The Master Behind Watersports In Goa – India’s Sunshine Capital

Interviews October 11, 2018

A quick Google search for ‘watersports in Goa’ will always give you the same search highlight- Atlantis Watersports. The adventure company dominates Google search results related to watersport activities in and around Goa. It’s a great position as a tourism business to hold in the sunshine state as it is a big hit with tourists. But, how did Atlantis get to its #1 position on the tourism map? And, why do people keep coming back to them for their fill of adventure?


Google search for watersports in Goa-Atlantis Watersports


We decided to share with you what goes on behind the scenes of Atlantis Watersports. And, here are the secrets we uncovered from the founder himself, Herbert Rodrigues, better known as Charlie among locals, his friends and guests.

Atlantis Watersports Started As A Hobby

48 year old Charlie looks pretty much like the everyday Goan, but his back story (and pictures from the past) tell a whole different tale that sets him apart. He’s a strong believer in hard work which led him to start his own seafood export business. It brought in plenty of income but, with many following suit, he felt the business lost its charm. He ended things and got into running a restaurant to help out a friend. But, in the back of his mind, he kept recalling his dream to live at the beach. He settled for Calangute (Goa’s most popular beach), leaving the restaurant business.


Charlie enjoying a casual surf-Atlantis Watersports

Charlie enjoying a casual surf


To enjoy the beach to its fullest, Charlie set up a hut to live there and spent his day swimming, kayaking, meeting new people and swimming some more. Soon he picked up a new beach hobby, windsurfing. During the 90s, surfboards and kayaks were unique along the Goan coastline. And, seeing Charlie man them so effortlessly, intrigued beach goers. Tourist kept asking if he would rent out his kayak. That’s when, an idea struck him and Atlantis Watersports was born.


Beach Logo-Atlantis Watersports


From A Hobby To A Business


Right from the start, watersports was always a hobby for Charlie. But, since people began to show interest, he bought another 2-3 second-hand surf boards to lease out to customers. But, still it wasn’t a full fledged business. He always saw it as 10% business and 90% hobby.

I loved windsurfing the whole day. But, with the calm morning wind I couldn’t, so I would kayak in the mornings. Later, I thought of buying a car within a Rs.5 lakh budget. But, being at the beach 24×7 and I was hardly on the road. So, I bought a brand new Yamaha jet ski instead and would train customers to use the watersport gear then use it myself till the next customer came.

Charlie (Herbert Rodrigues), Founder, Atlantis Watersports

The following obsession he had was water skiing. So, Charlie bought a speedboat and during his off-season travels abroad, he picked up watersport gear to pair with the speedboat. Slowly, he built a collection of water skis, wakeboards, surfboards, kneeboards, bodyboards and other small equipment he could carry along with him.


“Since I was spending on myself (by buying these equipment) I felt like I was getting double the benefit.”


As things started getting commercialised, Charlie started offering bumper rides, banana rides, boat rides and dolphin trips. Soon his love affair with watersports turned into a 50% hobby and 50% business. Business was booming back then since he was the only one offering these varied adventure activities in Goa. And, he enjoyed every bit of his new trade as he recalls,

“I was the first one to get to the beach and the last one to leave.”


Setting Up New Priorities, Compounding Old Ones


But, soon things changed and Charlie was running a full fledged business. He sacrificed the nightlife he’d come to enjoy and began taking more responsibility as a tour operator, committing more to his trade and enforcing more safety measures.

“I was dealing with people from morning till evening and I respected safety as a #1 priority. This business involved manual work and I was the only one. I needed energy to keep up with the waves (especially when the sea is rough) to make sure everyone was safe. I was confident in my capabilities.”

The Struggles Tied With The Booming Tourism Industry


As Charlie’s businesses started taking off, competition arose for a slice of the same success. So, he suggested local authorities to make rules in advance to control the industry. But, his requests went unheard. With time, the following challenges showed up but Charlie managed to handle them well:

Making safety a priority

Some tour operators would take people out on joyrides in fishing canoes and pack them onboard, unaware of the hazzards. Carrying life jackets was not a common practice. Tragedy made many of them more cautious. In an attempt to do his bit, Charlie reached out to authorities to get rules in place. For his own business, he made sure to train customers for the activity and in case of accidents, prepared himself to handle with the waves and arranged for life jackets.


Safety is a big part of Atlantis Watersports, even in their Advertising

Safety is a big part of Atlantis Watersports, even in their Advertising

Registration was a headache

To acquire the relevant license for his business, Charlie was redirected from one authority to another. Going about things this way was difficult for him. The joys of running his business came from being at the beach, not running from office to office. While, going through the registration process every year is a pain, over the years the process evolved to a much better one.

A proper system was required

There was very little focus on watersports back then in the 90’s. So, the dedicated areas (on popular Goan beaches) for these activities were not established. This would result in accidents and sometimes arguments with fishermen. Charlie did his best to maintain good relations with the local business ecosystem where he conducted the watersports activities. In turn, it earned him respect and assistance from fishermen, canoe owners and local people whenever needed.

Lack of originality

The content and photographs on the Atlantis website has been copied quite often by many competitors. The only change made is to the business name. But, in the bargain, this impacts those businesses negatively. Google is known to penalize copyright infringers. However, this action takes time.

