A Brief History Of All Things O’Shea…
The Story So Far… O’Shea … 35 Years Of Innovation…
The O’Shea story starts with a teenager brought up in the centre of Wellington, West Midlands, UK, which is a town far away from the sea. It was amongst these inland surroundings during the late 1970’s, that a young Farrel O’Shea discovered the world of windsurfing on a small, local lake in Telford. His first board was the classic Fred Osterman designed Windglider, which went onto be the Olympic class sailboard.
Very soon this addictive sport became his life, with more and more time spent at the lake, followed by regular windsurfing excursions to destinations such as Bala lake, the wavesailing spot of Rhosneigr and the chop of Abersoch. This meant sleeping in his car, a tent or crashing at friends, but this early dedication would reap dividends.
As windsurfing became more and more of a part of Farrel’s life, a sixth form college project involved the construction of a custom GRP windsurfer, which although only partially successful, began Farrel’s interest in the design aspect of how these boards were made.
Homer Lake, Telford – 1977.
The dreamed of life as a pro-windsurfer became reality in the early 1980’s, with Farrel becoming one of Britain’s leading windsurfing wave sailors. Hardly a month would go by without there being a spectacular photo spread in one of the popular windsurfing magazines. In those days, windsurfing was huge and was considered to be one of the fastest growing sports in the UK!
As a fully sponsored windsurfer, Farrel was able to train in some of the world’s top wave sailing locations such as on Maui, Hawaii and the north shore of Fuerteventura, as well as UK destinations. These included those in the SW of England, Rhosneigr in Anglesey, Porth Neigwl (Hell’s Mouth) near Abersoch and Tiree in the Inner Hebrides. He was one of the early pioneers of moves such as the killer loop or “cheese roll” and was the first British windsurfer to perform this move in 1986, captured on film by photographer Alex Williams in Fuerteventura. Radical moves such as the big end over end, forward loops soon followed as windsurfing’s progression continued, with Farrel one of an elite group of windsurfers worldwide, who were pushing the boundaries of the sport.
It wasn’t just wavesailing that Farrel became world class at, as he also made in impression on the early world rankings of speed sailing, breaking through the 30 knot barrier in 1986 at Sotavento.
The interest in board design and construction continued with friends at M&M Custom, who were making custom windsurf boards using the then tricky to use epoxy resin. The result was a board that was considerably lighter than those made from other materials. The input into groundbreaking board design technology continued through the latter part of the decade, with Lightwave Custom, who built some classic boards.
In 1987, Farrel wrote “An Introduction To Windsurfing”, a book which was published worldwide and is reputedly the best selling windsurf book of all time, being published in many countries around the world.
Killer Loop / Cheese Roll – Fuerteventura, 1986.
Foward Loop – Maui, Hawaii 1988
Farrel moved to Abersoch on the Llyn Peninsula in the early 1990’s opening a windsurfing shop, writing 3 more windsurfing related instruction books and continuing to provide spectacular action shots to the windsurf press. Windsurfing was not the only sport that Farrel was involved with as he also rose to a high level in the world of freeride snowboarding. Snowboarding enabled him to travel to Canada to shoot a video with some of the world’s top snowboarders.
Wakeboarding also became a passion with Farrel and friends often to be found being towed on light wind days in the Abersoch area.
In 1994, the years of product development and knowledge, attained by working with others was utilised to create O’Shea International. Initially, O’shea produced windsurf and surf boards and an O’Shea range of windsurf sails, using the latest CAD technology.
The O’Shea brand focused on high quality hardware, with extensive product testing by Farrel himself. This was carried out in big wave spots on the north shore of the island of Fuerteventura and closer to home at Porth Neigwl (Hell’s Mouth).
A clothing and luggage line quickly followed and as the sport of wakeboarding began to take off, a range of super light wakeboards were also produced.
The success of the brand resulted in the purchase of office and warehouse space in Abersoch and the employment of the first members of staff.
Early 1990’s Snowboarding & Wakeboarding
O’Shea Windsurf Boards – circa 1993
Involvement in the rapidly growing sport of wakeboarding culminated in the organisation of the early editions of the Wakestock Festival. The world’s top wakeboarders traveled from across the globe to North Wales, to compete on a course which used massive sliders / rails for the first time in competition.
The action during the daytime at O’Shea Wakestock was spectacular, with a huge evening music event hosting well known DJ’s and bands.
Windsurfing was not forgotten during this decade with O’Shea International becoming the UK distributor for Simmer Sails. Farrel also re-joined the world’s elite band of speed sailors, reaching 44.34 knots at Les Saintes Maries in France and and breaking the British record.
A visit to a board shaping factory in 2003 was Farrel’s first sight of an SUP board. The gradual emergence of this new sport meant SUP was added to the O’Shea collection, which already included a large range of surfboards. The first batch of O’Shea SUP’s produced in 2004, were obviously all of the hard construction variety, as this was before the emergence of iSUP. Many retailers in the UK were slow to see the potential of SUP, so it took some time before the sport started to take off. It wouldn’t be long, however, before construction techniques changed radically….
O’Shea Wakestock 2001.
The emergence of iSUP…
Farrel’s 35 years of top level board sports participation and production has brought a high level of knowledge and expertise to the world of SUP design, especially regarding the design and production of iSUP’s.
It is this long heritage of board knowledge and product testing, combined with intensive R&D which has helped create what we believe to be one of the world’s best range of iSUP’s.
We understand the need to fully product test boards before they reach the marketplace. This ensures that the customer ends up with a product that has the correct dimensions and is made from the best materials. The result is an iSUP that will stand up to the rigours of continued usage.
Other O’Shea innovations have included the refinement of the inflatable windsurfer design, which has created a product that makes windsurfing incredibly easy to learn. This is particularly the case for children, with the addition of an inflatable windsurf rig, meaning you blow up the board, you blow up the rig and off you go!
The importance of getting youngsters involved with board sports has been a significant driving force behind Farrel’s ethos and that of O’Shea International.
Farrel continues to spend as much time as possible on the water, whether that is on an iSUP, windsurf, wakeboard or snowboard. He continues to be a regular participant at the world speed sailing events. In November 2012, the British record was broken again, this time in Namibia, with a speed of 48.82 knots. 3 years later he broke the 50 knot barrier, with another British record after a run of 51.20 knots! He was also voted as UK windsurfer of the year in 2013.
“MY STORY IS BASED ON THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE OF GREAT BOARD DESIGN. THROUGH OUR PRODUCT TESTING, I ENSURE THAT GREAT DESIGN BECOMES A REALITY.”
The 50 knot barrier is breached – 2015 – Luderitz.
iSUP Testing – Abersoch Bay 2016.