Archive for category: Family and Friends

Flat Day Family Fun – Stand Up Paddleboarding

18 Jun
June 18, 2014

Looking for something really, really fun to do by yourself or with your family? Try Stand-up Paddleboarding with H20 Generation! My good friend, “Chickie” Dimain, perhaps better known locally, regionally and internationally  as, “Da Buh” for his DaBuh.com surf forecast, has opened a new business providing lessons and guided tours for H20 Generation Paddleboards. Chickie offers tours inside Swimming Pen Creek, launching from Whitey’s fish camp on Fleming Island.

Currently, for just $25 per person, Chickie will provide a lesson and the tour (about a 2 mile round-trip paddle), where you’re likely to see a great deal of wildlife including manatees, turtles, blue herons and other species. If you prefer a shorter or longer distance, Chickie will accommodate you. Of course, if you prefer to paddle alone, you can do that too.

Chickie can also drop the boards off at any location and give you private lessons at your place. This is also great for groups, birthdays, corporate and team-building outings. Think, the baseball team or cheerleading squad! Chickie also sells his beautiful H20 Generation Boards. They are all MADE IN AMERICA! (NYC) and they are epoxy, which makes them incredibly durable, light and bouyant! They regularly retail for about $1,000, but he is providing deals right now while in start-up (great deals!) Check him out for rentals or sales at 904-444-2149.

I took my wife, 15-year old daughter and 11-year-old daughter this past weekend. They had never SUP’ed before, took a brief 10-minute lesson and none of them ever fell the entire day. Not once! The two miles were the perfect distance for all of us. My oldest daughter is now already asking for her own paddleboard for Christmas! I cannot recommend it highly enough. Chickie and his beautiful daughter, Ella, are great guides and will make you feel safe and right at home in the water, no matter your level of experience. If you’re surfer and  it’s flat, you’ll love this, I assure you. I particularly enjoyed being in the water with my entire family, the light workout and just enjoying the scenic beauty of our natural surroundings. Speaking of natural surroundings, I won’t speculate on what kind of bush that is growing there in the parking lot at Whitey’s in the photo, below.

H20 Generation Paddleboards- Jacksonville, FL

H20 Generation paddleboards are beautiful! Bouyant, lightweight, durable, affordable & MADE IN AMERICA!

H20 Paddleboard Instruction

Chickie and Ella provide Gretchen with some SUP instruction prior to our tour

Children love stand-up paddleboarding!

Kendall and Kaelyn were up within minutes, paddled almost two miles and never fell!

Fathers and daughters

Our day of SUPing was a Father’s Day gift from my daughters- a perfect choice! Thanks girls!

 

Madison, Kendall and Kaelyn

08 Jun
June 8, 2014

A few of the Hamby girls- sisters, Kendall (middle) and Kaelyn (right), along with cousin Madison (left). Madison is my older brother’s (Rob’s) daughter. He has two more missing from this photo- Abby and Caroline. We are from a family of three boys, with no girls. My mom always wanted a daughter, but finally gave up trying! Naturally, I assumed that my brothers and I would (likely) only be able to produce boys when we had kids.  Instead, we have (5) girls with no boys between us! Talk about a flip!

My mother is in heaven and I have to admit- I love it, too! I remember how much trouble my brothers and I got into growing up and I’d just assume not return there, as a parent! Girls are soooo much easier- at least so far, with these girls! This picture was taken at Aunt Kate’s near Vilano Beach. We were out celebrating Kaelyn’s graduation from elementary school. It’s crazy to think that there are (5) Hamby girls prowling the halls of the local elementary, middle and high schools in Ponte Vedra these days.They are good kids and great friends, which is something special.

Over the Edge: Sports Parents Who Push Their Kids Too Hard

04 May
May 4, 2014

This happened.

And pardon my use of the word, “push” in the headline. What I should have said was, “kick”. As in “kick in the ass”. Because that’s what you’ll see in this video. The parent of a six-year-old kicking his child off the ledge of a 13-foot skate ramp because the boy couldn’t muster the courage to drop into “Big Brown”, the intimidating half-pipe at legendary Kona Skate in Jacksonville, Florida. A young teenager at the park filmed the scene because he claimed it happened three times earlier that day.

I’m sorry- but if this isn’t child abuse, I don’t know what is.

The images and sounds are extremely disturbing. The little boy –a local skateboarding prodigy- seems to look up at his dad for some reassurance and/or to express anxiety over not being able to gather the courage to make the drop. Clearly frustrated, his father sneaks behind him and literally kicks him in the ass, sending him flying and landing on his tailbone at the bottom of the pit. You can hear the child crying in a mix of terror and pain when he hits the bottom. It’s the kind of fall that can leave a person with broken bones, paralyzed or even dead.

Worst of all, the little boy never even had a chance for a proper knee slide. His father kicked that opportunity right out from underneath him, before quickly fleeing the scene. Never mind that many skaters with years of experience at Kona regularly avoid this particular ramp, or that what might seem like 13 feet to an adult, probably seems more like 26 feet to a six-year-old half his size. Simply put, the father took out his anger and frustration on the child, physically.

