and then once we get down pat, which we are very close to doing i think, hey ang?

ANG: i think how we make more boards we are perfect like we are at the ultimate. but the process…

STEVE: the process, the people, and the product.  It's just so simple people, process, and product. We have an amazing product, we have some awesome people, and we need to add more, but our process is always been something - and when i say process i mean writing stuff down on paper towels, and then actually writing it down on a notebook.

ANG: Well the process before i came along, was well there was none, that's why I really came in, the process really wasn't there. Steve is great at creative and having the vision but there was no process.

STEVE: I mean i was…. i agree with what you have done, but make no mistake I had process in mind but a one man band is very difficult to get everything done. 

ANG: Anyways, Slyde is gonna be big, its gonna be everywhere and with every kid.

STEVE: We don't wanna take over the world, we just wanna bring stoke to everyone that rides. The minute you see that smiles on the kids that ride these boards you can understand why we do it.

How do you not kill each other?

Steve: you can see sometimes we do, here's the secret: don't hold on to anything, because I have a fierce short-term memory. I also have a very quick temper that can rise up pretty quickly and I've learned to try to keep it a bay, but as quickly as you get annoyed with someone is as quickly you need to forget about it. And Ang is very good at that, I'm sure it effects her but I think you have got to just literally remember its just work, its not just a personal thing.

It really isn't. and I really hate that cliche “well its business not personal” but whatever it really is true because you can't be like oh I think your idea is shitty or this or that, its all for the good of the business and like we get annoyed at each other, but not often and when we do ten mins later its done.

Ang: The biggest thing is that we both have what we are good at and we let each other do what we are good at, we don't micro manage each other. You know what your good at and I know what you're good at it, so I don't ever come across and tell you that you shouldn't do that, or what I'm good at…

Steve: I don't think a lot of people could do it, you have to have a very specific two sets of people, (ANG or opposites) because exactly what your saying is that like you do the stuff I don't enjoy and I do the stuff you don't enjoy. I think if you had two designers, as an example you would literally want to kill each other because you would be continually fighting about the same stuff because you have so many.

Ang:  Just keeping life and work as separate as possible - although we don't really do that.

Steve: I don't even think it's that, i think its because we love what we do we are passionate about it, we love to talk about it.  Sometimes I'm like I don't wanna talk about it anymore. I'm over it I cant talk about work, I just want a beer or something. But that is a part of who we are. We love doing this,  we love spending our weekends doing this.

Ang: I can't have a better life than working with my husband (Steve: ha let's not get overboard) and loving what i do.

Words to Live By? WHere do you see this going


ANG: My favorite is, and he says this all the time, “if your not working, someone else is and they will beat you.” and that's what you have to think about on holidays, weekends, Sunday nights what ever it is if your not doing it someone else will.

Ang: So, obviously this is Steve's passion where does yours come into play how did you make that leap from passion to your passion to his passion- not being as surf involved. You obviously have to be passionate to do it?

Ang: Because it is something I have always aspired to be. What young person doesn't look up to surfers, and are like oh that's so cool I wish I could do that. The culture of it, is what attracted me to move to California is the whole California dream, the sun the beach, surfer dudes. With Slyde I see anyone able to do it, whether they live in California, or only have a month of two on the east coast- where the weather is good enough to go in the water. It's just the culture always looked up to and wanted to be a part of.

Thanks for reading & being an Epic part of the Slyde Culture & Community 

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