How dryrobe got started-up
dryrobe founder Gideon Bright shares the inspiration behind this unique product and story of how dryrobe got started. Growing up in Cornwall, on the South West coast of the UK, Gideon worked in graphic design before landing a bit part in the movie 'Blue Juice', which led him to London, where he worked in the film industry for 15 years before relocating back to North Devon, where his family started.
The first dryrobe was based on an idea my mum had when I was younger (about 16). I always used to get cold changing in Godrevy car park or wherever I was surfing and living in Carbis Bay, near St. Ives in Cornwall, we surfed all year round and it gets cold in the winter.
Mum was handy with a sewing machine and decided to do something about helping me.
Just for info: Mum is now 82 (on the day of writing this, sorry Mum) and still goes bodyboarding regularly. Legend.
She gave me this homemade ‘thing’ one Christmas. It was like a huge cape. It was light blue waterproof material on the outside, with a stripe across it, a dark blue towel lining with an elasticated hole for your head to stick through and a hood with poppers. She later told me "It was a like a hatty fattener", which was something her Mum made for her, only out of towelling.
I remember taking it with the best ‘Wow, thanks Mum’ I could muster and slinging it in the car.
It was a freezing day at Godrevy, I can’t remember when exactly but must have been winter 1983 (ish). The wind was so cold it was freezing our faces off just looking at the surf. We got in the suits OK, but coming out I remember thinking, I don’t care what anyone says, I’m using that thing, so I busted it out, slung it over my head.
Now, I think, it was just Scraps and me but maybe Ratsy or Rambel, or Huddy... can’t really remember, but pretty sure the car park was empty apart from us. The cold had frozen our brains, I think, as I don’t remember much being said! We had gone into survival mode. I got changed in it, then I passed it on and we all used it.
Genius idea! That thing did some changes over the years. It got in a bit of a state due to the towel lining, but I’m pleased to report it has been handed back to us!
I know there is a photo about somewhere from those days and the hunt is on to find it. (But no luck yet).
My old mate Jasper told me that he still had it and he sent it back to me. This was in 2013! I can’t believe it’s still in one piece and not rotted to pieces. Anyway, here is a picture of the real original. Thanks, Jasper!
The current dryrobe product itself was created as a mix or hybrid of existing products. The towel change robe was an established idea, but it just didn’t work for me. If it was raining or if I used it when it was cold or windy it seemed to make me colder.
I always had the old waterproof and windproof ‘robe’ idea in the back of my mind but didn’t really think to develop it. It took one cold winters day, stood in a car park at Croyde, in the rain with a soggy towel robe on, freezing cold for me to think, right, I’m going to make something better. But how?
Very shortly after that day, I was visiting family in Australia when I spotted some people using a long narrow fitting coat, around a swimming pool in Engadine, near Cronulla. They were putting this thing on staying warm and then going back in the pool & re-using it when they came out again. I checked it out and bought one.
When I got back to the UK I set about making the first waterproof and windproof change robe using the template of a towel change robe and tried to source fabrics similar to the coat.
The first versions had no zip front and no sleeves, and the lining felt awful. It took some lateral thinking and good fortune to source the right elements, but the revised version got simplified and improved upon until the design worked and dryrobe was born.
I wore the first dryrobe at Marine drive, in Woolacombe, Devon in 2010. I knew straight away that it was good. I was asked straight away, by two ladies, where they could buy one. A bit of a weird conversation, as I was ‘mid change’ and naked in this dryrobe thing. Trust me, it feels strange talking to people like that the first time!
I sold the first few to mates who just asked me for one and started making them with the help of a local business. The first-ever waterproof, windproof change robe ‘dryrobe’ sold online in December 2010. I started a twitter account and people started wanting them.
I remember some of the initial comments on my twitter account about the cost of the dryrobe, when people were comparing it to a towel robe. I wanted people to see how good it was, but it became clear that I couldn’t produce them in the UK as it was just too expensive.
I moved production to China early in 2012 (that’s a whole story in itself, for another time). This opened up possibilities to improve on the build quality, components and fabrics we use too. The business was started on a laptop using a cupboard beside my bed as a desk. It moved into the garden shed for a year and then into serviced offices before finally into our own space.
Since its launch dryrobe has become a very familiar sight around car parks in the UK's best surf spots and on the back of elite athletes from all over the world.
Some of the most fun parts of the journey have been seeing the areas that dryrobe has gone into. From surfing, there’s been a natural progression into other water sports and beyond. It has become an essential companion for open water swimming training and a huge number of outdoor sports, including triathlon, obstacle course racing, rugby and mountain biking have embraced the benefits of staying warm while changing outdoors, after competing or just hanging about outdoors.
(Sink or Swim - Photo Courtesy of Outdoor Swimmer Magazine)
You might have also spotted dryrobes on TV being worn by some very big names. We were approached by the Sport Relief team to supply them for challenges, including Davina McCall’s Beyond Breaking Point Challenge and Greg James’ Gregathlon challenge. We have also supplied kit to the celebrities taking on ‘Sink or Swim’ in aid of Stand Up To Cancer and have given dryrobes to the children taking on the Rickshaw Challenge for Children in Need, which is something that I’m really proud of.
We’ve also supplied many big name brands and events with kit, including Red Bull, Spartan Race, PADI, Tough Mudder and GoPro. In 2016 we worked with Adidas to produce dryrobes for Team GB athletes competing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, which was the stuff of dreams!
The dryrobe reviews and comments have been so positive and just using the product is proof enough of the thought and care that has gone into it, and almost reward enough on those freezing morning changes!
The innovation and development here doesn’t stop. We are constantly developing products with function and design as the core concept.
I am hugely proud of the team and the culture of constant examination and improvement that we have at dryrobe. It’s a great place to be. We are always learning. Always improving here and it runs through everything we do. I can’t say it is without its challenges, but we have some very exciting times ahead.
- Gideon Bright