On location in Cornwall with the Peugeot 208, we caught up with surfer, wetsuit designer and restaurant owner Elsie Pinniger…
Elsie Pinniger is something of a Renaissance Woman. With a vast array of part-time jobs and hobbies behind her, Elsie funnelled her experience into creating Neon Wetsuits, which provides custom designs for men and women alongside designs for high street shops. Elsie also runs Gilmores, a Mexican restaurant/bar/Mini golf course in Newquay. Even with such a busy and varied lifestyle Elsie still finds time to surf, heading out on her longboard to the beaches of Fistral and Crantock when her daily responsibilities aren’t making demands of her time.
How important is a work/life balance to you?
It’s very important, but it’s not always easy. Finding time to go for a surf, meet up with friends or grab something to eat is really important. And you have to keep enjoying what you’re doing, otherwise there’s no point in doing it.
How do you plan for the future?
I don’t really. For me the most natural way is to keep everything unplanned, so I can grab chances when they come up. Sometimes you can be too focussed on one thing, and miss an opportunity. Planning too much can prove to be a really intense pressure as well, so I try to keep things simple and take opportunities as they come along.
What significance does Newquay have to your lifestyle?
It’s an amazing place and is in close proximity to some beautiful beaches. However Newquay’s lacking in a lot of things, so there’s the chance to set up something really creative here. There are a lot of people doing some really interesting and creative projects. It’s a nice place to be when you’re involved in the local community.
Where do you enjoy surfing?
I like surfing at Fistral, Crantock (west of Newquay) and Sennen Cove (West Cornwall) because they’re both so beautiful and quiet.
How important is surfing to you?
It keeps me in an even head space. I need it to balance myself. The freedom helps, as does the exercise to keep my energy levels up. Sometimes I like to just catch small waves and take it easy, other times I’ll look for something big to get walloped about. It depends what kind of mood I’m in, but I’m not one of those people who can sit in the water for three hours. I’ve got a pretty short attention span.
How to you fit surfing in around work?
There are times when it gets busy – summer’s always really hectic. I just have to get my head down and work all day, then surf at night. It’s still light so I can get out there.
Do you think you could ever do a 9-5?
Sometimes I think it’d be really nice to go to work and get paid, and not have to think. But it’d last about a day. I’ve worked for myself for too long now; I like doing things a particular way so I’d probably go mad working for someone else.
Where did the opportunity to run Gilmore’s Mini Golf come from?
I really believe in taking opportunities as they come up. I’d been walking past this place for years on the way to the beach to surf, and I said a few times I’d love to take it over if I had the chance. The lease came up this year and I had to fulfil my promise. It needed a bit of work doing, such as re-plastering, so I learned how to do it myself. It’s not that hard, you just need to give it a go.
What inspired you to create Neon Wetsuits?
Because I’m tall, I always ended up wearing men’s suits. They never fitted me properly and didn’t look great, so I started learning to make wetsuits for myself. I used to make clothes for a living, so it wasn’t that difficult. I made a few for myself, then some friends, and a few people tried to buy them after seeing us in the water. I found the market grew quite quickly, so I decided I may as well get involved. When the site started two years ago I began making custom suits, and I’ve taken the more common fittings to create a men’s and women’s version for the shops.
How does it feel putting so much of yourself into Neon Wetsuits?
When a suit goes out there’s no hiding, I can’t pretend anyone else has made it. You’ve just got to take the bullet if someone doesn’t like it. It’s quite a vulnerable position to be in.
Outside of surfing, what else do you enjoy?
I have to be outside. It’s just something I have to do. I can’t stand being indoors for too long. I like to travel as well. It doesn’t have to be far, just to somewhere new to explore.
What advice would you give people to re-energise their life?
Just to take opportunities when they arise. Don’t force things or get too focussed on one thing. Just keep it simple and take the pressure off. Stress is no good for anyone, and a little pressure can be manageable but too much is buckling. Do what you enjoy. You’re in control, so if you don’t like doing something, then stop.