Experience West Sussex, which is chaired by Arun District Council’s chief executive Nigel Lynn and All on Board, a watersports project by the Coastal West Sussex Partnership, invited prominent figures including local kitesurfing champion Lewis Crathern, councillor Jim Brooks, chairman of the district council, and the mayor of Littlehampton, Michelle Molloy, for a tour of the site.
Mr Lynn said: “Littlehampton seafront is perfect for watersports and this is exactly the type of investment we want to see.”
In 2016, the site, which is located on the seafront opposite the skate park where the under-used promenade shelter is currently situated, was advertised as a development opportunity with the council keen for proposals that would add value and support the local tourism economy.
Following a competitive tendering and shortlisting process, Jamie Hawkins, owner of Coastal Coffee, became the successful business operator and planning consent was granted for the venue in 2017.
Jamie, who has many years of experience in operating food and drink outlets and is also a former professional windsurfer who won the world championships three times, said: “I always thought it would be a great location for a café so when I heard about the tender for the former beach shelter, for me it was a dream. It was the opportunity for me to combine my passion for watersports with my knowledge of running cafes.”
Loop Watersports provides tuition in kitesurfing, paddleboarding, windsurfing and wingfoiling, while The Beach @ Littlehampton was designed to serve the local community as a social hub for groups and activities.
Building had just begun when the pandemic began to take hold. Despite this, Jamie pushed ahead with plans for the project.
The council-owned building is now undergoing final interior touches before the café can open.
The takeaway service is set to go and the watersports centre is ready to start taking bookings – all in time for the summer season.
Councillor Andy Cooper, the district council’s chairman of the economy committee, said: “This fantastic venue is already sparking interest and I’m confident it will be a real hit once it’s fully up and running, especially in Jamie’s capable hands.
“Having a venture like this on the seafront will be a real boost for Littlehampton and the economy of the town.”
Samantha Smithson, leader of the All on Board project, added: “Littlehampton’s new cafe and centre are sure to draw new visitors to the region, welcoming them to our shore, and will be a great asset to the local community, creating jobs and promoting the benefits of outdoor activities and sports.
“Watersports are fantastic for anyone looking to try an exciting new sport and gain a more active lifestyle and are of great interest for locals and visitors alike.”