Originally from New Zealand, Cheyne initially wanted to become a professional rugby player. But in the end, for his career, he eventually turned towards another passion of his: surfing. At 32 years old, he manages Events and Marketing for the World Surf League (WSL) and pro surfing in Europe.
Where were you born?
I was born in Bayonne, on the opening day of the fiestas!
Your surname, Bradburn, where is that from?
My father is from New Zealand. He came to France after college to travel, play rugby and surf. That’s where he met my mother who is from the Basque country. He never left.
What do your parents do for a living?
My mother is a dentist. My father worked at Napali at the European head offices of Quiksilver/Roxy in Saint-Jean-de-Luz.
He even joined executive management, didn’t he?
Yes, he did. He was one of the first employees to have worked at the Quiksilver/Roxy head offices in Europe with Harry Hodge, Jeff Hakman… Aussies and Kiwis got along well. He started out working in the very first Quiksilver surf shop in Biarritz and he ended up as an executive in export.
And how about you? Are you more rugby or more surfing?
I’m more of a “sports in general” kind of guy. My father got me in the water very young. But of course, given my New-Zealand heritage, I naturally played rugby.
Do you still play rugby?
Actually I’m in the final stretches now, because it’s getting harder to take the hit (laughs). I was in “sport-étude” rugby (Ed.: sports-intensive class program) in high school in Bayonne and later I played for the Biarritz Olympic for quite a few years.
“I was prepared to become a professional athlete, but I could tell that at some point I would reach my limits.”
Did you not want to make a career out of it?
Since I was in the elite youth section, I was prepared to become a professional athlete, but I could tell that at some point I would reach my limits. I chose to stop elite competition and focus on my studies.
What did you study?
After graduating from high school, I went to live in London for a year, working as a French teaching assistant in an English school.
Did you like it?
What I liked most was being abroad. I also enjoyed being able to work with collective sports groups in addition to teaching French.
What did you do when you came back to France?
I attended the IUT Tech de Co in Bayonne because they offered a variety of courses in all kinds of fields. We studied marketing, communication, business, law, accountancy, etc. Then I went to Paris for one year to get a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Sports Management.
That’s when I did my first internship at Quiksilver/Roxy in the events department with Mathieu Darrigand who later became my mentor.
After graduating and after my internship, I got a Master’s degree in Sports Management in Bayonne and spent my second semester in a University in the Cape in South Africa.
Why South Africa?
To discover a new country, to surf, even though it wasn’t the most reassuring of places to go (laughs) and to play rugby. I played in college and there were matches every Thursday evening with all the students, kind of like in the States.
So you were the star athlete in college…
Yeah, I was the little Frenchy (laughs).
When I got back from South Africa, Mathieu Darrigand contacted me and asked me to organize the “Surf de Nuit”, a night surfing event that Quiksilver was organizing with the city of Anglet.
Were you able to combine work and school during your last year as a Master’s student?
No, it was during summer break before I was going to start my second year in the Master’s program. After that, Mathieu Darrigand suggested that I take over his position as Events Manager, since he was going to be promoted to another position. I therefore didn’t go back to school to finish the Masters.
So you were responsible for organizing all the Quiksilver/Roxy events in Europe?
That’s right. It was my first real job and I jumped right in the deep end into what it means to be a professional. I organized events in surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding and concerts. I knew the Quiksilver/Roxy brands inside-out since I’d grown up around them with my father’s job.
“It isn’t always easy working in a company when your relatives work there too. You can’t settle for giving it 100%. You have to give it 200%.”
Did that ever hinder you in any way?
It isn’t always easy working in a company when your relatives work there too. You can’t settle for giving it 100%. You have to give 200% so people don’t get jealous. But I think that if I stayed there for so long, it’s because I managed to prove I was worthy.
Why did you leave Quiksilver/Roxy after 7 years?
It was a little radical actually… The events department I was in was closed down.
How did you experience that process?
At the beginning I was in shock… but in the end it all worked out since I joined the ASP Europe (Ed.: former name of the WSL Europe), who were reorganizing and looking for someone to manage their events in Europe.
“Before, I organized events to promote brands. Now we organize events to promote the sport itself.”
So it isn’t all that different from your last job…
Before, I organized events to promote brands. Now we organize events to promote the sport itself.
As Event & Marketing Manager, what exactly is it you do?
Event & Marketing Manager for the WSL is a multi-tasking job. There is of course the events side, which takes up a lot of time. But there is also all the rest, which includes Marketing, Digital issues, Media relations, PR relations, Partnerships… It’s obviously not something only one person can do. It’s a team effort.
What is a typical day during an event for you?
There is no real “typical” day for me, because it all depends on the waves and the weather. This isn’t a stadium or indoor sport. When all the right conditions are present, we generally have a sunrise call time, with all preparations starting roughly an hour before. Once the heats have started, we make sure everything goes smoothly with the teams, logistics, athletes, our VIPs… and the list goes on!
How many events do you organize per year?
In Europe, we have around twenty events, which makes us the region with the most events.
What drives you the most in your job?
The fact that there is no routine. We travel, we meet all kinds of people and work on new projects. I also love drawing inspiration from other events, other sports. I recently went to the Open Golf Tournament in France and the finals of the Top14 in Barcelona. There are so many great ideas to be found to keep improving what we do…
What is your best professional memory?
My best and worst memory is one in the same! It’s when we organized the Tony Hawk Show at the Grand Palais in Paris, which is a historical classified venue. It was an environment we really didn’t know at all. We wound up with high-calibre event management teams who took us for… well, surfers (laughs). Everything had to be planned to the minute for over three days and 24/7! In the end, the result was awesome and I really loved the experience.
Apart from surfing, what type of event would you dream of organizing?
I’d really like to organize a collective sports event like one of the rugby sevens world series events.
You have an intense job. How do you manage your stress?
I keep a lot of it inside, or at least I try to… or else I tend to isolate myself. When I am at an event, I like to take a little distance and observe things from afar.
Any good advice you’ve been given you can share with us?
Never give in, never relax, never take it easy even when you think it’s easy.