Thankfully, the teenager who was smart enough to video the incident reported it to park officials, and also gave it to a friend to post on Instagram. The local area Instagrammers Club (#Igersjax) quickly picked up the clip and called out the father, harshly criticizing the act and exhorting its members and followers to re-share the post, help identify the dad and report it to local authorities and media. A social media firestorm quickly ensued, as the video went viral. The father was identified and was reportedly being dealt with by the Department of Children and Families. At the park, Kona officials had already asked the man, who reportedly skates often at the park with his son, to leave immediately.

In ensuing social media posts, one or two skaters, who seemed to be acquaintances tried to defend the father’s actions, but most, including both amateurs and pros were quick to point out that such actions had no place in skateboarding, or anywhere else. The father reportedly expressed remorse, saying he was, “caught up in the moment”. But such an event sure makes you wonder what a normal day at home might be like for this little boy, when father and son aren’t out having, “fun”.

While it is unknown if the father will lose custody of his child or be charged with a crime, he will no doubt pay the price for it due to the digital legacy of the shocking video and whatever emotional damage he may have caused his son now and in the future.

While this video is particularly distasteful due to the callous nature shown by the father to his son, it is ultimately one of countless episodes of hyper-competitive parents pushing their kids to extremes to excel, to satisfy their own egos. Skate dads, dance moms and bloated beauty queens who exploit their toddlers in tiaras- they’re all the same people. Selfish parents yearning to live vicariously through their kids at just about any expense.

Bad doses of reality.

Pushing children too hard, too young, runs the risk of inflicting permanent physical and emotional harm upon them, and burnout before they ever near their true potential. Remember that most kids, even veritable prodigies who may achieve truly significant accomplishments at an early age, are likely far less interested in competitive domination, and much more in simply having fun, and connecting with their parents. And by that, I don’t mean by way of a foot in their rear end.

Note: This is an article that I originally wrote for Seshn.com, an online magazine for a variety of creators with a strong emphasis on arts and action sports.

Changing Conditions

04 May
May 4, 2014

 

Photo, courtesy of Pat "Tupat" Eichstaedt

Photo, courtesy of Pat “Tupat” Eichstaedt

Author’s note: This is a story I originally wrote for The Inertia, billed as, “surfing’s definitive online community featuring news, opinions, photography, videos and art from many of surfing’s most talented figures.” 

Transformation, reinvention and evolution are rarely easy. Yet they are a part of life as ancient as the ocean and constant as her rhythms. Life is a series of crests and valleys. And our conditions are ever-changing. When we embrace the concept of evolution, we not only learn to roll with life’s changes, we begin to recognize the opportunities they present. At the very least, we overcome our fears of them. I know because I was forced to evolve following a sudden, deep and unexpected period of change in my life recently. And turning back wasn’t an option.

I’m sharing my story for a few reasons: One was a remarkably timely email that I received from The Inertia a few weeks ago, informing me of some changes coming to their website. The note also asked if I might consider writing about a “significant moment of change” in my own life, something that led to “personal growth and transformation” in conjunction with their re-launch. “Ideally,” the email read, “it could relate to surfing, but also just to life in general.”

My experience certainly relates to, “life in general,” and, as for “surfing,” to me those two things are inseparable. After God, family and friends, surfing has probably been the most significant influence in my life since first standing up on a wave at age 15. Most major decisions I’ve made in my life – where I’ve lived, who I married, how I’ve spent my time and money, have almost always been linked to surfing in one way or another. Isn’t that the all-consuming nature of the sport (activity) that so many of us have freely surrendered to?

Interesting is the role that The Inertia itself played during my period of evolution. I don’t even know if Zach, Alex, Ted or anyone else was aware. Another reason I thought it an ideal time to share. Most importantly, I thought there might be others out there navigating similar times of unexpected change in their own lives who could find some value or encouragement in my experiences.

My “transformation” began in late 2007 when the collapse of the housing market struck a devastating, and ultimately fatal, blow to my 11-year old real estate marketing firm. The business I had launched with one friend out of a small apartment a decade earlier had grown into a 27-person, full-service integrated marketing agency doing about $5 million-a-year, every year.

Until the housing bubble burst.

Understand that there’s a reason people use this specific language when talking about sudden market collapses. When “bubbles burst,” by definition, they cease to existAnd that’s exactly what happened to our industry and our business. One day, we were working 20 or so large accounts. Then, seemingly overnight, all new development just… stopped.

All of it.

The next four years would become a steady series of layoffs of people I considered family, and for whom I felt responsible in much the same way. I delayed every cut for as long as I could while methodically feeding the company with all of the resources my wife and I had worked hard to accumulate over 15 years of marriage.

We liquidated our savings.

Our real estate investments.

Our 401K’s.

And finally, our home, which we were forced to sell to tap its equity. Thank God it sold when it did, or the bank may well have taken it from us.

Now, I have never been materialistic and can be as happy with nothing as I can with abundance. But, the fact was that my life had turned upside down, and the changes were painful. The home my wife and I had built eight years earlier was located directly across the street from the ocean with private access to a beautiful empty beach, with three extremely consistent sandbars within 150 yards of each other. For years, I could walk right out my front door and go surf anytime I felt like it.

As owner of my own business, I rarely missed a swell.

When my boards lost their pop, I ordered new ones.

And I traveled… Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Barbados, The Dominican Republic, Mexico (Mainland and Baja), Costa Rica (over and over), the Bahamas (over and over). But those days had come to an end.

Breaking down our 10,000 s.f. office was physically and emotionally grueling. My partners and I had invested $425,000 building it out to create a one-of-a-kind environment. Now I was selling designer furniture and high tech equipment for next to nothing on Craigslist.

