Archive for category: Life Lessons

Meet Radimus Platypus: The Web-Footed Shredder Who Will Inspire a New Generation of Learners

30 May
May 30, 2016

Radimus PlatypusAsk anybody who has ever stood up on a wave and they’ll tell you there’s nothing like that first time. It’s an incredible feeling you never forget, one that can change your life. The same is true of skateboarding and snowboarding. Mastering these admittedly challenging skills is so exhilarating, not only because of the pure joy we experience when performing them, but the self-confidence we gain as a result. Such moments lead us to believe that if we can accomplish these feats, then there’s likely much more we can achieve from having the courage to try.

Mikey Bondoc understands this concept. A talented surfer, skater, designer, writer and illustrator, he also understands that self-confidence doesn’t come naturally for everyone, especially kids. While all of us are born with unlimited potential and a desire to believe our dreams can come true, those feelings can easily fall by the wayside if not purposefully encouraged and pursued. So Mikey’s using his own unique gifts – some he only recently discovered- to help others understand this concept. He’s created a children’s book series centered around a singularly unique, memorable, character: a blue-billed, web-footed platypus who loves to surf, skate and snowboard.

The Hatch: The Radventures of Radimus Platypus is the first of Bondoc’s seven book series. He has written all seven volumes and published one for proof-of-concept to line up investment to be able to complete the rest (one very well-known, highly respected global brand has already expressed interest in helping Bondoc, based upon the success of The Hatch).

In this first book, the curious, creative Radimus bursts into the world. His mother worries for his safety, but ultimately allows Radimus to follow his heart. Each subsequent book takes Radimus, who expresses himself through his love for board sports, on another surprising “radventure” where he learns new things, discovers what makes him happy, and grows as an individual. In subsequent books, Radimus surfs, skates, snowboards, wakeboards and even discovers yoga.

Parents of all children will enjoy sharing “The Hatch” and its encouraging messages with their little ones. And parents who happen to be into surfing, skating and snowboarding will quite likely want to set this brilliantly illustrated rhyming tale right up alongside classics like, The Cat in the Hat and Oh, The Places You’ll Go. To be certain, Radimus channels the positive spirit of Dr. Seuss and other lovable, iconic characters of youth like Kermit the Frog. At the same time, Radimus’s unique, modern context allows the playful platypus to connect with today’s generation in ways that are more relevant and thus, likely more meaningful to them.

Bondoc’s own story of self-discovery is a radventure unto itself. An accomplished graphic designer, art director and apparel consultant with more than 20 years of experience working for big-named brands, Bondoc moved from New York City to Orange County in 2008, craving more time outdoors and in the ocean than he was getting where he was at.

Once there, he rented a 100-year old oceanfront cottage in Laguna Beach and began practicing yoga to invigorate his creativity while freelancing. In 2009, a friend -an intuitive medium- told Bondoc that when she looked at him, she saw the Sesame Street character, Big Bird, and felt he had the potential to work with children. Exactly one week after that event, the name Radimus Platypus came to Bondoc, along with the entire storyline for “The Hatch”.

Bondoc, though creative, did not envision himself as a writer, nor an illustrator. But he continued thinking about developing Radimus while working, surfing, practicing yoga and meditating. In 2010, while on a weekend juice cleanse, Bondoc wrote volumes 1-3, and completed volumes 4-7 within the next two months. “It is still the most creative experience I have ever had”, says Bondoc. “I never aspired to write anything. The books seemed to write themselves. The words and sentences just seemed to flow out of me. Each storyline came in one shot, and I knew exactly what was going to happen in each subsequent book.”

With stories in hand, Mikey reached out to about two dozen publishers and a handful of agents, but received little response. One agent indicated that he liked Bondoc’s character and stories, but felt he was the wrong person to represent Mikey.

In 2011, undaunted and realizing he had to take the next step, Bondoc commissioned an illustrator to work on the books. But after a year of trying, he terminated the contract because the feeling just wasn’t right. Too heavy. Too much color… It just wasn’t what Mikey was envisioning. He put the project on the back burner for two years, occasionally researching illustrators, but with little money to commission another one. In 2013, with work ebbing in Orange County, Bondoc decided to return to the creative energy of New York City. A few months later, he would experience another transformative moment on his path to personal growth and the development of his book series.

“Through daily yoga and continuing meditation, I was given the confidence to illustrate Radimus Platypus, myself. Since day one, all of my friends insisted that I should illustrate the book. I was the only person who did not believe in myself. I did not think I had the skills and talent to do it.”

“Over the years, I had journaled a lot about my vision for Radimus. I wrote about traveling the world and inspiring millions of children and adults to follow their hearts and be their true selves. After a yoga class that involved journaling and deep meditation, that message came through loud and clear: “I can illustrate the book.” It repeated over and over again, until I heard it, and felt it in my heart. For the first time in my life, I felt fully capable of illustrating Radimus and all of the books. I loved to draw as a kid, but always of things I could replicate– characters, band logos, skate logos- I never drew from my imagination. That’s why I thought that I couldn’t illustrate the books. But it was only my own confidence and self-perception stopping me”

In 2014, with only some sketches of Radimus in hand, Bondoc launched a Kickstarter campaign to help finance production of his books. His campaign was selected as a “Staff Pick”, but Bondoc says he set his goal too high, intent on using one of the best eco-printers around. The campaign reached 18% of its goal, before stalling.

In 2015, Bondoc completed illustrating The Hatch. He made his first printed copy and held a few readings around NYC, where he found kids were both stoked on Radimus and enjoyed engaging with Mikey. Bondoc launched a second Kickstarter campaign and was again selected as a “Staff Pick”, but pulled the plug after two weeks, due to a lack of traffic.

Determined not to give up, Bondoc decided to front the costs of a small run of books and sell them himself on his website. In early 2016, he signed with Bookmasters in Ohio to print a limited quantity of high quality hardcover copies and opened sales on his website.

