‘The pandemic has been managed really well in New Zealand’

Wild Geese: David Lynott

David Lynott owns Hydro Attack

David Lynott owns Hydro Attack

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When David Lynott left Enniscrone, Co Sligo, in 2008, aged 25, he was looking for adventure. He just didn’t know quite how much adventure lay in his future.

Luckily, he had a trade to help as his journey started.

“Once I left school I worked as a plasterer for a few years,” he says. “But then I decided I wanted to go and explore a bit of the world. That was just before the global financial crisis hit.

“I’d already made up my mind to go travelling before the crash. I went to Brisbane in Australia and thought I’d see how it would go from there.”

There are so many similarities between Kiwis and Irish people. They have the same attitudes, with the same work ethic and sense of fun

Though he enjoyed his year in Australia, Lynott was in no hurry back to recession ravaged Ireland. So, he did what many Irish did in those dark days, he followed the working visas around. He had heard how beautiful the ski resort of Queenstown in the South Island of New Zealand was and decided to give it a go. “I came over here for a ski season and I haven’t left yet,” he says.

Though he has been a New Zealand citizen for three years now, Lynott initially had no plans to make his move permanent.

“It just turned out that way once I got used to the lifestyle. It’s a beautiful place, there’s always something going on and it’s got great seasons. Summer is great for water sports and during winter it’s great for snowboarding and skiing.”

Luckily for Lynott, his business, Hydro Attack, is a year-round attraction.

Their “shark boats” are submersible watercraft powered by a 260-horse power engine that can reach 80 kilometres per hour in under four seconds on Lake Wakatipu. They can also travel 40kmh underwater.

After working as a manager for a car rental company, Lynott set up Hydro Attack in 2013 with Clare man Ollie O’Neill and Englishman Lee Excell. O’Neill has since moved on, but Excell is still Lynott’s business partner.

“From a young age I was always looking at different ideas and thought I’d like to do my own thing,” he says. “We saw one of the boats on the net, were blown away by what it could do and thought that tourists would lap up the chance to ride in one on the lake. There wasn’t an operation like it anywhere else then.”

But that kind of technology doesn’t come cheap, especially when it has to be imported from the US.

“We wrote a business plan and approached a bank. There was no template for this kind of business anywhere in the world, so we had to start from scratch on absolutely everything.”

The bank got onboard and Hydro Attack quickly became a success. “We started off with one boat and once we realised there was a demand for the product, we expanded to two. Now we have six boats in operation.

“As with any business, you learn a lot and improve things as you go, but what we didn’t anticipate was that demand for our business would come from every nationality and every age group.

“We thought there might be a certain group of people that might like us and a certain group that wouldn’t, but we’ve had people from six years – six is the youngest age we take – up to an 87-year-old lady who was the oldest we had on the boat. She surprised us, but I suppose it is the intrigue of being on a shark boat.

“We can tone it down for people if they want, but most people want to push it. The best way of explaining it is it’s like an acrobatic plane on water.”

Though New Zealand has suffered far less than most countries due to its astute handling of the Covid crisis, it still has had an effect on businesses that rely to any extent on international tourism. But the domestic market has taken up a lot of the trade lost to offshore tourism.

“The pandemic has been managed really well in New Zealand and with that we have seen the benefits accrue in the domestic market. The government has run campaigns to promote domestic tourism and Kiwis have been amazing, just getting out there and supporting businesses. It has kept the economy going really well.

“Talking to other businesses in town, especially accommodation providers, we’re expecting a busy season once the winter school holidays start.”

Not surprisingly, Lynott is happy with how his world travelling adventure has turned out. “I found New Zealand to be a really good place to start up a business. There is a very high standard of tourism and a lot of good infrastructure.

“There are so many similarities between Kiwis and Irish people. They have the same attitudes, with the same work ethic and sense of fun. There are not a whole lot of cultural differences in that aspect. There is also a lot of respect between the two countries.”

Lynott’s ultimate view on New Zealanders is also probably also key to his success in business: “They know how to get the work/life balance correct.”

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