I remember a revelation I had when boxing literally hundreds of local, regional and national awards we had won over the years for just about every creative marketing and design category you could imagine.

You know the saying, “You can’t take it with you?” I get that now. At the end of the day, what value do these things really hold? I wondered then, and do still today, if Kelly Slater feels the same way about his collection of awards which must certainly far outnumber those we had accumulated. I have to believe that he must.

Still, stubbornly, I packed every last one of them with care, lugging five God-awful heavy boxes home with me. My justification: this was for my daughters – so that one day in the future they might pull these things down from the attic, brush off the dust and discover, “Damn – Dad was pretty good.”

A few weeks later, I reconsidered.

I realized that my daughters already know exactly who I am, and everything that is truly “important” about me, and to me. My values. My beliefs. The things I feel are important to stand up for. And what they might understand or think about my professional accomplishments one day in the future… well, that’s the last thing I’d ever really care about. Even at the pinnacle of my career, my work never defined me.

And it never will.

And I hope the same is true for them.

Following the four-year unwinding of my business, I spent the next full year trying to figure out, “What next?” By now, the rest of the country was gripped in the recession, and I was on the front lines with millions of others trying to find a job.

My circumstances were less than ideal. If you think it’s tough trying to find a solid job out of college, try doing it when you’re 40-something with an extensive resume, a reputation as a “specialist,” and you’re a life-long entrepreneur. Employers interpret this as “expensive,” “one-trick pony” and a guy who “can’t work for others,” regardless of what the truth may be.

The one thing that was genuinely vexing, however, was that I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had been doing the same thing for 15 years and that industry was now dormant. This is when I really began to embrace the idea of “transformation” and the opportunities it presented.

While a significant chapter of my life seemed to have simply vanished into thin air, I couldn’t repress my inner desire to get on with something new– to dedicate my considerable experience and passions to new challenges, whatever lied ahead. It was the feeling you get when paddling into large surf you’re not certain you’re equipped to handle, but that you’re committed to dropping in no matter what – a mix of nerves, fear, anticipation and excitement. During this time, I continued to rely upon those same foundations I always had during challenging times in my life – God. Family. Friends…

…and surfing.

Yes, my travels had come to a halt about three years earlier. But during my year of career transition, I had plenty of time to get out in the water, and I did. Often. I used this time to try and decompress, focus my thoughts and figure out exactly what it was I wanted to do. I also began teaching my 9-year-old daughter how to surf. I relished the opportunity to share time with her in the ocean for that entire year, and I would never give one second of that time back. Those are days I will never, ever forget.

To keep my creative metabolism flowing, I began to write more and, in late 2011, stumbled upon The Inertia. I loved the website, admired Zach’s vision and reading posts from so many intelligent writers and surfers on subjects that weren’t being addressed in the mainstream print surf pubs.

I submitted a few of my own articles and received an incredibly warm reply. Before I knew it, my first piece was published. By coincidence, happened to share the home page with Kelly Slater’s first post to the site, lending a high number of views to my own article and a great response as a result. This would happen again just a few weeks later.

These were comforting distractions during otherwise stressful days. For a time, I considered transitioning into the surf industry full-time. But ultimately, I wasn’t ready to relocate to Orange County to try and do it. With limited resources and a family to support, the risks just didn’t make sense.

Instead, after months of searching and sending resumes into the black hole of online recruiting sites, I came across a notice for a position that perfectly suited my experience and passions for surfing, travel and marketing. The Southeast Volusia Advertising Authority needed an Executive Director to lead tourism marketing for New Smyrna Beach and the surrounding area. New Smyrna may be the most consistent break on the east coast and I knew it well because I had spent much time surfing there while finishing college at the University of Central Florida. I applied for the position, made the list of finalists, and eventually won the job.

I then began commuting to work from my home in Ponte Vedra Beach– 90 minutes each way, every day. While this was less than ideal, I was ecstatic just to be working again in a role I was perfectly suited for.

Not long after starting, I realized that our office needed a content producer – a photographer/cinematographer who could capture New Smyrna in the way I knew it needed to be represented: beautifully honest. Unpretentious. Pure and real. One of my team members suggested long-time local Patrick Eichstaedt. The name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. “You probably know him,” she said. “He surfs. And, he writes for that same website you do – The Inertia. But, he goes by the name ‘Tupat.’”

“Ah, Tupat!” Yes, I knew Tupat, who was an active contributor not only forThe InertiaSurflineESM and others but who had worked for …Lost Enterprises for many years. I asked him to come in and ended up hiring him to help with our NSB re-branding efforts. Tupat would pull in local surfing icons like Shea Lopez, Lindsay Perry and others who graciously helped us create a series of marketing videos and other promotions.

During this same time, I conceptualized a new events festival for NSB I called, “Beach Weeks.” It would consist of seven straight weeks of coastal-themed events incorporating new events with existing ones in early summer. Beach Weeks included surfing and SUP contests, Reggae and Blues festivals, fishing tournaments, movie nights and many family-friendly events. We even brought Bethany Hamilton to town to help kick things off. The festival was a hit and Beach Weeks since expanded to include both Summer and Fall versions.

