Okay, so when I wrote ‘Business Empire” I really meant ‘sustainable, self-employed means of supporting oneself to maintain a lifestyle of living next to the beach in Byron Bay, which is obviously a pretty great place to live if you can find a job in this small town with limited off-season job opportunities’.
For the sake of a catchy headline, however, we’ll stick with Business Empire.
The beach bum in question is Kit Degar, and he has made a living by lifting people off the ground and helping them to close their eyes and relax. No, he’s not a yoga teacher. Kit Degar makes hammock hybrids: a chair made of recycled fishing nets suspended from a rope with arm-rests and drink holders, and which are so comfortable you’ll feel like you’ve come home for an afternoon nap. The simplicity of design and comfort are ingenious- a few bits of wood for support in the right places, and the netting which stretches to fit the shape of your body are fitted together by Kit in his home workshop.
Kit Degar with a finished Chair-In-The-Air
Kit’s working life began at sixteen, when he went to work on fishing-boats. During the long, tedious hours and days out at sea he had a lot of time to think about nets, and wondered what other things could be made with this extremely stretchy material which was thrown away in abundance after use. Like many of humanity’s greatest inventions, his first hammock was born out of necessity while on a surfing trip at Nias. When he wasn’t in the ocean surfing, he was fed up with not having anywhere to sit while on land. Like any shipwrecked sailor, Kit’s resourcefulness shone through and he built himself not only a place to sit but a future means of working and supporting himself financially back on dry land.
A few years later Kit found himself in Fiji, with his chairs being a hit in the resorts and hotels where the trees were soon filled with Kit’s chairs and the chairs were filled with happy tourists. Unfortunately for Kit, his business partner enacted his own personal coup and showed his dodgy ways and shut Kit out of the factory, an act which quickly killed the business for all involved.
In 2006, Kit returned to Australia, unsure of what to do. He wasn’t keen to get a steady job, and instead started building hammocks again. In Byron Bay he became a regular at local markets, where he would often catch cutomers who just wanted to sit down a minute then got so comfortable they didn’t want to get up again.
I asked Kit what a typical day is for him, and he told me there’s no such thing. “It’s all based around the weather and the surf. If the surf is pumping I’ll drop the tools and get out there,” he tells me with a big grin. “But I’m a real last-minute Charlie, so whenever I need to work I just go hard to get it done. I work at night and don’t sleep for three days.” Working on fishing boats taught him to “get in and do it hard”.
Kit works on some netting, with a home-made lampshade providing light
So with a job that offers flexible working hours, time to go surfing whenever you want, and selling a product that sells itself, I ask Kit what his dream job would be. “Charter boat captain in the Mentawis,” he tells me without missing a beat.
So if you ever go to the Mentawis and you see a tree with a chair hanging from it, look out to sea, as you’ll probably see a boat with a very happy man sitting in a very comfortable chair.
Practicing for the Mentawi Islands…
For more information about Kit’s chair in the air, go to http://www.chairintheair.com/