We are excited to announce that Feel Good Drinks are partnering with us on our social impact programme, specifically supporting disadvantaged young adults in Bristol to access the many benefits of spending time in water and waves. Feel Good Drinks Founder and General Manager, Ed Woolner, a passionate and brilliant surfer and a parent, is acutely aware of the positive power of blue health and the healing role water can play for our mental states and our communities. We caught up with Ed to find out more.
We'd love to hear a bit about your background
I grew up in Langland, on the Gower peninsula in Wales, surfing with the likes of Pete ‘PJ’ Jones and his son James, Chris ‘Guts’ Griffiths, Carwyn Williams, Craig Burrows, Chris French and older legends like John Goss. That was a solid and special crew. The surfing community in Langland got me through my childhood. My parents split up when I was 11, and it was a really bad divorce. My mum, sisters and I had no money and it was the surf community that became my extended family and support. They watched out for us, and kept us in line when we got out of line, and dragged us out on days when we didn’t want to surf to push us into better waves. I learned so much through that. We lived in Cornwall for a few years around Portreath and Redruth, but then went back to Wales. My mum and my sisters are still in Wales, and I have a special relationship with that coastline and always will, not just because of surfing, but also all the rugby I played in Swansea when I was at University.
What did you study at University?
I did a Masters Degree in International Political Economy, really exploring conscientious capitalism and how we can have a capitalist system that's a bit fairer and creates more opportunities for all. That really inspired me to go into a business career. I really wanted to stay around Wales, but there wasn’t the work for me at the time. The trouble was I knew I had to be close to the sea, so I settled in West Dorset where I still am now with my family. It always meant I could be close enough to London and Bristol for work, but still surf as regularly as possible. I love it here! Work wise I got into the food and drinks industry, starting my career with Clipper Teas, the World’s first fair trade organic tea company. They are a great brand, cool business and the founder became a really good friend and mentor.
How did it start with Feel Good Drinks?
After Clipper Teas I worked for Monster Energy for five years, but never felt good about the health of the products. Then I started my own drinking water company in 2014 driven by healthy living. I invested absolutely everything into it, but in 2018 I lost everything. It was a massively humbling moment in my life. It was kind of like being hit in the face by Mike Tyson. But even though life was broken financially, I realised that where I lived and what I could do with the family was so much more important. The fact that I could push my kids into waves and go to the beach and go fishing with them meant everything. And through that I started to feel rich in a different way. So despite it all going so wrong financially, I felt like I had done the right thing with life decisions. Then I got approached with the opportunity to take the lead at Feel Good Drinks and help fulfil its potential.
What have been your aims at Feel Good Drinks?
From day one I wanted the business to be about regeneration, positive impacts, a purpose driven health drinks company, and something that puts more back than it takes, rather than focus on profit. At the heart of it all is prioritising all those things that make you feel good, which for me since the age of seven or eight has been being in the sea, surfing, and having that really good energy around me. So we started with a mission to become a purpose driven soft drinks business that was healthy and using plastic free packaging, recycled aluminium, attempting to make the world better one step at a time.
Tell us about your 3% People & Planet focus.
We give 3% of our sales back to charities and organisations that support people and the planet. We're selling single use products so we have to tackle the biggest issue we all face, which is climate change. When tracking and measuring our carbon footprint (we aim to have Net Zero emissions by 2030), I learned that seagrass has a really high level of carbon sequestration, and supports such a wide range of marine ecosystems. So we work with Project Seagrass in a massive way.
I was always inspired by what Nick Hounsfield was doing at The Wave. Even from a selfish perspective, the opportunity to just pop in for a surf, like popping to the gym, knowing you’ll have waves, is epic. And then peeling that away and seeing all the other things that access to waves can provide is really mind-blowing. I completely understand the positive power of this. It’s a drug-like experience. Being in water can be a tool in your life. So that really inspired us to want to work with The Wave.
"I wanted the business to be about regeneration, positive impacts, a purpose driven health drinks company, and something that puts more back than it takes, rather than focus on profit."
Ed Woolner, Founder and General Manager of Feel Good Drinks
Tell us about partnering with the social impact programme.
Surfing played such a big role in the hard times in my life, so I just love knowing that by working with The Wave we can help give more people access to water who really need it and can benefit from it. It’s all about the chance to taste it, and the good impact it can have on your life. I think surfing has never had a bigger role to play. Surfing is just so relevant for blue health. So this is about allowing people - particularly disadvantaged young adults in Bristol - to access the things that we love and make us feel good. And it’s not just about surfing, and waves, but the behavioural and mental health change that being in or near the water can foster, overcoming fears and gaining confidence.
Access to water can be a lifeline for wellbeing. Water and surfing has played a huge role in my life with positive mental health support. So we really want to work with The Wave, and give young adults the opportunity to experience that as well. And it all comes back to our mission statement to make the world feel better. I really believe that once you put the time in to make people feel better, and places feel better, the rewards are incredible. I want people to prioritise things that make us feel good, and help protect and support the environments where we do those things.
What does surfing at The Wave mean for you?
It's pretty crazy just to be able to turn up and share guaranteed waves. I also love the sense of the surfing tribe and community you experience: when you’re all queued up for your wave the amount of positive energy, banter and chat is amazing and inspiring. There are no egos, or puffed-out chests, and everyone is talking to each other about board designs and rides and shared experiences. I think that's just epic. It’s priceless. I think it brings the best out in our sport. I’m buzzing for the next session, and that’s the kind of stoke I know I really want to be able to share with others through the social impacts programme.