Although my fortunes had turned and I was doing something I loved, my transition was not yet complete. The commute had begun to wear upon me. I was rarely home for dinner with my family and we realized if I was going to stay, that we’d have to relocate. As much as I love New Smyrna, I am a third-generation native of Jacksonville, Florida, and our city has a lot going on in its own right. The surf scene is thriving from St. Augustine to Jax Beach and the home we were living in (and still do now), while far more modest than our last one, was still within walking distance of one of our area’s best breaks. My kids enjoy great schools and all of their friends, and so many of my own, are here.

As decision time approached, I was contacted by a former employee of my agency, who began recruiting me to come back to Jax for a position at a large public tech company where she was now working. The role: Director of Social Media sounded interesting and I was only weeks from having to make a decision on moving prior to the start of a new school year.

I live by the motto, “You don’t know until you go” and so decided to investigate it further. The more I learned, the more appealing the thought became. No moving. Short commute. Better hours. Better compensation. Better benefits. This included generous stock options – the type of benefit that, more than just a good salary, can truly help to build long-term financial stability. The perfect fit for someone starting over on rebuilding their retirement.

I accepted the job.

Looking back today, I am at peace with the changes that occurred in my life. I’ve continued to grow personally and professionally. I’m thankful for the time I was able to spend in New Smyrna Beach and stoked to see the programs we put into place there, producing positive results for the area. I’m grateful for the full year I was able to surf with my daughter, and for the fact that after 15 years, I was able to try something brand new with my career.

For those who might be going through similar periods of change, I would encourage you to never give up, never lose hope and never lose confidence in your own abilities. Recognize that no matter your circumstances in life, there are always countless numbers of people navigating greater challenges than your own. I reminded myself of this fact every day during my period of transition and never fell into the trap of feeling sorry for myself. Recognize that life truly is a series of ups, downs and changing conditions. Embrace those changes and enjoy the ride. Remember that it is always the most difficult conditions that provide us the greatest opportunities to learn, grow and evolve, and facing them that provides our highest levels of joy and satisfaction.

 

 

Kickin’ back in Cali

03 May
May 3, 2014
Tim and Kendall in La Jolla, Ca -  Good times!

Tim and Kendall in La Jolla, Ca – Good times!

Tim and Kendall in San Diego, CA

03 May
May 3, 2014
Tim and Kendall on a Daddy/Daughter date at "Skybox" for Dan Rice's wedding in San Diego, CA

Tim and Kendall on a Daddy/Daughter date at “Skybox” for Dan Rice’s wedding in San Diego, CA

Alex and Reid from The Inertia

03 May
May 3, 2014
Tim and Kendall with Alex Haro and Reid Levin at The Inertia's new offices in Venice, CA

Tim and Kendall with Alex Haro and Reid Levin at The Inertia’s new offices in Venice, CA

E-Tresh

03 May
May 3, 2014
Ehren Tresher living the dream in Ventura, California!

Ehren Tresher living the dream in Ventura, California!

High Above Santa Monica

03 May
May 3, 2014
Tim and Kendal, high above Santa Monica, on the ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier

Tim and Kendal, high above Santa Monica, on the ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier

California Cool, Santa Monica

03 May
May 3, 2014
Kendall, about to ascend into the heavens above Santa Monica on the ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier

Kendall, about to ascend into the heavens above Santa Monica on the ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier

Runyon Canyon Selfie, Hollywood

03 May
May 3, 2014

Tim and Kendall on top of Runyon Canyon, overlooking Hollywood Hills in California

Roosevelt Hotel Hideout, Hollywood

03 May
May 3, 2014
Roosevelt Hotel Hideout

Tim and Kendall exploring the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. Good times!

Believing in Yourself: A Letter to My Daughters

08 Apr
April 8, 2014

Surfingfamilyonbeach_2

Dear Kendall & Kaelyn,

I am writing this letter because I wanted to share some important thoughts with both of you- what I consider powerful life lessons that I hope both of you will be able to draw upon for the rest of your lives.

I’ve probably shared some of this advice with both of you here and there in the past, but likely in bits and pieces, and not in a more formal, meaningful way. But the things I want you both to understand are so much more important than that. So, I thought it might be helpful to write them down, so that both of you might be able to save and reference them from time to time, should either of you ever feel you might need to hear them again. I believe this is exactly the kind of information that all of us need to be reminded of over and over again, throughout our lives.

Both of you are embarking on exciting phases of your lives with unlimited opportunities right in front of you! And while these are exciting times, I know they can also be challenging.

Kendall, you are navigating your freshman year in high school, taking an extremely challenging schedule of honors courses (including a college-level class) and ramping up your ballet regimen, all at the same time.

Kaelyn, you are also facing a much more rigorous school schedule and have recently begun to pursue soccer at a very high competitive level for the first time.

So, here are a few things that you should both know. These are “secrets” that nearly all of the world’s most successful people understand- whether their successes are rooted in academics, athletics, wealth, family, career or all of these areas. And while you may have heard some of these ideas before, what you need to understand is they are not clichés. They are powerful, profound truths that can change your life if you simply embrace them fully.

The first and most important thing that both of you need to understand is that either of you can achieve anything you set your minds to. There are no limits to what the human spirit can achieve when you simply believe in yourself. We only limit ourselves when we begin to doubt and restrict ourselves with fear (fear of failure; fear of embarrassing ourselves; fear of looking silly; etc.). Understand that fear is a barrier for all things in life. It is what most often most prevents people from fulfilling their potential because they were too afraid to try something new; to speak up; to risk looking foolish… or to risk anything at all.