Since then, Radimus has been steadily gaining traction. The character’s made-for-Instagram IG channel boasts over 1,700 young fans and followers, who, along with their parents, are posting fantastic pictures of themselves doing things they love to do– the things that make them unique… and rad! Radimus encourages kids to tag their posts with the hashtag, #imradtoo.

With the groundswell of interest in Radimus rising and the likelihood of finding investment also stacking, both Bondoc and Radimus may soon find themselves living out the very lessons they’re both so committed to imparting: Be yourself. Follow your dreams. And don’t be afraid to go for it. Because all of us are rad in one way or another. And if we’re just brave enough to live that out, we might surprise ourselves with what we can accomplish.

Radimus Platypus surfing

Note: This article was originally written for and published on The Inertia. To see the original article and response, click here.

Imagine

08 Oct
October 8, 2015

Can you imagine what this might have been like? This guy didn’t have to. Pretty magical moment.

Like a Girl

03 Aug
August 3, 2015

I love this video. It has had about 50,000,000 views since coming out a year or two ago, but  deserves another 300,000,000 in my opinion. As the father of two strong young girls who have been brought up to think for themselves, and to understand that their strength, worth and value does not come from anyone else around them, but by God alone, I appreciate this beautiful social experiment and all the things it says about girls, our culture, the innocence of youth and the power of positive self-image.

As a marketer, I believe that developing a compelling campaign for a personal hygiene product like Always might be considered a challenge by most. But that’s exactly what the creative team succeeded in doing here in a way that is memorable, supports the brand’s values and connects emotionally. In fact, I’d say that that this campaign transcends great creative. It is a truly profound, revealing and inspiring work of art.

What if Money Was No Object?

01 Aug
August 1, 2015

 

Profound vocational guidance from the late Alan Watts. This is a lesson that all parents need to pass along to their children. What do you desire from your life?

Text:

What do you desire? What makes you itch? What sort of a situation would you like?

Let’s suppose, I do this often in vocational guidance of students, they come to me and say, well, “we’re getting out of college and we have the faintest idea what we want to do.” So I always ask the question, “what would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?”

Well, it’s so amazing as a result of our kind of educational system, crowds of students say well, we’d like to be painters, we’d like to be poets, we’d like to be writers, but as everybody knows you can’t earn any money that way. Or another person says well, I’d like to live an out-of-doors life and ride horses. I said you want to teach in a riding school? Let’s go through with it. What do you want to do?

When we finally got down to something, which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him, you do that and forget the money, because, if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid. Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.

And after all, if you do really like what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what it is, you can eventually turn it – you could eventually become a master of it. It’s the only way to become a master of something, to be really with it. And then you’ll be able to get a good fee for whatever it is. So don’t worry too much.

That’s everybody is – somebody is interested in everything, anything you can be interested in, you will find others will. But it’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like, in order to go on spending things you don’t like, doing things you don’t like and to teach our children to follow in the same track.

See what we are doing, is we’re bringing up children and educating to live the same sort of lives we are living. In order that they may justify themselves and find satisfaction in life by bringing up their children to bring up their children to do the same thing, so it’s all retch, and no vomit it never gets there.

And so, therefore, it’s so important to consider this question:

What do I desire?

Sometimes, you just need a break…

12 Jul
July 12, 2015

A really inspiring story…

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/07/08/homeless-and-luckless-a-piano-man-wows-the-internet-and-gets-a-new-start/

Friends in High Places

01 Feb
February 1, 2015

You know, I’ve lived long enough and experienced enough to understand that things are never as good or bad as they seem. Life, for the most part, is what you choose to make of it and there are tradeoffs for almost everything. What you see on the surface doesn’t always accurately reflect exactly what’s underneath.

If you’re a surfer and an adventurer like me, then you’re going to want —you’re going to need— to keep this top-of-mind when you watch this beautiful film from Cyrus Sutton. It leaves me with many questions, but I’m not going to bother asking them. Nope, I’m just going to enjoy it for what it is. Hope you do the same.

Dream Jobs: Bryan Pohlman’s Endless Summer

21 Jan
January 21, 2015
Surfer Bryan Pohlman in the Maldives

Another day at the office for Bryan Pohlman

If you could have your dream job, what would it be? Is it safe to assume it might revolve around surfing? Would you desire it to include heavy doses of travel and adventure, allowing you to surf the world’s best waves in exotic destinations? Would playing a role in helping others realize some of their own dreams help top things off?

Most people never get to live their dreams, because they don’t pursue them. Others, like Bryan Pohlman, do, precisely because they make it a point. His job, as Global Sales Consultant for Waterways Travel, the world’s largest surf travel agency, is a veritable Endless Summer.

In fact, the parallels between Bruce Brown’s iconic surf film, which celebrated the virtues of travel, wonder and discovery by following two surfers–Mike Hynson and Robert August–as they chased summer around the world, and Pohlman’s own life and career, are uncanny.

Pohlman not only spent a significant part of his career shaping boards for August, but also constructing a life to satisfy the deep wanderlust within him and the DNA of pretty much all surfers, that Brown’s film so beautifully conveyed. Indeed, the film’s concept was born at the suggestion of a travel agent who informed Brown that a flight from LA to Cape Town, South Africa and back would cost $50 more than a trip circumnavigating the globe. This inspired Brown’s idea to make the film about chasing summer around the world and to call it Endless Summer.

Pohlman, who began his career with Air New Zealand and also worked for Quiksilver Travel, has surfed in multiple locations around the world this past year alone, all while collecting a paycheck and helping others pursue their own endless summers. I caught up with Bryan to gain some insight about his professional journey, and his current dream job at Waterways.

Tell me a little bit about Waterways, and your own career timeline. 

Waterways is the largest surf-travel agency in the world. We’ll be celebrating our 21st anniversary in 2015. I’ve personally been in the travel business since 1996.  I started at Air New Zealand and worked there for three years, took a break to be a ghost shaper for Robert August, shaped 600 boards, and then started Quiksilver Travel in 2001. I worked there until 2013, before moving over to Waterways.

