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April, 2024

Former Carnival marketing chief joins Urbnsurf as new CEO

Former marketing leader and experience travel industry executive, Jennifer Vandekreeke has been appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer of startup park operator, Urbnsurf

Confirmed by recruitment lead, Kate Ferguson, on LinkedIn this week, Vandekreeke takes up the reins from May, replacing Damon Tudor, who announced his plans to step down after five years last November.

Urbnsurf is a five-year-old Australian surf park industry player and operates Urbnsurf Melbourne. Its second location, Urbnsurf Sydney, at Sydney Olympic Park is set to open in April. Its directors include chair, Simon Bayley, former surfing champion, Layne Beachley AO, and David Wakeley.

Vandekreeke brings with her a wealth of experience in the travel and leisure sector, having successfully grown companies by crafting exceptional customer experiences that align closely with the brand identity.

“Her leadership comes at a pivotal moment as Urbnsurf steps into a new chapter, becoming the sole owner, developer, and operator of two surf parks worldwide,” Ferguson said in a post.

Vandekreeke is best known for her 12 years at Carnival Australia, working her way up from director of marketing and advertising to VP and general manager of Australia. She left there in mid-2021 and worked as EGM of expeditions for The NRMA for 18 months, before a nine-month contract stint as a strategic advisor with Captain Cook Cruises.

From the US, Vandekreeke was previously director of marketing for Club Medi, and started her career in agency land, working up to director of strategic planning at Young & Rubicam before making the switch to client-side marketing.

“The URBNSURF team is a perfect blend of passion, talent and hustle. The team has already written the playbook on how to build and operate a Surf Park. And we’re about to write the next chapter in our story focusing on commercialisation and customer experience in this exciting and emerging industry,” Vandekreeke said in a post.

“At Urbnsurf, we are stoked to help people of all ages and abilities surf more, and surf better.

“Those who know me well can confirm that I live in a surf mad household, but I am a decidedly mediocre surfer who has always been too intimidated to paddle into the lineup. Which is why a Surf Park is a great place for me to learn and progress my surfing. Stay tuned as I’ll be reporting back regularly on my own personal journey to surf more, and surf better.”

Urbnsurf Melbourne was recognised as the Most Appealing Surf Park Destination, The Most Popular Surf Park for Beginners & Intermediates and The Most Appealing Surf Park Amenities, at the 2021 Surf Park Awards hosted in San Diego in October 2021.

Another marketing and business leader, Tudor during his tenure navigated the startup through to its current position of 250,000 transactions annually. He’s overseen a relaunch of Urbnsurf Melbourne, navigated through Covid with six subsequent business closures, completed numerous capital raises totalling $120 million and steered the Sydney project through to its launch this month. The group now has 300 staff.