You may have heard the saying, “With great risk comes great reward”. Guess what? It’s true!

Now, does this mean that if we do take risks, that we’ll never fail? No!!! Everyone fails, sometimes! But we would never even know what was possible, if we didn’t take some calculated risks. And we can minimize those risks further by believing in ourselves and having confidence- knowing that we will succeed! This is the very nature of faith. God did not create us with any limits.

So does this mean that by simply believing, we can accomplish certain things? If I believed I could be a world champion surfer, could I beat Kelly Slater in a surf contest? Could I develop a cure for cancer simply because I believed I was capable? No! We have to work for success, and prepare for it. Success is never easy. Kelly’s been preparing his whole life for his success and people who do incredible things like discovering cures for diseases or winning Nobel prizes in literature or science have dedicated the same time and preparation in their academics. Success requires hard work and discipline.

Consider this: Even Jesus, before he began his ministry, had to prepare. God sent him into the wilderness for 40 days all by himself, especially for this purpose. He faced extreme challenges- loneliness, temptation… even Satan, himself! Why did God allow this? After all, he was God and could do anything, right? Because he was preparing Jesus for his life as a man- a human being like one of us, and for what he would face in his lifetime. He was strengthening him to be successful.

Believing is only the first step.

Once you believe in yourself, you begin to understand that you can achieve anything you set your mind to. This in turn gives you the confidence to realize that when you dedicate the time to working hard and preparing yourself, and then you proceed without fear- then you will be able to achieve whatever your goals are in life, with the only limitations being those you place upon yourself.

If you believe that you could never be as good a soccer player as this girl or that girl, then you won’t be. If you think to yourself, “I’ll never be as graceful as that dancer”, then you won’t be. If you believe, “I could never surf a wave that big”, then you never will. If you tell yourself, “I would never be brave enough to stand up in front of the class and do that” or “I could never get into that college”, then you won’t.

Conversely, if you believe that you can do all of these things, and you know that by putting in consistent work, you will move ever closer towards your goals, then you will be able to do all of these things- and more!  This is why they say, “life is a self-fulfilling prophecy”– because you get what you expect in life.

It is very important to me that both of you recognize and understand these profound life principles and that you commit yourselves to living by them. Both of you have your whole lives right in front of you! And your mom and I want you to dream big and understand that there is nothing limiting either of you- nothing holding you back from doing anything you want to do, or being anyone you want to be, other than those limits you choose to place upon yourselves.

I would encourage both of you to make a habit of setting your self-doubts aside, learning to recognize fear for what it is- only a false barrier and to believe in yourselves, unfailingly. Nothing is impossible! Recognize that hard work, self-discipline and a positive attitude will always allow you to accomplish anything you might desire in this life.

I hope that you will take these ideas to heart, live by them and share them with those around you. Remember that the only thing greater than understanding the power of these principles is helping others learn to recognize and apply them, as well.

Love,

Dad

15!

02 Apr
April 2, 2014

15

 

Wow, it is hard to believe that Kendall (2nd from left) is 15! Our first daughter has grown up so quickly! We are grateful for her cousin, Madison (far left), and for great friends like Beth (2nd from right) and Lindsay (far right). Here’s a shot from our get-together at Aunt Kate’s in St. Augustine to celebrate this moment in time.

Treasure Hunting

01 Apr
April 1, 2014

Looking for sharks teeth in Guana River State Park

A Trip Back to Gainesville and the University of Florida

23 Feb
February 23, 2014

photo-55Century Tower BenHillGriffinStadiumTheSwampUFLockerRoomOConnellCenterHilton

I recently took a trip back to the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL with my wife and two daughters. My youngest daughter, Kaelyn (11) had a weekend soccer tournament there, so my wife and I decided to take our oldest, Kendall (a 14-yr-old 9th grader), to tour the campus while in town. We thought that by showing Kendall a little bit of what college life is all about at this age might be a great way to begin getting her excited about it- to keep her motivated and pursuing this goal with passion and effort. Kendall was definitely stoked on the experience! Over the weekend, we also enjoyed a tour of the Gator athletic facilities with Kaelyn’s soccer team, which was also pretty cool.

I know all about life at UF well- probably too well! I spent 4 years there earning about 2 year’s worth of credit, before later completing my degree at UCF in Orlando. Even though I graduated from UCF, I’ll still always be a Gator and don’t mind splitting my loyalties between the two schools. I really loved, and do still love them both!

The UF campus is more beautiful today than ever, and the services they provide to students continue to be amazing. Everything a student might need is available including multiple housing types (private, semi-private; shared; etc.); a variety of food programs; free transportation anywhere- on or off-campus, at almost any time of the day or night; medical care, including one doctor assigned to individual students over the full length of their time at UF; intramural sports; athletic facilities; reduced price game tickets; free computer repairs; fraternities & sororities; and more!

The academic standards are extremely rigorous. I thought they were tough when I attended, and they’ve only become even more so, since then. I probably wouldn’t make it in today. The average SAT score for incoming freshmen in this year’s class (February, 2014) was 1967, and the average high school GPA was 4.3! We learned that about 50% of UF’s admissions grading is based upon these kinds of academic metrics. The remaining 50% is based upon other qualities that help administrators to understand what kinds of people freshmen applicants truly are. All applicants must write essays that describe what kind of people they are- significant life events, what they might have overcome in their lives, or are passionate about, etc.  It also includes consideration of involvement in activities like athletics, clubs, volunteer and civic organizations, etc.