How’d you get the job? 
I met Sean Murphy, the owner, on a surf trip to remote Panama in 2007. Even though we were competitors at the time, we got along really well. When Quiksilver Travel shut their doors, it seemed natural to transition over to Waterways, since they were the biggest and best at what they do. And I knew that Sean was probably the only guy in this business who I could still learn a lot from.

How great is your job?
I love it. Getting to interact with traveling surfers keeps me stoked. It also keeps me in tune with tour operators all over the world and gives me a unique perspective on global surf patterns. This year alone, I logged tube time in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans. Not too bad!

What does a typical day/week look like at Waterways? 
Normal office job from 9AM – 5:30PM, but Sean is the best boss ever. He’s always buying lunch for everyone and we’re looking at photos and watching surf contests. Working at Quiksilver for over 10 years was pretty special and had some insane perks, but I think on a day-to-day basis Waterways is a fun place to work because of the people that work here, not to mention our many awesome clients!

Have you always been a frequent traveler?
Always. I’ve been going to Baja since I was 8 years old. I’m just one of those people that sees a map and says, “I have to go there.” So, that’s what I’ve done.

So, you get to travel and surf a lot for work?
Yes, we all get out to R-and-D our surf tours several times each year. I like that part because not only do we get to know our tour operators well and really evaluate their operations, but we also get to meet our clients. I can honestly say that having been in the business for so many years, that most of my best friendships started as client/agent relationships. I love being able to help others fulfill their own dreams. Obviously, I can relate.

Do you get special rates?
We turn down tour operators all the time that want us to come down to their spots. Everyone wants us to check out their tours, because we are the front line of the sales force. So yes, we do get offered lots of free trips, but we don’t expect free trips. We understand that our tour operators need to make a living and we don’t take advantage of them. Plus, I find it’s better to pay, because then you don’t feel obligated to sell a specific resort if they aren’t up to Waterways’ standards. The old saying “There is no such thing as a free lunch” is definitely true in the travel business.

Where all have you been?
(Laughs) a lot of places, and most of them multiple times. Sumatra, Mentawai, Bali, Sumba, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji Islands, Samoa, Hawaiian Islands, Chile, Peru, Panama (Pacific and Caribbean), Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mainland Mexico and the Dominican Republic
.

What’s your favorite destination?
I’ve learned that every destination is unique and different in its own way. But my favorite wave in the world is probably Macaronis.

Some have said that travel is increasingly become a luxury item, a privilege enjoyed primarily by the wealthy. Would you say this is true?
I definitely think having a discretionary income to travel is a luxury. Of course, a lot of surfers travel while they are young and before they have families. And if you’re smart, you can get great value on a surf trip.

Who are your primary customers? Do you work with traveling pros at all? 
Here at Waterways, we’ve been in business since 1994, so most of our customers come back every year or every other year to book their surf trips. I don’t have any official stats, but I think an average age of about 35-45 year old men, some traveling with their non-surfing companions, make up the bulk of our customers. We work with pro surfers and photographers on a regular basis, because many of our destinations offer world-class waves with the best accommodations possible.

Did the recession impact your business significantly, as it did so many others? If so, how did you weather the storm and are you seeing continuing improvement?
Yes, things slowed down some for a while, but we are back on track. Waterways is a niche business with a great reputation and track record. We’ve always offered great prices and work with the best surf tour operators in the world. When you’re the best at what you do, people will buy your products in good times, or bad.

What are some tips for cost-effective surf travel? 
Well, if you have more time than money, you can just go with the flow and show up places. You can meet local surfers and do things on the cheap. But most of our clients can’t leave work and family behind for a month at a time. Most are traveling for 7-14 days. When you have only a few days, you can’t take 3-4 days getting settled in. You need to hit the ground running and be connected with someone who can take care of the other little things like food, transportation and lodging logistics, so you can forget all that, relax and go surfing. That’s what you’re there for and that’s our specialty at Waterways–maximizing the value of your time.

These days, people are increasingly placing value upon “experiences” over “things.” People have realized that you can lose “things” (like homes) and are realizing that these kinds of material possessions can be fleeting or lose their value, whereas experiences last forever. And of course, experiences help shape our identities and define who we are. Have you seen evidence of this in your job?
Absolutely! As a group, surfers have always placed a high value on experience. That’s what surfing really is… it’s an experience. And no one can ever take that away from you. At the same time, you can’t take a wave home with you after you ride it. It’s gone and that particular experience is over until you paddle back out for another one.

I’ve done a great deal of surf-traveling myself and know that sometimes, things can go wrong. Have you seen much of this in your career?
Things can go wrong on any trip, but for some reason, we love to talk about the worst surf travel experiences in our surf media. I don’t know if it’s a “badge of honor” or if people just love to hear stories about trips gone awry, but my motto is, “Expect the best, be prepared for the worst and the trip will probably fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.”

What are some of the trickiest situations you’ve had to deal with?
As an agent, we deal with al sorts of issues from airlines losing bags to guys getting injured and needing to be evacuated, but cancelled flights are one of the biggest headaches for travelers and agents alike. As a surf traveler, I’ve fended off crackheads, walked through knee-deep mud to find waves, super glued my cuts and had to figure out foreign lineups all alone on some really sketchy days.

For readers, of the places you’ve been or promote, where are some of the best destinations for each of the following:

Nothing but hardcore surfing:
Sumatra, Salina Cruz, El Salvador and G-land 

Adventure:
Samoa, Galapagos, Mozambique, Dominican Republic

Couples:
Namotu, Matanivusi, Chaaya Island and Nemberala Beach Resort

Families:
Tavarua, Waidroka, J-Bay, Bocas Del Toro

Best with an unlimited budget: 
Kandui Villas, Chaaya Island, Macaronis Surf Resorts

Best on a tight budget:
Peru, Mexico, Dominican Republic, G-Land, El Salvador

So, do you need some help setting up an East Coast office, so that we can get folks off to the Caribbean, Nazare, Mullaghmore, Mundaka, The Canary Islands and J-Bay most efficiently (hint hint)?
Ha Ha! Maybe some day. But not now.

