And the questions about Sideshore….
Occasionally, you wander the streets of your town and come across something that had been there all along but you’d never paid much attention to. Something that’s always been there. Exmouth Watersports is one such thing. I wish I’d known more about it sooner!
Exmouth has a proud tradition and a potentially world class future in water sports, brought into focus in recent years with the construction of Sideshore - a purpose built complex designed to offer residents and tourists more opportunities to get on the water.
However, it seems we had such a facility, and the expertise to run it, all along.
Exmouth Watersports is a long established company, owned by local John Morgan, who has already contributed an immeasurable amount to the local economy, the future prospects of youngsters in the area, the lives of school children both locally and from the greater south west area, and has recently begun providing services to help those with disabilities access the water.
All with no fanfare, no shiny building and no expensive, some would say out of reach, food concessions to pay for it.
We have such a unique position in Exmouth in this regard - there’s the sea, the estuary and just up the Exe a more traditional river and canal setting. With no fuss, John has achieved some stunning numbers. Some statistics; they have a junior water sports club with approximately 1000 members. They run approximately 800 family courses each year (at one adult and two children that’s another 2400) They are a resource for local schools with some 2300 students taking part in beach watersport’s days, days designed around their curriculum, school clubs and as part of the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. That’s without factoring in the wetsuit / board / sail hire business.
Then there’s the Bristol School which used to be owned by Bristol City Council to provide activities for the schools in the city - escapes from urban life where new skills would be taught and adventures had. This closed some years ago - but the schools have not stopped coming. They still visit, so great was the value of their visits, and the service is provided directly by Exe Watersports. They camp, team build, have an experience like nothing they’ve had before - a whole new experience.
John tells me that members of the junior watersports club frequently go on to do instructor training, and in that sense the relationship is perfect - older children love the water and are inspired to share that love. So they are trained and looked after throughout that training and the centre then has its next cohort of staff.
And recently, the centre has started to provide courses to Bicton College, with its wide range of students able to access the facilities they offer.
So why, you might ask, is John not part of the Sideshore project? This is a question only Grenadier (the buiders) and the officers who ran the, no doubt competitive, tendering process for those services can answer. Both are now part of the Community Interest Company which are holding the project in ‘trust’ while it’s paid for. I genuinely don’t think favours were called in and the process wasn’t open to all, but I’d like to see more transparency in future (rather than hiding behind the catch all of ‘sensitive commercial information’ - the process at least can be revealed, surely). And this is all without the £2 million road shift…
I salute John for everything he has done, and wish his venture all the best into the future.