On Sunday evening, we went out to eat at The Swamp restaurant in the heart of campus. Even on a chilly “school night”, students were out, of course, and we ate to the sounds of Nirvana and 90’s grunge music. I think Kendall got a kick out of the whole scene and Gretchen and I enjoyed the nostalgia of college life (although I actually met Gretchen at UCF, not UF).

Speaking of nostalgia, we stayed at a place called the Paramount Plaza. As it turns out, the Plaza used to be The Hilton, which used to be the only decent place in town to stay (now there are many choices). Interestingly, I used to work there in the restaurant waiting tables. I had no idea that we were staying at the old Hilton, but recognized it immediately upon pulling into the hotel. I told the manager I used to wait tables there years ago. He confirmed that it used to be the Hilton, then provided me with a couple of complimentary breakfast buffet passes! Alas, the service in the restaurant was only marginal, but I appreciated the gracious gesture and was just stoked to see some of today’s college students (presumably) working and doing what it takes to get through school, get a degree and see where it takes them, following graduation. Their futures are wide open! It is a wonderful time in life that will stay with them forever, no matter where their paths may lead.

El Taco (Atlanta, Ga): It’s getting kinda crazy in here

01 Jan
January 1, 2014
Wall murals at El Taco in Atlanta, GA

One of the artful wall murals at El Taco in Atlanta, GA

Beauty & Grace: Kendall in The Nutcracker 2013

25 Dec
December 25, 2013

Backstage at the Nutcracker

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A few shots of my oldest daughter, Kendall (14), in the 2013 Nutcracker. Kendall has been performing in the Nutcracker every year since she was about 4 years old. She loves classical ballet and works hard year-round to prepare for her performances. She has danced most of the roles in the Nutcracker, but still has a few left. She danced in four acts this year (three full acts, and the opening act). The group that she dances with, Miss Felicia’s Dance Troupe in Ponte Vedra Beach are a Christian-based team. Their performances each year go to raise money for critically ill children who are participating in the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Make-a Wish program. They prepare all year with this mission in mind, which naturally adds another level to their dancing. It’s crazy where time goes. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that Kendall was a toddler up on that stage and now, she is a beautiful young woman. I’m very proud of her.

South Carolina Back Country

08 Dec
December 8, 2013

Hartsville, South Carolina Back Country

South Carolina Farm Country

08 Dec
December 8, 2013

SC Farm

Florida Reflection

24 Aug
August 24, 2013

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Bustin’ Down Doors: Right Coast Resilience (Part 3)

03 Jul
July 3, 2013

Bustin’ Down Doors: Right Coast Resilience

Making a living in the surf industry has never been easy. It’s an insulated world of pros and bros with highly concentrated epicenters of industry (think Orange County and Australia). If you live in a place like Florida, your odds for success drop faster than the waves on the backside of a passing hurricane swell. Of course “living” is a relative term. Some associate it more closely with money; others with rich experience. To follow are the stories of three Floridians who haven’t let daunting odds prevent them from building their lives around surfing. Their common themes: equal parts courage, determination and more than anything else– a love for surfing that is all-consuming.

 

Brian Weissmann: Trident Surf Shop

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Brian Weissmann        Photo: Mark Sain Wilson

According to recent statistics, about half of all new businesses fail within the first 4 years. Retail stores sit just below that line with only 47% succeeding. And surf shops– well, let’s just say that if you want to jump into those waters, you’d better be a strong paddler, because from a business standpoint, you’re going to be fighting some seriously stiff currents.

Fortunately, Brian Weissmann is that.

The Palos Verdes native and former Lifeguard recently celebrated the first anniversary of his Trident Surf Shop in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL and seems to be cruising along just fine. Growing up near the beach in California, Weissmann was a self-proclaimed shop rat, who like most surfers at some point in their lives, dreamed of owning his own shop. Fast forward through an adventurous adolescence, careers as a lifeguard and a project manager for AT&T, and a broken marriage that pulled Brian eastward to Florida to be near his two middle-school aged children; and the dream finally became reality. But it wasn’t without overcoming some formidable challenges.

Most important was finding the right location. Weissmann had become familiar with the surf scene in Ponte Vedra Beach following six years of visits to his in-laws. Northeast Florida is a hot bed for east coast surfing, with no less than 20 shops, including several well-established local players. Next, even if he had found the ideal location, Brian knew that he would next be faced with trying to get access to desirable product lines. Reps for some of the larger, more well-known brands are notorious for not selling their lines to newbies for fear of repercussions from established clients– at least not without demanding huge minimums that can quickly sink a new business or leave them dedicating their entire store to just 1 or 2 brands. Finally, Brian knew he’d have to distinguish himself from the competition in some sort of significant way.

The last hurdle was the least of Brian’s concerns. The independent-minded Weissmann had never envisioned his shop being like anyone else’s. His original idea for the business was actually a “Surf and Rescue” shop that would not only sell surf goods, but also state-of-the-art lifesaving equipment to individuals and organizations. Ultimately, research convinced him that markets weren’t large enough to support his concept. Still, even when his mind turned to a more conventional surf and skate business, it was anything but traditional.