Ok, well at least there’s still hope!

Where are you personally headed next?
This year, I was in Fiji, Samoa, Hawaii, the Maldives and the Dominican Republic. Next up is Teahupoo, Tahiti in March… nothing booked beyond that.

Any words of wisdom for those wishing to pursue their dream of a career like yours?
You know, the travel industry has changed so much since I began in 1996 that it’s hard for me to give advice to newcomers.  I’d just say that if you want to travel the world, do it any way you possibly can, whether that is being a travel agent, chef, boatman or a teacher. Experiencing different cultures and getting to know people that come from completely different backgrounds is truly a priceless, life changing and enlightening experience that will forever shape how you view others and the world around you.

When you hear Kelly Slater talk about his life, he doesn’t brag on world titles. He talks about being a citizen of the world and how many wonderfully diverse friends he has who have taught him valuable life lessons and provided him with differing perspectives… This is because he has been traveling the globe for the past 30 years. The fact he’s the best surfer who ever lived is just a bonus for the rest of us.

Note: I originally conducted this interview and created the article for Waterways Travel and The Inertia. You can find the that post, here: http://www.theinertia.com/surf/dream-jobs-bryan-pohlmans-endless-summer/#ixzz3PPtMnsok

Happy New Year

02 Jan
January 2, 2015
Sunset is Barbados

Your possibilities for 2015 are as boundless as your imagination.  Sunset shot of a friend from a trip to Barbados.

2105 is finally here! I hope that everyone rang in the New Year in unforgettable ways! My wife was brought down by a pretty vicious cold, forcing us to cancel dinner plans with friends. Still, as always, we enjoyed ringing in the actual New Year at home with our girls. Every moment spent with them is so special for us. As we all begin to consider what lies ahead for 2015, be sure to remember that a new year itself won’t change anything for any of us, unless we do it ourselves. I’m not sure what it’s worth, but here are a few of my own suggestions for creating a life that you love in 2015:

Spend more time looking forward than backward.

Make decisions with conviction and live without regrets.

Never let fear become a barrier in life. That’s what it is.

Believe in yourself. How far we go in life is not based upon what we can see, but how far we can imagine ourselves going.

Don’t settle for anything less than you’re dreaming of. If you’re not doing exactly what you want to be right now, then it’s entirely up to YOU to change it. You can when you come to grips with this reality.

Mind your Heath! Push to stay young and healthy in body, mind and spirit. Living with a bit of self-discipline, balance and consistency will allow you to enjoy so many more things, so much longer than not. With age comes experience. Maintaining your health now will provide you the best of all worlds later.

Travel more in 2015, regardless of challenges! Explore your world to the extent you’re able, whether close or far from home. Although there’s ways to do it efficiently, traveling can be expensive, especially once you have kids. If you’re like me and believe that family is sacred, then rest assured you’ll want to share all of your experiences with your kids, regardless of costs. What’s this mean? That if you’re under 35 (or any age pre-kids), then DOUBLE DOWN on adventure RIGHT NOW while your obligations are fewer, your time more abundant and flexible. I’ve traveled extensively, and it’s never gotten cheaper or easier.

Make every moment of life count while understanding some dreams take time to achieve. Incremental progress is a beautiful thing. The key is never giving up. Remember that we are all just passing through this life. In one sense, that should encourage you to live your life with a sense of urgency. In another, it should remove all pressures of time.

Most importantly, live your life with a sense of positivity- of optimism, perseverance and gratitude.
Do these things and your 2015 and beyond will always be great!

 

Upside Down

30 Dec
December 30, 2014

Girl performing gymnastics on the beach

Who’s to say
I can’t do everything
Well I can try
And as I roll along I begin to find
Things aren’t always just what they seem

I want to turn the whole thing upside down
I’ll find the things they say just can’t be found
I’ll share this love I find with everyone
We’ll sing and dance to Mother Nature’s songs
I don’t want this feeling to go away

– “Upside Down” by Jack Johnson.

I think our youngest daughter, Kaelyn, spends more time on her hands than her feet! : )

Heaven On Earth

18 Sep
September 18, 2014

 

Mountain view

I never cease to be amazed at the sheer enormity of our world. It is so big, beautiful and diverse! You could have all the time and money in the world and never come close to taking in a fraction of it. While there are plenty of places on the planet where humans have helped create a bit of, “hell-on-earth”, I try to never forget that there is still infinitely more heaven-on-earth, than hell. And I am grateful to God for that.

THE ALS #ICEBUCKETCHALLENGE

24 Aug
August 24, 2014

If you live on planet earth and are connected to the Internet, then chances are you’ve heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a viral social media challenge created to help raise awareness of, and generate funding for, the advancement of a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Disease, otherwise know as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The challenge works by challenging (3) people to either donate $100 to ALS or record a video of themselves getting a bucket of ice water dumped on their heads and donating $10. Of course, most people opt to take the bucket on the head, and the $10 donation. The videos then typically get posted to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites and the challenges continue to spread. The campaign has already raised over $50 million for ALS, a staggering figure and a wonderful success story.

I was recently challenged by my friend Ryan Ketterman, a photographer here in Ponte Vedra Beach (check out his work- it’s fantasic!). You’re supposed to act on these challenges within 24 hours. My mid-week work schedule made this difficult for me, but I finally got around to it this weekend. The challenge has actually been around for a couple of weeks and I feel like that wave has crested, you might say. So, while I wasn’t necessarily going to flood anyone’s feed with one more bucket post, I also wasn’t going to back down from the challenge, which I have to say was fun, COLD and hilarious! I know my daughters, who helped out, sure enjoyed it! Below is sequential documentary evidence of my completion of the challenge. Thanks Ryan!

