Chronicle 16: Tom Kay, Fearless Seaman

January 25, 2023


Rubber Chronicles

Tom Kay standing on a boat

Tom Kay | Finisterre's Fearless Seaman, Founder & Entrepreneur

I became a Finisterre fan not actually because they use YULEX foams for production of their wetsuits, which they do, but because of their storytelling and inclusivity. A surf company that makes a culturally appropriate wetsuit designed by Muslim women for other Muslim women to provide access to the ocean? I mean what company did this like this before Finisterre? None.

In keeping with the Finisterre “Product Environment People” ethos, it is made of Seaqual, derived from recycled ocean waste plastics and elastane (ok this is oil-based, maybe YULASTIC fibers for the next gen?), dries quickly and has UV protection. The final design is elasticated at the ankles, wrists and collars to hold the suit in place, and it easily goes over a wetsuit or leggings. The concept of the product, pushes people, design and materials, and the outcome is diversifying the lineup and allowing many others to enjoy the sea - independent of size, color and creed. Products for People.

A women surfing

Tom Kay

Tom the Seaman. Finisterre was founded by Tom in 2003, and named after a shipping area in the British Isle, which name is fitting of the company and the seaman himself. Tom surfs. Ok. But since about the same time as the creation of his then start-up, Tom has been a volunteer boatman with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) created to “save lives and property from shipwrecks”. Volunteers like Tom wear a pager 24/7, and have to get out of bed in the middle of the night, leave their family, their job and go out on rescue missions when they get the call. Tom is a “helm”, which means he “steers” the all-weather lifeboats on these missions when he is called. Its bloody treacherous and heroic work. Then to double-down on this great work, Finisterre, a B-corporation, donates 10% of its net profits to RNLI, which is entirely funded by donations. I just donated - click the pic if you want to join me and help contribute to this great charitable organization registered in the UK.

Tom Kay media article

Young Tom. Tom’s parents imbued in their kids the love of the sea and mountains. And growing up Tom listened to the BBC (long-wave) Radio 4 (it’s like AM radio) broadcast of shipping weather forecasts of gale warnings for those ships coming from the Eastern North Atlantic approaching the often treacherous shallow waters of British Isles shores. It is a much-loved British Institution even though now with GPS technology, chart plotters and the like, boatmen don’t need the broader shipping forecasts. But listening and developing an understanding of these sea condition forecasts in the hell or high water of the British Isles when he was young, and now at the helm of Finisterre and of an RNLI rescue boat, these rough seas are woven into Tom’s DNA and the fabric of Finisterre. His father would be proud.

Product Environment People

Finisterre is a surfing apparel company and does not manufacture or invent per se. However, what it does very well is it curates, investigates and delivers durable products that are environmentally conscious. Tom acknowledges, that as a products company Finisterre (like other brands) still have a negative impact on the planet, but under Tom’s fearless leadership, Finisterre has always been about mitigating those negative impacts, improving on ways they sourced before, and setting a goal of moving towards a time in the future when the company will have a net positive impact.

Btw: The Finisterre shipping area (red arrow) has long been renamed Fitzroy, after Admiral Robert FitzRoy, who allegedly committed suicide after having been frustrated that his forecasts couldn't prevent ships from sinking at sea. After my conversation with Tom and learning more about his work at RNLI and Finisterre, I am included as one of those not happy with this change. Why?

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