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Published 04 April 2013 10:21, Updated 16 April 2013 13:39
Brian White thrives on the thrills after a few tough years in the real estate industry. Photo: Jim Rice
Running a franchise network can be a lucrative exercise, but the politics of managing a network of owners can also make it incredibly stressful. Not to mention a network of thousands of real estate agents who are masters at negotiating a favourable outcome for themselves and their clients.
That’s why Brian White, chairman of Ray White Group, takes his holidays seriously. Around 13 years ago, aged 58, he accepted an invitation from fellow Queensland-based property businessman Don O’Rourke to go surfing. Not at Noosa or Surfer’s Paradise, but on the reefs along Indonesia’s Mentawai Islands, off the western coast of Sumatra.
The world-famous surfing destination offers consistently big waves and even breaks. After tasting the experience the first time, White has since gone back several times a year.
“The surf there is just incredible,” White says. “I’ve never been on a surf trip where at least half the days you haven’t had absolutely cracker conditions, and if you compare that to Australia it’s just amazing odds.”
White began on shorter boards, but says as he gets older, the boards get longer. Now he’s up to about 10 feet, which allows him to get enough speed to ride some of the larger waves without the help of a jet-ski. The biggest board he’s been on would be about double over his own head.
“They’re bloody big when you’re on them,” White says. “When you see a photograph of them compared to the photos of the professional riders, they look minuscule. But when you catch some of them your heart is beating virtually outside the body. A good wave changes your life.”
Surfing represents a clean break from his commercial life, but there’s a certain similarity between chasing waves and chasing deals. Last year the nearly 1000-office Ray White network sold more than $25 billion worth of property, and White says real estate still excites him. He describes the sense now that the real estate market is changing as a “thrilling sensation” – a feeling no doubt shared by the community of real estate agents who have had a rough few years.
Riding waves is an ability White learned early, growing up in Brisbane with regular holidays to the Gold Coast. He took up skiing for a while but gave it away after his first trip to Sumatra, and says it’s important to keep a range of interests on the boil.
“I think you’re mad not to explore as wide a range of interests as you can,” White says. “I can’t imagine not having something that blows your head off. A good wave is such a thrill that you go to bed thinking about it, you wake up in the morning thinking about it. I’m thinking about it now.”