For more information on ALS, please visit www.ALSA.org

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge... What's the big deal?

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge… What’s the big deal?

Go for it girls! I can take it!

Bring it! This doesn't hurt!

Bring it! This doesn’t hurt!

Oh %@#!, maybe a 5-gallon bucket wasn’t such a good idea!

Dang, how long was that ice in there for?!!!

Dang, how long was that ice in there for?!!!

HA HA HA HA HA! OK, I think that actually may have been more fun for you guys than it was for me! Thank goodness we live in Florida!

HA HA HA HA HA! OK, I think that actually may have been more fun for you guys than it was for me! Thank goodness we live in Florida!

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.

 

 

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

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.

The Huntington Beach Riots: Stop Blaming Surfing

14 Aug
August 14, 2013

I’ve written this article in part as a response to some of the commentary floating around seeking to pin the blame for the Huntington Beach riots on Big Surfing. While my primary goal is not necessarily to defend the industry (in which I am not employed, but inherently support in many ways), I do wish to make a point that I feel is irrefutable, and meriting of much greater reflection by surfers and non-surfers alike. The point being that the “culpability” story here is not (as much of the discussion has revolved around), “real surfers” vs. “posers”; “enlightened surfers” vs. Big Surfing; the “old HB” vs. the “new HB”; or the “909s” vs. the “714s”. Rather, the events of that day were just one more example of a society in decline, generally. A rather benign case, at that.

If, as some have said, the US Open is a mirror for the industry, then the industry is a mirror for culture. And while much of the industry regularly engages in lamentable practices (the objectification of women and over-pandering to youth chief among them), they are but bit players in a much larger production. Rather than simply shaking our fists at Vans, Quiksilver or the ASP, we (not just as a surfing community, but a nation), need to be reflecting more on the subjects of strong families, good parenting, individual responsibility, and respect for self and others.

Big Media, Hollywood and some large corporations may be rocks to look under, but eroding morals, irresponsible parenting and a number of troubling consumer, technological and socio-economic trends are much of what lies beneath them. At the root of it all is good old human selfishness. We have become a “me first”, “me last”, “look at me” society that increasingly puts our own self-satisfaction before nearly everything and everyone else around us, including in the case of many parents– our own children. And the results are playing out all over.

 Huntington Beach, you’re not that special.

You may be surprised to learn that Huntington is not the only beach town where summer festivals mixed with raucous crowds, erupted into violence that embarrassed many locals and city officials. Just two-and-a half months ago, we here in Jacksonville Beach experienced a similar event as the Huntington riots over Memorial Day weekend. And while a surf contest was planned for that day, the ASP wasn’t here. Nor were Vans or Quiksilver. Can you believe it?

The event, ceremoniously documented on YouTube, generated much unwanted attention. Port-o-potties weren’t overturned, but one brawler was critically injured. There were two fights involving 10-15 males, most in their late teens and early twenties.

Heated discussions followed about, “Beachies” vs. “Townies”, racism, alcohol and gangs. In Huntington Beach, the perpetrators were cited as, “White and Latino trash”; here, as “Black trash”. How about, let’s put all the trash in one can. Then, let’s consider just how much the problems at either event, particularly the US Open, really had to do with surfers, surfing or surf cities.

I think we’re missing the point…

We’re living in a day and age where people are dressing up like clowns and gunning down movie-goers in theaters; where others are snuffing kindergartners; and still others driving over people on our boardwalks. Kidnapping women for use as personal sex slaves and locking kids in cages are also trending.

But who can blame the crazies?

We’re infatuated with video games like, “Grand Theft Auto”, “Call of Duty” and “Gears of War”. Television offers us the sad materialism and celebrity-worship of The Real Housewives and The Kardashians. And an endless variety of crime shows compete with one another to see who can showcase the most shocking violence and graphic sex in prime time.

If you’re still gainfully employed and fortunate enough to be able to afford the luxury of HBO, you might have caught this year’s most acclaimed television moment: the 8-minute “Red Wedding” slaughter scene from Game of Thrones where every member of a wedding party was slashed to death in beautiful HD glory, including one pregnant woman. Make sure we see the baby in her belly get stabbed a few times! For God’s sake, someone get the producers an Emmy!

Meanwhile, we’re all too absorbed in our own self-gratification to care much about what our kids are doing. “Go watch tv in your own room, honey, TMZ is on!”  “Ok, mom (assumes dad bailed the family long ago), I’ll Kik / Snapchat / Ask / Vine / Chat Roulette or otherwise just Google some stranger to pay attention to me instead, because I quite literally crave any kind of attention, you know?”

While advances in technology like mobile devices and social media have played a critically important role in connecting us and giving voice to many in the world who could use one; they have also spawned a generation of narcissists who have fooled themselves into believing that the rest of us want to see one more of their idiotic “selfies”. In my opinion, the saddest part of the Huntington Beach riot videos was the sight of nearly every human being present holding up a camera phone to record the event so that they’d be able to capture and share video of the pandemonium with their friends, who in turn would no doubt be impressed that they were a part of the pathetic scene.

The dumbing down of America continues to happen right in front of us and it is spreading like a viral video. Growing poverty rates, unemployment, fractured families and under-education seem to be leading many, especially the young, to lash out in anger, increasingly asserting themselves violently, or just stupidly.

On the flipside, many of the more privileged in our society, despite seeming to have nearly everything they could possibly need to succeed, also seem to lack the one thing that apparently, everyone is having trouble finding: a moral center.

This pains me to write because I am a positive, hopeful, optimistic person by nature. And I can’t really offer a solution other than to suggest that we probably all need to look within ourselves to find the answers by examining our own personal values, and how we choose to live those on a daily basis.

But I do know this: what happened in Huntington Beach wasn’t just about Big Surfing. It was about something much larger.

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

 BrianWeissmannphotobyMarkWilsonweb

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.

