I started surfing super late. I was 16 and a junior in high school. It was 1980. MTV had not launched yet and cell phones were a myth. The twin-fins era was dominating the surf scene. I was working at Union 76 station and a bus boy on weekends at the Sheraton. I saved enough money to buy a 1972 Toyota Corona - she was a green 4-door sedan with an automatic. The shifter was on the column with a wide bench front seat. I slapped Aloha Racks on the roof and she instantly became my best friend.
I would drive 2.5-3 hours every weekend heading towards central coast learning to ride the wild surf. The water temperature was in the low 50’s. O’Neill had the best wetsuit at that time, but it was super expensive. So I bought a used sleeveless farmer-john wetsuit at a garage sale in Cayucos and a giant 9’6 Dennis William log with glass on single fin. The board weighed roughly 25 pounds plus, and as a high school junior, I think I was around 105 pounds.
I would spend the entire day at Atascadero Beach teaching myself how to surf. I would arrive super early. Most of the time, I would sit in the car waiting for the first sun light. All the locals were surfing at the Rock, but I was not good enough of surfer to be in the lineup.
Like most conditions in California, as the land temperature began to rise so does the on-shore wind. But I was so addicted and determined to surf, I did not care. In the howling on-shore wind with a lousy wetsuit, I stayed in the water until I was near frozen. I remember rushing back to my car, blast the heater to its maximum temp so the defrost could begin. I repeated this until the sun set. Exhausted and hungry, I would make the familiar three-hour drive back home. Carl's Jr. in Kettlemen City was my usual dinner stop because they had a special where I could be stuffed for less than $4.00.
I was day dreaming about surfing every waking moment. My room was full of spreads from Surfer and Surfing Magazine. Most of the photos were of Gerry Lopez and Ronnie Burns at Pipeline and some of Tom Curren & OCCY. I am a goofy footer.
“Wavelengths Surf Shop coming soon,” an ad in the local newspaper that I saw in the Fresno Bee said. I do not know a word that can describe the excitement that I had. My wish at that time was to quit my three jobs and work in a surf shop (be careful of what you wish for). I met the two founders/brothers (Patrick & Michael) in Morrow Bay. That was the birth of Wavelengths Surf Shop. When the shop first opened, I would go by every day whether before work or after work. I would hang around the shop like a fly hovering ripened fruit. I think Patrick felt sorry for me, and after a few months he gave me a job (after all, I have just been living in America for only 6 years - my English was horrific, and my grammar and accent sounded like the comedian, Anjelah Johnson).
But now I felt validated to call myself a surfer, even though I could still barely catch a wave. I had roof racks on my car, a 9’6, and I worked at Wavelengths. I was officially employee number one. With pride and immense joy, I put my heart into my job. I did whatever was needed, and I was so lucky to have Patrick as my first mentor. I did not know it then but looking back, he instrumentally shaped my early vision of leadership and entrepreneurship (I will share this with you on a different post).
Four years passed. I witnessed the demise of twin fins and the emergent creation of Simon Anderson’s tri fins. By this time, I was a single father and soon to be a college graduate. My plan was to move closer to warm water somewhere in Southern California. Four months from my graduation date, Rick, my co-worker at Wavelengths, decided to move to Oahu to chase his dream of surfing the Miracle Mile on the North Shore. I decided to follow him.
One of the saddest days of my life was saying goodbye to Patrick and his wife, Susan. He had become more of a father and dear friend to me than a boss. He taught me more about life and business than the five years I spent in college. On my last day, we gave each other the biggest hug of our lives. I cried as I walked to my car. He yelled at me from a distance and asked me to come back. He looked in to my eyes and said, “Susan is pregnant!”. They had been trying for the last 3 years and they just found out on the same week I was leaving. We both cried with joy. I left for Hawaii Nei the next day. Our sons were born a few months apart.
With a backpack, $350 cash and a brand-new T&C Peter Benjamin shaped 6’4, I arrived in Paradise. I guess the rest is history. I worked at the two best surfboard companies in the world: T&C and Blue Hawaii, then went on to be the Regional VP for Quiksilver. I guess you could say that I never had a real job. I am lucky beyond words. I am even more blessed than lucky.
Looking back, the lesson I have learned the most was passion. I know we sometimes hear this six-letter word too often, but I do not think we really take the time to truly see the power in it. I was so damn lucky to find mine at the age of 16. I cannot imagine what my life would have been like if I had not found it. Most of us follow our parents' programming since birth. Unfortunately, the typical programming does not lead to discovering our passion or develop our inner voice, our intuition. Within a few full moons and sunsets, we find ourselves in the matrix. The mundane of the nine-to-five, the piling credit card debts, rooms full of material things and the occasional two-week vacations. Then suddenly, we reach the last phase of our life and we become awakened. Believe me, it has not been easy following my passion. There are many doubters along the way. The universe will place a giant obstacle when you least expect it. There are many deep dark valleys. I don’t think I would have made it if I was not passionate about my path. I would have easily abandoned it when the roads got tough.
What I can share with you is when we live a life with passion the “purpose” soon follows. Not only do we become more infectious to others, but it also helps us lead others. Passionate people seem to have a deeper development in emotional intelligence than others. I always believe money and happiness have nothing to do with each other, but I believe passion and happiness live in the same room. My wife, Jen, says I am stubborn. My response to her is always, “You are mistaking stubbornness for passion!”
“What I have learnt is that it is important to pursue your passion more than your legacy; if you have a passion with a purpose, then everything else fits in.” Nita Ambani