#humansofyachting - Edward Thomas
The founder of Gym Marine on the increasing popularity of fitness and wellness on board superyachts.
“I grew up in Bath, so I was never much of a sailor as a child, but some of my family are based in Antigua, so I did grow up seeing boats on the docks on holidays. I knew it was a career that was out there, so I grabbed the opportunity to run away to sea as I wasn’t keen on working in the family business in London. I started as a junior deckhand and did a good few seasons, including Atlantic crossings and charters, before stepping off to start Gym Marine in 2014.
I maintain today that working on a yacht is the best career you can have. The experiences, the places, the people; there’s no other job where you can be immersed in so many different cultures, all in one place. In terms of widening your world view, becoming a more rounded person and seeing outside of your bubble, it doesn’t get better than yachting.
I had a whole range of memorable moments when I was a crew member. Working on motoryacht Hampshire, we sailed up the Hudson into New York and did five or six laps of the Statue of Liberty, while a helicopter circled doing a photoshoot. That’s the sort of thing you see in movies. Those moments are great, but actually the little moments are even better. Like being in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean at night, or waking up in a new place that you never thought you’d end up in.
The idea for Gym Marine came about after a few things got me thinking. On Hampshire, for example, we had these chrome dumbbells on the sundeck. They would rust like you wouldn’t believe. As a junior deckhand, I would spend pretty much every evening polishing them but by the following afternoon, they would be completely orange again. I realised that there had to be a better solution out there, which of course there is: rubber-wrapped dumbbells. We now make our own in marine-grade stainless steel.
There was also the wastage issue. I worked on a boat where there was gym equipment on the sundeck. Most of it was made of polished aluminium and after a summer’s charter, the agent would come on board and say we needed to replace it all. So a whole new set of gym equipment was brought on every season; it was such a waste of resources. We now have gym equipment rental for yacht charters which avoids that happening.
I was very lucky that Gym Marine caught the attention of a really progressive guy at Boat International who invited us to the Monaco Yacht Show and covered our story in the magazine. That was when I realised it was a serious business and I quit my job to commit to it. Today, we are a full-service design agency with our own 3D visualisers, servicing team and a gym equipment range which we manufacture using sustainable, marine-friendly materials. We have installed gyms on some of the world’s largest motor yachts and sailing yachts – including Dilbar and Black Pearl.
Fitness and wellness have become a huge part of the new build and refit journey as it’s become more popular and relevant to clients. We are now installing not only gyms, but also dedicated yoga studios, martial art areas and spas. When I started out, the spaces for gyms traditionally were outside, but now they are coming inside and becoming a big feature of the boat. Yachts that want to compete on the charter market are looking at ways they can incorporate gyms.
There are challenges of course; boats move around so we have to consider fastenings. We also have to consider logistical support to ensure that there are parts and tech support available around the world. Space is also a challenge, so we try to come up with gym areas that offer maximum functionality in the minimum amount of space.
I enjoy my job the most when I am travelling to shipyards and meeting people. That’s part of the motivation for our Green Wings Challenge, a new sustainability project we launched in conjunction with Yacht Carbon Offset that I am really passionate about. I’ve challenged people in the industry to tally up their flights and then offset them. We’ve got some amazing people involved. So far we’ve offset 3.5 million km of yachting industry air travel. I hope it encourages people to do something about their carbon footprint.”