A Letter to My Daughter on Her 13th Birthday

12 Mar
March 12, 2012

A Letter to My Daughter on Her 13th Birthday

This is a letter I wrote to my daughter celebrating her 13th birthday. For this special occasion, Kendall’s mother and I decided to do something a little different than the usual party, instead opting for something a little more meaningful, memorable and empowering. We invited several influential women in Kendall’s life (grandmothers, mothers of friends, spiritual leaders from church, teachers and friends) to shower her with Godly blessings as she embarks into her teenage years. It was a very simple setting of speaking, followed by desserts. Casual. Informal. Some spoke off the tops of their heads. Others like me, wrote messages and read them to Kendall. We all expressed ourselves from our hearts. As her father, I was the only male present and went last. It was an extremely emotional experience from start to finish (a lot of tears), and while challenging on that front, it was extremely fulfilling. My wife got this idea from her close friend, Lissa Slade, who is an Assistant Pastor at Christ the Redeemer Church here in Ponte Vedra Beach. I had never heard or, nor thought about a celebration like this, but when Lisa recently held a similar 13th birthday event  for her daughter, Gretchen and I both immediately recognized the profound nature of it. It is a concept that I believe should be more widely known and practiced. It would be equally valuable for girls or boys. If you have a son or daughter coming of age, I would encourage you to think about doing something similar. I believe our daughter will carry the memories of this event with her for the rest of her life.

3/12/12

Dear Kendall,

I’d like to begin by expressing a couple of very important things. Things that maybe I’ve never said to you before, but that you should know. The first is just how grateful I am for you! You are a child who was born out of a deep love between your mother and I. We prayed hard, and very specifically for you. We had no assurances that we could even have a child. I remember praying to God so many times that if he would only deliver you to us, that we would always love you, teach you to put Him above all others, and guard your soul with our lives. Your mother and I both know that one of the primary reasons we were put on this earth was to love and care for you and your sister, and to ultimately lead both of you closer to Him.

 Another important thing I want you to understand today is how full you have made my life. Our world is unpredictable and none of us are promised tomorrow. As you may have come to realize, there is a part of me that is modeled loosely on Peter Pan, a boy who refuses to grow up. Correspondingly, I expect to be around for many more years to come! But please know that if anything were to ever happen to me, that you, along with your mom and sister have helped to make my life full and complete. I would die without a single regret; would always be by your side spiritually; and would be delighted hanging out with Jesus in Heaven, waiting for a blessed reunion with all of you one day! Kendall, I pray that you would know a life of similar joy, peace and satisfaction, one spent pursuing your passions without regret, made full by loving friends and family and complete by Jesus Christ. There are many ways to enjoy life, but there is only one God and you will only know real, eternal happiness –the kind I have come to know– by putting that relationship first before all others. There is no other way.

Kendall, I am so happy for this opportunity to speak to you before our family and friends, to publicly proclaim some of my life’s wishes and blessings for you. Like you, I am inherently shy and easily embarrassed. But I believe that there is great power in letting others know what you stand for– openly, honestly and publicly. God himself requires this of us. My wish and blessing for you is that God will grant you the wisdom to understand the full power of honesty, and of having the courage to stand behind your convictions– the personal beliefs that you know are good, right and true because God put them in your heart. I speak from many years of experience when I tell you that nothing will empower you more in this life than living honestly with yourself and others, and not allowing external pressures to influence you to act (or sometimes, not act), in the ways that you know you should. Conversely, dishonesty only leads to hurt, disappointment and more problems. Believe in yourself, Kendall and others will believe in you. Be consistent. Reputations by their definition are built over time, yet they can be destroyed in an instant.

Kendall, God has blessed you so abundantly! He instilled in you a sensitivity and overwhelming sense of compassion for others. Patience and kindness flow from you naturally and these qualities are a blessing to others around you. My prayer is that God would continue to work through you to help others with your gifts. Whether this is manifested through ideas like your Ask Me Anything Peer Mentoring program and volunteering; or in more subtle, but equally significant ways like simply listening to others when they need to talk; standing up for them when called for; encouraging them when they are down; and putting the needs of others before your own. I pray that you understand and will never forget that every person around you holds great value in God’s eyes, no matter their circumstances, nor even their faults.

Kendall, like your mom, God blessed you with uncommon physical beauty. Like all gifts, I pray that you would embrace this with a sense of gratitude and humility. More importantly, I pray that you will always remember that your looks do not determine who you are. Real beauty emerges from within one’s heart. Like all people with Jesus in them, His light is what makes souls beautiful in a truly meaningful and lasting way that will never fade due to the effects of time or gravity.

Kendall, in the coming years, your internal and external beauty, and many wonderful qualities will no doubt begin to draw the attention of boys, some of whom you may have no interest in at all, and others, who you may find yourself drawn to. I pray that God would bless you with the wisdom to be able to discern the good boys from the bad. And I promise I will always be here to help you do that. Good boys, like good girls, are patient, kind and compassionate. They respect themselves, their families and all others and do not try to manipulate or pressure their friends or girlfriends into making poor decisions.

Kendall, loves may come and go, but you will only ever be able to surrender your purity once in this lifetime and I hope that you would find the patience and strength to be able to share that precious gift with the man you choose to marry many years from today. Most importantly, I pray that you will never, ever settle for anyone less than exactly who you are seeking, who God put you on this earth to be with. I had many opportunities to do the same throughout my life, but never stopped searching until the day God brought your mom into my life, with all of the qualities I had ever hoped for, and then some.

I pray that you recognize that you have the power to live a life without compromise, and that you will. I pray that you continue to acquire a good education and a college degree so that you will never be financially dependent upon another person, except by your choosing, and then, with the ability to sustain yourself should it ever become necessary. This is important, even if you ultimately aspire to the noble role of a full-time stay-at-home mom.  In life, it is always wise to have a Plan B and I would encourage you to never stop learning.