Brian’s vision was of something larger– greater in presence and purpose. Something that would feed his clients’ appetites for escapism (think a Central American style shop with open rafters and an attached taco stand, steps from the surf); and one that could also bring the neighborhood together, like a YMCA or skate park. The only thing stopping Weissmann was securing that ideal location– the one he had identified in Ponte Vedra just a few hundred yeards from “Mickler’s, one of the area’s most popular public beach breaks.

For years, the spot had been home to a well-known restaurant and bar called the “Oar House”, where local surfers would stop for a game of pool and après surf refreshments. Eventually, the business, which snuggles up to the edges of an inland waterway and state park, closed– leaving behind a beautiful decades-old structure that oozes character on a spacious, rural lot. After several attempts at getting information from Realtors were ignored, Brian approached the landowner directly and shared his concept for the business. Trident Surf was born.

Today, Weismann’s’s vision is coalescing faster than a cup of UV-activated resin in the middle of July. Kids visit after school to hang with their friends and utilize several well-constructed skate ramps outside. Ocean breezes blow through open doors and visitors can sip on ice cold Jarritos, just like you’d savor in Mexico. And while you may not find Billabong or Quiksilver boardshorts in Weissmann’s shop, you will discover a treasure trove of hot new upstart brands that your friends aren’t wearing yet, as well as top-shelf surf, skate and SUP hard goods.

Nothing Weissmann does is anything like his competitors, and he’s never shy about promoting his own personal values (no drugs or alcohol), a comforting reassurance in the family-focused area he serves. Brian believes that all children should be able to enjoy a sense of adventure in their lives, just not the kind that leads to poor decision-making. Rather, the kind you might find out in the line-up, on a trip, or just hangin’ with your buddies at the local surf shop– an environment he’s working hard to perfect at Trident Surf.

Editor’s note: This piece was originally written for and published on TheInertia.com, surfing’s definitive online community. I later reposted it here on my personal blog.

Bustin’ Down Doors: Right Coast Resilience (Part 2)

03 Jul
July 3, 2013

Bustin’ Down Doors: Right Coast Resilience

Making a living in the surf industry has never been easy. It’s an insulated world of pros and bros with highly concentrated epicenters of industry (think Orange County and Australia). If you live in a place like Florida, your odds for success drop faster than the waves on the backside of a passing hurricane swell. Of course “living” is a relative term. Some associate it more closely with money; others with rich experience. To follow are the stories of three Floridians who haven’t let daunting odds prevent them from building their lives around surfing. Their common themes: equal parts courage, determination and more than anything else– a love for surfing that is all-consuming.

Mark Sain Wilson: Artist & Photographer

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Mark Wilson   Photo by: Ryan Ketterman

 

Mark Wilson is an artist who loves photography, a photographer who loves to surf and a surfer whose art is beginning to get noticed. Wilson, who in 2011 won one of Magic Seaweed’s highest profile international photographic competitions with an iconic shot of his home break, has been catching waves for 40 years and light, for nearly as long. And while today he finds his profile rising rapidly in the surfing world, he still struggles mightily with the same dilemma that caused him to give up surf photography in the first place, back when he first attempted it as a teenager using a Kodak instamatic and oversized water housing: “When the waves are good, I’d rather be riding them.”

It was this conundrum that originally convinced the soft-spoken, reflective Wilson to forsake surf photography for mountain bike photography. Also an avid cyclist, Mark found far more peace shooting fixed slabs of stone, than moving hills of water, because this was a backdrop that was largely unchanging, while the latter materialized only on the breath of fortunate winds. As a result, Wilson relocated to southern California, a place where he could enjoy the best of all worlds. There, he was able to hone both his biking and photography, without sacrificing his water time. Along the way, Mark found an audience for his mountain bike images, getting published for the first time.

Mark’s success and growing focus led him to Moab, Utah– a stunning amalgamation of red rock, blue water and some of the greatest mountain biking on the planet. Wilson took a job helping manage Moab Cyclery with a good friend and fellow mountain biker from California. Continuing to shoot and make the most of his surroundings, he began selling his work to magazines, getting published in popular titles like Bike Magazine, Mountain Bike Action, Mountain Biking and Men’s Health, while also working for various advertisers. Mark’s personal style, which is less action-oriented and more artistic, began to evolve at this time. His images are both sublimely “real”, yet out-of-the-mainstream.

With his passion for art continuing to grow, loved ones still residing in Florida and that old ghost, Mother Ocean, still calling him, Mark decided to return east and study photography at Southeast Photographic Studies in Daytona Beach. He began to create, frame and sell prints at various high-profile festivals throughout the southeast and other areas around the United Sates, enjoying a fair amount of success, awards and notoriety.

Unfortunately, the recession came along and like so many, Mark saw his ability to make a living in his preferred field become much more challenging. He took a job at a frame shop and his photography became a secondary source of income. During this time, living back near the ocean, and with years of professional experience now under his belt, Mark couldn’t help but remarry his passions for surfing and photography again.

He purchased a new water housing, lenses and upgraded digital equipment in 2010, and it didn’t take him long to make an impact. His beautiful, understated shot of a perfect A-frame dotted with surfers ignoring a “U.S. Government Property. No Trespassing.” sign at the Mayport Naval Base (known affectionately as, “The Poles”) during Hurricane Katia received more votes than any other in Magic Seaweed’s online competition. His win resulted in a 2012 commission from the popular website to shoot Hurricane Leslie along Florida’s east coast, and subsequently, a spectacular 25-shot front page feature. Wilson’s work is also continuing to gain notoriety with several images published in some of the southeast’s highest profile surf publications, as well as a recent portfolio feature on The Inertia.

