Avenue news


Rikki’s bodysurfing handplanes are cleaning up our oceans and creating meaningful work for people with disability.

July 31, 2023

Rikki discovered bodysurfing back in 2014 when he went for a lesson at Bondi Beach together with a mate. He was hooked from day one, but couldn’t find any quality gear for sale in Australia. The costs to import from the US were “astronomical.” Working as a carpenter at the time, Rikki thought “I”m pretty handy, I can make stuff.” His first batch of hand-made timber handplanes (tools to help people bodysurf better) sold out at Manly Markets within a day.

Since then, Rikki’s business, Wave After Wave Handplanes (WAW handplanes for short) has taken off. “By about 2017, I had a workshop,” Rikki explains. “I was in the workshop for eight hours a day, every day, five days a week, making handplanes.

Looking for a sustainable way to grow the business, Rikki started developing a recycled plastic handplane.

Rikki is standing in front of a white wall that says 'Avenue Botany'. He is holding three of his handplanes in his hands and is wearing a green jumper with his logo on it. He is smiling at the camera

“I wasn’t going to make a product that was to be taken in the ocean that was made from virgin plastic material. So I embarked on a mission to create them out of recycled ocean plastics – something that I was extremely naive about initially. I thought that I could just buy processed ocean plastics and mould them into a handplane. But I soon discovered that there was no infrastructure in Australia to process ocean plastics. So, I developed a commercial ocean plastics supply chain – an Australian first – and won an award from the National Geographic for it. In 2019, we released a handplane that lets bodysurfers leave the ocean cleaner than when they found it.”

In January 2020, with demand soaring for both his recycled ocean plastic and timber handplanes, Rikki started working with Avenue – a network of coworking spaces empowering people with disability through microbusiness.

“We scaled up to a point where I couldn’t quite handle everything myself. That’s when I was introduced to Avenue. I was already looking around some industrial style commercially operated assembly and fulfilment centres. But when I met Avenue, it was way more my vibe, a lot more informal and an amazing social impact. It just aligned with everything that I wanted my business to be about. It was a no-brainer.”

WAW products are both kitted and fulfilled at Avenue Botany – just a short drive from where Rikki’s business is based.

“As a small business owner, it was a lot for me to put my trust in someone else. But with Avenue, I could just voice those concerns, and we could build a system together around quality control. They were adaptable – you wouldn’t necessarily get that level of service at a commercial fulfilment centre.”

Support Worker Richard and Team member Matt holding WAW handplanes
From left to right, support worker Richard and team member Matt.
Support Worker Richard and Team member Matt holding WAW handplanes
Putting together the WAW handplanes.

Matt and Richard are two of the people at Avenue Botany working on the order fulfilment of Rikki’s handplanes. Matt has attended Avenue for five years, always part of the order fulfilment team. Richard is the team coordinator – the Avenue staff member responsible for both meeting the needs of business partners, and providing outstanding support to the people with disability in his team.

Over his time at Avenue, Richard explains that Matt has “gotten familiar with every single process. He’s one of the team members that we can rely on: no matter how many orders we assign to him, he will be able to fulfil them correctly. He’s grown in confidence, leadership, and every single skill involved in fulfilling an order – he’s mastered it.”

Matt finds an enormous sense of pride in his work. “I packed 18 orders once, in one day, by myself. That’s my highlight [of my time at Avenue]. It was just before Christmas when we had plenty of orders in.” There is also opportunity for the future – Matt is developing as a leader, and now complements his time at Avenue with paid work for the Council for People with Intellectual Disability.

He dreams of building his skills further, to one day secure a full-time job. “I’d like to do orders or packing shelves in a warehouse or a supermarket like Coles or Woolworths. I like keeping myself busy. I love to work.”

Seeing how WAW handplanes help people like Matt achieve their goals brings Rikki a lot of satisfaction. He visits the Avenue coworking space regularly to top up stock and say hello. “When I come into the hub here to chat with the guys, it always brightens up my day. Everyone’s super excited and seems to appreciate having this opportunity which is so nice because they’re helping the business massively. It’s a win-win.”

As far as the future for WAW handplanes is concerned, growth shows no signs of slowing. Rikki is starting to conquer the international market, coming full circle from when he first started out and couldn’t find products made in Australia. He is now shipping to the US and Europe for a year-round market. He is keen for Avenue to continue to be part of the growth, given how “well they fit into my personal, and the brand’s, ethos of inclusivity, opportunity and community. Outsourcing to Avenue enables me to work harder on marketing, sales, supply chain management, my website and socials, customer engagement and community events. And a real bonus is being able to have more time with my family.”

Avenue is a day program alternative where people of all abilities are supported to complete work tasks, socialise and develop their individual skills, regardless of their support needs.