From surfing star to entrepreneur, 21-year-old Shane Sykes’ new Salt Rock business, a surf shop come superfood bar, is creating waves amongst the North Coast surfing community.
With its funky wall art, colourful superfood bowls and surfboards lined up against the wall, Mi Acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) is an exciting new spot for local surfers and health foodies to hang out and enjoy a quick snack.
Using the knowledge he has gained from already having travelled to more than 20 countries, young Shane’s new business venture is his way of ensuring he has something to fall back on when his surfing career comes to an end.
“I decided to take a break from professional surfing and thought it would be great time to start a business” he says.
Born in Stellenbosch, Shane and his family moved to their Salt Rock holiday home when he was eight years old. “I started bodyboarding and got my first surfboard when I was 10.” It was around then, Shane says, that he started hanging out at competitive surfer Tammy-Lee Smith’s family surf camp, The Secret Spot. “We spent Friday nights analysing surf videos and learning about currents. The fact that we lived right on the beach also helped surfing become second nature to me.”
Having enjoyed a successful junior surfing career, winning a number of top events, Shane joined the Qualifying Series after school and started travelling and surfing at some of the most beautiful and well known surf spots around the world. “I was travelling on my own, which I think helped me meet and interact with many different people.”
Over the last few years however Shane says the pressure of constantly trying to make it into the next round, and travelling on his own, started weighing down on him. “I started losing more than I was winning and I decided it was time to take a break and regroup.”
Having met a number of older surfers who Shane says often struggle financially later in life, he decided he wanted to put something in place for himself for the future.
The surf shop health café concept is not a new one and Shane says he came across a number of these types of establishments in popular surfing destinations like California, Hawaii and Australia. “There was nothing like that here and I decided it would be a good idea to do it before someone else does,” he laughs.
Offering a small menu of just a few different smoothies and acai bowls, as well as freshly pressed juices and coffee, Mi Acai shares its space with a surf shop called Premium Shapes. The shop sells a range of Channel Islands boards (for which Shane is a team rider), and other surfing accessories like wax, sunscreen and leashes, etc.
With no previous business experience Shane says his parents and friends have been invaluable in helping him start up his superfood bar, and he is learning something new every day.
With plans to extend the menu and add a few other options as winter approaches, Shane says the support he has received from the local surfing community has already been amazing. “I wanted to create a spot where similar people could meet and hang out during the day in between surfing – and I think we’ve achieved that.”
Details: Mi Acai: 61 Basil Hulett Drive, Salt Rock / Instagram: mi_acai_
Text: Leah Shone | Photos: Mary-Ann Palmer