While Wilson’s success continues to grow, he harbors no illusions about the challenges facing full-time surf photographers today. From geographic limitations, to equipment expense to the new ubiquity of digital imagery spawned by a sea of one-touch filters, he knows the barriers are high. But Mark is a professional who also knows that there will always be a divide between those who understand artistic composition, lighting and shutter speeds and those who merely pop filters on. Really, the only obstacle that still gnaws at Wilson –that still makes him question what he’s doing– is the same one that has vexed him his entire life. When the waves are good, he’d rather be riding them.

Editor’s note: This piece was originally written for and published on TheInertia.com, surfing’s definitive online community. I later reposted it here on my personal blog.

Bustin’ Down Doors: Right Coast Resilience (Part 1)

03 Jul
July 3, 2013

Bustin’ Down Doors: Right Coast Resilience

Making a living in the surf industry has never been easy. It’s an insulated world of pros and bros with highly concentrated epicenters of industry (think Orange County and Australia). If you live in a place like Florida, your odds for success drop faster than the waves on the backside of a passing hurricane swell. Of course “living” is a relative term. Some associate it more closely with money; others with rich experience. To follow are the stories of three Floridians who haven’t let daunting odds prevent them from building their lives around surfing. Their common themes: equal parts courage, determination and more than anything else– a love for surfing that is all-consuming.

 

Chickie “Da Buh” Dimain: Surf Forecaster, DaBuh.com

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 Chickie Dimain and daughter, Ella   Phot0: Ryan Ketterman

 

Chickie “Da Buh” Dimain has no formal meteorological training. He has no large financial backers, nor any kind of conventional web design experience that might make developing his namesake surf report a little easier, or less expensive. But none of this has stopped the 49-year-old lifelong surfer and former concrete worker from growing his DaBuh.com surf forecast into an East Coast phenomenon.

Fresh off the heels of the United States Surfing Federation’s announcement designating DaBuh.com as the organization’s Official Surf Report and Forecaster; high-profile gigs providing independent forecasts for both the East Coast Surfing Championships in Virginia Beach and Salt Life Big Wave Challenge in Jacksonville, FL, Chickie’s proving he has everything he needs.

Fans of Dimain’s unique and accurate style of surf forecasting will tell you that there’s simply no one else who does it like “Da Buh”. The name is short for “The Buddah”, a reference to Chickie’s Buddah-shaped belly. It’s also a nod to Pidgin, the Hawaiian slang that Benecio Dimain (his legal name; “Chickie” is a nickname he was given at birth); occasionally slips into when delivering the goods for his followers. “Mo Frens, Mo Better”, he likes to say when asking people to share his report.

Chickie, who is not Hawaiian, but Filipino, has been surfing for over 30 years and studying weather for nearly all of those. Growing up a Florida inlander, nearly an hour from the closest beach made accurate forecasts critical to Dimain and his friends, who began to depend upon Chickie to make the calls whether to venture out or stay at home, each day. Over the years, his love for surfing and all things weather-related prompted Chickie to become a more sophisticated climatologist. He began to spend up to 5 hours a day studying statistics, charts and models from multiple organizations to construct his own forecasts.

Dimain’s reputation for accuracy eventually landed him a long-running, part-time job as chief forecaster for one of Florida’s most successful forecasts– 911 Surf Report. After the collapse of the housing market caused him to close his concrete business, Chickie decided to take a chance on parlaying his dynamic personality and loyal fan base into his own new full-time venture- DaBuh.com.

Now, every day, email subscribers and visitors to DaBuh.com get reports unlike any others. Typically detailed and incorporating numerous graphics, Chickie regularly predicts weather events and swells days before other forecasts. He is known not just for his remarkable accuracy, but also educating his followers on the meanings behind the patterns he sees, helping to breed a virtual army of junior prognosticators. Perhaps most significantly, he communicates in a style that can only be described as passionate, positive… and refreshingly human.

Want a personal relationship with your forecaster just like you have with your shaper? Friend Da Buh on Facebook. Got a cause or event your hawking? Let him know and you’ll almost certainly see a shout-out in his next report. Likewise, DaBuh may hit you up for prayers for his 82-year-old mother, whose failing health has limited his own water time recently; or perhaps birthday-wishes for his beautiful 7-year-old daughter, Ella, known affectionately as, “Baby Buhette” to fans of the site. Dimain’s approach isn’t just down to earth. It is salt of the earth. Humble. Unassuming. And as a result, highly addictive.

You see, be they physical or spiritual, Chickie Dimain has always had an intuitive understanding of the laws of nature.  He realized long ago that success in life isn’t always predicated upon degrees or dollars. Just as powerful are passion, perseverance and using your own unique gifts to serve others around you. That’s why DaBuh.com keeps growing. And why its long-range forecast is as good as it gets.

Editor’s note: This piece was originally written for and published on TheInertia.com, surfing’s definitive online community. It was also published in print, in a second variation in Eastern Surf MagazineI later reposted it here on my personal blog.

Beach Weeks Part 2: The Results…

30 Jun
June 30, 2013

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