Tragedy Beyond Industrial Challenges


The year 2004, is one year Charlie will never forget. As a professional windsurfer, he received the opportunity to represent India all the way in Italy. Before heading out, there was a meetup in Mumbai for all the representatives to showcase their talents. While in Mumbai, Charlie received a devastating phone call.


The Atlantis Watersports HQ had burned down.


Back home the canvas tent used by him and his team to work and live in was burnt to ashes. He lost at least Rs.1 crore worth equipment, fuel and belongings in that fire. Many things were not insured. Now, the problem the authorities saw was, if one shack catches fire, many can. So, most of the shacks were closed for a while.


Back To Square One

When Charlie got back, he’d lost his whole business, his gear, boats, his home. But, it didn’t leave a damper on his dreams. When asked what went through his mind at that time, he said,


“Some people said the fire could have been the doing of a jealous competitor. Some said it was an accident, a passerby must have thrown a cigarette butt near the tent. Others said it was the carelessness of my staff. But, I didn’t blame anyone. What happened, happened. When you fall down, you must get up again.”


With that, he got into watersports again, but once more as a hobby. Gone were the beach tent and gear for rent. Charlie settled for a plastic chair and beach umbrella and started distributing watersports flyers at the beach. This time however, his business concept had changed.


From A Watersports Operator To A Tour And Activities Aggregator

The second time around, Charlie became an aggregator. It removed the risk of losing a large stock of equipment. He still provided some activities himself, since he loved teaching windsurfing, but many other activities he acquired through trusted operators.


Watersports aggregator-Atlantis Watersports


Without the trouble of having to manage equipment and customers, Charlie had more time to think about his business and enjoy the beach once again. As things picked up, his business began expanding. From the usual watersports in the sea, he moved into offering island trips, waterfall trips and fishing trips.

The Business Boosts


Influence from Bollywood

Later on in 2011, with the release of the Bollywood hit Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and the surreal diving scenes captured underwater, scuba diving in Goa was a major hit. It was the best selling activity for Atlantis at the time and brought the business more attention from tourists.

Contact with corporates

Without an office, Charlie managed to bag big clients. He would send promotional emails to corporate companies (like SONY, L’Oreal, IBM, Microsoft and others) to book his tours, from a cyber cafe nearby. He collected their contacts through customers he met at the beach.

Assured safety

To ensure things move smoothly Charlie makes sure the activities providers he ties up with are professionals with necessary certification and training from bodies like the National Institute of Watersports (NIWS) and PADI. It keeps their clients safe and allows them to provide an enjoyable experience every time.

Feedback collection

Since the beginning, Charlie has made it a habit to collect feedback from his customers. He strongly believes it helps him grow. Even now, he follows up with clients the next day to collect their reviews over the phone.

Experiments with marketing

When it comes to advertising, Atlantis has tried a combination of techniques to find the best results. Apart from offline leaflet distribution and recommendations from customers, Atlantis has also tried online means of guest blogging, travel blogging, travel vlogging and SEO. He has set up his business on Cleartrip Activities too for a wider reach. Charlie believes it’s important to keep trying more methods of marketing and promotion because there are new ones introduced every time. A unique feature they offer is a toll free number to clients. It has improved interactions with clients immensely.


The Biggest Boost Of All – Taking Atlantis Watersports Online

According to Charlie, an online presence is necessary to grow along with the modern generation. If he had to stick to his offline practices he feels his business would have stayed the same. After launching his website, he interacted with Vacation Labs to accept bookings online. Here’s how he explains the results,

With the booking engine from Vacation Labs, we could accept bookings online. Our bookings have increased by 50% with Vacation Labs. I remember even late in the night my phone would keep ringing because of booking notifications. But, it would make me happy because those were all the new bookings we were getting.

– Vacation Labs has really helped our business grow
– Their team is very responsive
– Their booking engine is very helpful with collecting customer details and accepting payments

We can still do more with Vacation Labs’ system but we have not experimented everything yet.

Charlie (Herbert Rodrigues), Founder, Atlantis Watersports

What Makes Atlantis Watersports A Market Leader?


Watersports -Atlantis Watersports


From inception in 1993 till date, Charlie has had many accomplishments in his line of work. From a team of 2 people, he has scaled to a staff of 40. He feels keeping the team small helps him maintain control. But, the real fascinating numbers related to his business are these:



When talking about competition today, Charlie says,

“Our business runs 12 months a year and our bookings have increased because of  it. When it comes to competition I don’t think we have any because we are at a completely different level.”


What Will It Take To Achieve Similar Success?


As we wound back to the popularity Atlantis has online for watersports in Goa, we asked Charlie for his advice to other tour operators. He strongly believes that the government and tour operators must coordinate to develop a systematic process like the ones abroad. Also, communicate with customers and provide them the best experience from start to finish. Feedback is important to help you grow and word of mouth is the best publicity to have.  

Next, he says that new adventure activities must be introduced by tour operators and safety must never be compromised. It’s important to do the things you feel are worthwhile when you enjoy doing them yourself. This is the best way to do business, ensure service quality, safety and your own satisfaction.

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