The Wealth Scene chat’s to Edward Thomas, Founder of Gym Marine. Gym Marine supply gym equipment to superyachts and other luxury projects. They are the only independent retailer specialising in the luxury yachting and interiors market with access to every major fitness brand in the world.
How did it all start?
I went to sea at the age of 18, and spent 5 glorious years working as a deckhand onboard some of the world’s most incredible superyachts. It sounds glamorous, but essentially, I was a rather well travelled cleaner. Back then gyms onboard yachts were a rarity, and it would have been unusual to find a dedicated gym room on anything smaller than 70m. We got into the marketplace at the right time in 2014, just as the big shipyards like Lurssen and Feadship were starting to regularly build 100m+ mega yachts for the clients who had grown out of their existing 60-70m yachts and health and fitness was becoming a global obsession. Now everybody wanted a gym! My understanding of the industry and experience with the problems gyms on yachts caused allowed me to identify in which ways the fitness equipment industry was ill-suited to yachting, and come up with a system that got the best out of what was on offer to create these exquisite superyacht gyms. We were lucky to be the first to market, and the business was niche and interesting enough to generate a lot of yacht industry press coverage in its first year.
Tell us about some of your recent projects?
Some of the superyacht gyms we have delivered in the past few years, which are currently cruising the world on board various mega yachts, are simply incredible. Take DILBAR, for example, the largest yacht ever built (by gross tonnage) – officially she has 3 separate gyms onboard, and we are proud to have planned and delivered all of them! These projects never cease to amaze me; the engineering and the planning that goes into creating these vessels makes our job as gym designers seem minute in its importance to the whole creation; but a ship is the sum of its component parts, so we can at least take some solace in that! Our work now expands far beyond the realms of just superyachts; we recently finished a beautiful basement conversion in a Kensington home, and at the other end of the scale a huge gym onboard a drilling platform in the North Sea. No two days are the same at GM!
What’s on the drawing board?
With new markets comes new challenges and the need for new products. The best part of my job is saying ‘yes’ to non-standard requests that customers make on prime residential or marine projects where, for whatever reason, no other company can fulfil them. Identifying which of these requests could form a trend in the market helps us to come up with our own product lines and re-usable solutions. For example, we just completed a prototype of a folding gym bench made completely in rust-proof marine grade stainless steel – a product which was born out of a client’s desire to exercise in the open air on his yacht’s sundeck, which had limited storage space in the area and couldn’t accommodate an off-the-shelf gym bench.
Who do you work with?
We pride ourselves on working with some of the world’s best fitness equipment brands, such as Technogym and Lifefitness, and are always challenging our suppliers to go a step further in their own product development and services geared towards our clientele. Partnerships with progressive and creative firms, like Watson Gym Equipment in Somerset, allow us to create truly customised gyms with personal touches that leave clients feeling proud of the results and eager to show off our work to their friends. Everyone wants that special something in their gym that no-one else has! And why not?! Otherwise you might as well just buy a gym membership like everybody else, and where’s the fun in that…
Tell us about the ‘nuts & bolts’?
In the olden days gyms used to be pretty uninspiring places in terms of aesthetics. Lots of grey plastic and flaking paint on bare metal… Within our range I try to include gym equipment items which offer beautiful and unusual material finishes. I’m really enjoying using wood as a feature in my gym designs at the moment; you can create a sort of ‘Scandinavian’ look using gorgeous gym products in wood from the likes of NoHrd & Waterrower. Leather is also a classic material in the gym; think back to the days of retro fitness with cow-hide leather boxing gloves and big brown medicine balls. There are loads of cool products on the market these days which allow you to recreate this era in your gym. Some clients want a more modern looking gym, and in this instance, we often opt for matte black plastic or metal surfaces blended with chrome details on the machines. Technology in fitness is breaking new ground on an almost weekly basis, and tech-savvy clients always ask us about the latest developments in connected fitness when we plan their home or yacht gyms – and you’ll find touchscreens and NFC contact points in those gyms, all linked in real-time to smartphone apps!
How is the industry changing?
The fitness world is one which is constantly evolving and changing the way it interacts with its clientele. I love the concept of interactive and high intensity group fitness that is taking the London commercial gym scene by storm – concepts like 1REBEL and Gym Box make getting sweaty into an experience rather than a chore! Replicating this in home gym designs empowers us to work more closely with interior designers, architects and Audio/Visual consultants to come up with our own concepts which ensure the gym is a room which isn’t forgotten in the enormous homes they live in. Superyacht gyms are becoming more and more of a big deal these days, and yacht designers such as Gregory C Marshall and London’s Bannenberg & Rowell are leading the charge by giving the gym pride of place in their yacht projects. Take JOY by Feadship, for example, Bannenberg & Rowell/Studio Indigo allotted an enormous space for a gym on the bridge-deck aft section, enclosed in glass with 360 degree views. When you have a space to play with like this the possibilities are endless!
What’s on the horizon?
The future for Gym Marine is bright and as exciting as ever, and we are enjoying taking on bigger and bigger challenges as we work on an incredibly diverse range of projects. Our recent rebrand and official launch into the luxury interiors market has already been a great success; and this year I’ll be travelling the world, to places as far flung as Morocco and Qatar, to install equipment with my team in some absolutely jaw-dropping properties. This opportunity to see the world whilst watching my business grow is what motivates me to keep the crazy hours I do and keep going, even when at times it can be exhausting. I’d love to spend more time in the far-East, in places like Singapore and Hong Kong, as the juxtaposition of cultures and outlooks there continues to fascinate me each and every time I visit.
Thank you for your time today Edward.