This is John Gray-Ling Yai-or Caveman, from John Gray Sea Canoe
After a January 1989 exploratory trip, Caveman organized a December Thailand expedition with Hawai’i repeat customers from back home. When the money never came from the Honolulu home office, Caveman had to borrow money from his friends/customers to run the trips. Caveman paid them back – and started his sea kayaking company with USD 28 and a lot of elbow grease (hard work)!
“The world’s worst job was scrubbing the old glue off the kayaks on a concrete slab in Phuket’s equatorial February/March sun. “The blend of scalding sun, steel wool and acetone fumes was devastating, but the knowledge I was onto something special kept me going. What I lost in perspiration I gained in acetone fumes – which attack the brain.”
With no money, 10,500 Kilometers (6,600 miles) from home, Gray gave shares to the staff as pay and kept none for himself. “It was an experiment to see if locals can become international standard when give the opportunity. I never expected it to be a success.”
But it was. We won six major awards in five years. I traveled to London to pick up the Tourism for Tomorrow Award broadcast live Worldwide on BBC from Hampton Court Palace, and five years later, the Smithsonian Museum Ecotourism award in New York and Washington D.C.
Then one day I was called into the office and was told “I’m tired of being professional so I’ve decided to lower our quality and make a lot of money. Since you gave away all the shares to Thai people for free and didn’t keep even one share for yourself you are nothing but an employee. You are fired!”
Great news I thought. I’m returning to Alohaland!
Then the staff came to my house and asked me to stay and form a new company. A benevolent ‘angel’ put up the money on the condition the new company is was ‘John Gray SeaCanoe.’
I protested – and lost – when my Angel said “No ‘John Gray’, No Money”. We signed the paperwork early morning on 9/11 and I returned to Phuket to watch the Twin Towers get hit. My partner said I gave you my word – let’s go for it!”