Kendall, you are so intelligent. Another gift to cherish and be grateful for. But more important than intelligence is wisdom. And real wisdom –the knowledge of life– is found inside the Bible and staying close to, and learning more about God. After all, He is the “Giver” of life. The “Knower” of all. The “Maker” who created you. He sent his own son to die for all of us, which trust me, as a parent, is an incomprehensible thought, all so that we might be saved from sin. Saved from ourselves.

Kendall– finally, while you have been blessed with so much, and all of us here have so many hopes and wishes for you, I would pray that you never, ever fall into the trap of allowing yourself to feel as though you have to somehow be “perfect”. None of us can ever be that, nor will we ever have to be. Jesus was perfect for us. We honor Him to the highest by simply being the unique people he created us to be, holding Him close in our hearts and trying to live our lives with purpose, in all the ways he laid out for us in the Bible. My prayer for you is that you will simply always be near to Him. He is the one and only key to a full life of peace and happiness, now and forever.

When it gets right down to it, there’s not much more that you need to know.

Love, Dad

Sacred Vows

06 Mar
March 6, 2012

Sacred Vows

As Dane Reynolds patently reaffirmed for us this past year, often the most interesting things about surfing the planet are not the waves you score, but rather the people you meet and experiences you have beyond your sessions. Like him, I relish this aspect of surf travel and have always been conscious to seek out and soak up these transcendent occasions.

Our world is so big, diverse and ever-changing.

If you’ve ever stood atop a 14,000 foot mountain and tried to make sense of the enormity of the world around you; sat in a foreign lineup and tripped out on a pre-historic jungle hugging the shore; or even marveled at feats of engineering in a concrete jungle of towering skyscrapers, well then… you understand what I’m saying.

Our lives are fleeting.

In the context of time, we are not on this earth for a moment. Not even a breath of a moment. Tomorrow is not promised to us. Nor, even the next second. So, you’ve got to seize every opportunity to experience life, and just “go.”

It was with this mindset that I related the importance of surfing and traveling in my life to my bride-to-be long ago, as we planned for our future. As someone who has enjoyed the indescribable blessings of a true soul mate and happy marriage for years, I can inform you that helping to ensure this has the best chance of being the case doesn’t require all the formalities of pre-marriage counseling and meetings with a Pastor– just the simplest bits of common sense.

My wife and I established our compatibility and commitment to one another over the course of a couple of years of dating (always wise). As a result, when our minds turned to something a little more permanent, something like a lifetime– well, we actually got things squared away in about half an hour.

Had we both dated long enough to know with certainty what kind of people we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with? Check. Did we share the same religious beliefs? Check. Were we good with combining bank accounts and tossing everything else into one big pile? Check. Could we agree to hold off on kids for a bit to ensure that our marriage was sound, and to play with each other for a couple of years? Check.

It wasn’t rocket science.

But as a surfer, there was one more thing that I had to add to that list– my undying love for and commitment to, surfing and surf-travel. (Until death would do us part.)

I informed my future wife, Gretchen, that years before the time I had ever met her– from those earliest days until eternity, I had already committed to a lifetime of chasing waves and new experiences in places near and far. And I wasn’t about to go back on this promise to myself. As I looked into the future and imagined a day when kids, careers and yard work might slowly pilfer away the friends that I had once surfed and traveled with, I assured her that I would never succumb to these same “traps”– that I would forever be limited only by the resources that enabled me to continue to “go.”

I told her that if she were willing, I would love to share these experiences with her. And that if not– if she wasn’t interested or resolved in the idea of a bit of adventure, and if one day the boys just couldn’t pull it all together, well then– I’d still be going…

I’d just be traveling solo.

Fortunately, she was stoked. And we never looked back.

Today, while we’ve still only seen and surfed a fraction of the places on this earth that beckon, sharing these adventures with her, and now– our children, has made chasing these moments all the more pressing and fundamental.

Author’s Note: This is my latest piece for The Inertia, a leading-edge highly-popular action sports website based out of California billed as, “The Planet’s Largest Network of Thinking Surfers” To see the response and full discussion of the article, please visit: http://www.theinertia.com/author/tim-hamby/

 

Hope Goes Surfing

07 Feb
February 7, 2012

I really love this concept: A professional surfer (former ASP World Champion and Central Floridian, CJ Hobgood), being sponsored by a non-profit group! TWLOHA (To Write Love on Her Arms) is an organization dedicated to providing help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA, founded by Jamie Tworkowski, is not only a non-profit, but also a surfwear brand. So people who support the brand also support the cause. It is a genius business model because it is also a very worthy one. 

CJ, along with his twin brother, Damien, are in my opinion, two of the best ambassadors the sport of surfing has ever seen. They’ve both been ripping for years, as adept at the newest of new school airs and rotes, as negotiating the heaviest of slabs at places like Teahupo’o and Pipe.

C.J. nearly abandoned his coveted spot on the World Tour last year, but a couple of outstanding late season competitive successes, along with a bit of self-reflection, convinced him to continue in 2012. Having the opportunity to be supported by and in turn, to be able to promote such a meaningful brand/organization like TWOLHA no doubt provided a fresh surge of motivation for Hobgood, a strong self-professed Christian.

If you’ve ever known someone who has struggled with depression or addiction, then you know how debilitating those things can be. I’ve seen it up close and personal and have watched how it affects not only the individuals experiencing the issues directly, but nearly everyone around them in one form or another. Hopefully, CJ and organizations like TWLOHA will be able to use a similar “ripple effect” in reverse to raise awareness for these kinds of problems, and marshall more resources to help those who are fighting to overcome them.

If you are a Fantasysurfer player like me, take it from someone who has finished in the Top 1% of all players worldwide for three years in a row: Keep you eye on CJ this year. Despite a significant influx of rising young talent, CJ is going to be surfing with renewed purpose. If they price him low (likely), be sure to pick him up. And if he under-performs (unlinkely), well– let’s just say that won’t really matter.

You see, some things in life are more important than surfing.

Focusing Beyond The Dream

12 Jan
January 12, 2012

Focusing Beyond The Dream

Kendall’s County-wining Essay on Martin Luther King
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” These powerful words were spoken by perhaps the world’s most well-known Civil Rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Dr. King achieved his goals through hard work, persistence and hope that seemed to never end. He focused on lifting others, not himself. I have long shared Dr. King’s passion for helping other individuals, my community and the world, and have tried to achieve my goals the same way he did- by working hard, never giving up and always looking to the future.

One example of this was last year. It was sixth grade and a new school. I would get sick at school and wonder why, until one day it hit me. I was anxious about everything: teachers, homework, friends. I was later able to overcome my nerves.

Fast forward to seventh grade. 

I no longer had this problem and decided that nobody else should, either. So, with the aid of my parents and school guidance counselor, I formed an organization: Ask Me Anything. It’s a program where middle schoolers who are nervous can meet and ask questions of older students. The dictionary defines persistence as: The steady pursuit of what is undertaken. Dr. King was always persistent. Even when put in jail, he never backed down. I’ve met kids who go home in tears every day because they are nervous about being in a new school. But I know from experience that things do get better if you are persistent, like Dr. King.

I also work to serve others in the nursery at my church. I do this voluntarily as my way of giving back to the community that rallied around me when I needed their encouragement during sixth grade. Dr. King aided his community when he refused to accept the ideas of racism and it changed his community. When Dr. King gave his famous, “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, he expressed that you can achieve your goals by taking small steps– first, others around you; then your community; and eventually the world.

Changing the world is a massive challenge. But it did not stop Dr. King. He was persistent with his cause and it paid off. Now the Georgia pastor has become a global icon. When the Civil Rights movement is mentioned, Dr. King is the first name that comes to mind. My goal is that someday, my program will be used nationwide so that kids in other areas can benefit from it.

Dr. King made a great change in the world and has inspired me to work hard and help others. Not just in my community, but everywhere. Dr. King has taught me to never give up, work hard and look to the future with goals. He has inspired me, along with millions, to make my dreams a reality.

The Importance of Compassion

11 Jan
January 11, 2012

The Importance of Compassion

Not long ago, I wrote about a memorable moment shared with my 9-year old daughter, Kaelyn, who revealed to me in a wonderfully subtle way, her strong sense of empathy and compassion. I feel that the ability to recognize and share feelings such as sadness or happiness being experienced by others is one of the most important qualities an individual can possess. Consequently, I also believe it’s one of the most important attributes for parents to nurture in our children.

Like all things, given a bit of purposeful attention, compassion has the power to grow and evolve. What begins as a simple feeling inside of a child’s heart can morph into a desire to help others. That desire can turn into an idea. And that idea can blossom into acts that transform lives for the better.

My 12-year old daughter, Kendall, recently provided a great example of how a strong sense of empathy can mature into something greater over time.

Kendall is a sweet, kind, intelligent girl. Like her mom, she’s beautiful with a gorgeous smile and dimples. Everyone who meets her seems naturally drawn to her (Yes– I am a “Doting Dad” and don’t apologize for it! I may ask to be excused for this, but will never say I’m sorry for it!). Although people have always enjoyed engaging with Kendall, she herself has always been relatively shy and quiet, and never one to dominate socially.

Last year, Kendall entered 6th grade and that transition proved challenging for her.

Most parents understand the anxiety a child faces when moving from elementary school to middle school. All of a sudden, our children are no longer being coddled. They’re getting up at the crack of dawn, being thrown together with kids from other schools. Their bodies are changing. They have class schedules and lockers. And for 6th graders, well, they’re at the very bottom of the totem pole and perhaps their greatest wish is simply that no 7th or 8th grader will even notice them at all. They’re just trying not to get run over during the stampede between classes.

As much as Kendall loves school and being with her friends, she struggled against a merciless battle with anxiety last year. She was continually plagued with fits of nausea. She would throw up– often several times a day, moving back and forth from class to the clinic. Often, she would have to come home. She missed parts of over 60 days during the year! Most heart-wrenching, Kendall didn’t even understand what was happening to her. She was excited about 6th grade and desperately desired to be at school with her friends! That excitement was simply morphing into anxiety.

Fortunately, we are blessed to live in an incredible school district with some outstanding administrators and teachers, as well as an awesome community of supportive friends and family. Our local school officials provided us with heartfelt support, helping monitor Kendall and helping her stay current with her classwork. Similarly, our friends reached out to help any way they could.

Eventually, Kendall began to overcome her anxiety. Her bad mornings and clinic visits became more spread out, her self-confidence started to grow and by the third quarter of the year, she seemed to hit her stride and put those anxious feelings behind her.

Kendall’s fierce battle with –and ultimately, victory– over severe anxiety was no secret in our social circles. So it was not surprising when we began to get inquiries from other parents about our experience. Apparently, several other children in our local community were having similar issues and their parents wanted to learn more about how Kendall had overcome her problems. They wondered if she might agree to speak with their children about her own experiences, peer-to-peer. Of course, Kendall understood and happily obliged.

Shortly thereafter, a 5th-grade teacher approached us with a similar request, this time asking if Kendall would speak to her entire class. And once again, she obliged cheerfully.

Finally, after the third request from yet another teacher, Kendall came up with an idea: What if she created a support program for any and all new 6th graders who might be experiencing anxiety over the daunting transition into middle school?

She more than anyone understood these challenges and how to deal with them. And so, “Ask Me Anything” was born. Kendall came up with the idea for the peer-to-peer program and the name. She thought through the mission, goals and structure of the organization, and then created a powerpoint to present her idea for it to her school.

“Ask Me Anything” is beautifully simple and straightforward. If a child is having difficulty with anxiety for any reason, they can call on Kendall or another volunteer peer mentor, boy or girl (Kendall has since recruited some of her friends to assist), to simply reach out to that child– to speak with them, be a friendly face in the hall, help set their expectations, and basically provide encouragement from a friendly, “wise elder”– one who has lived through the experience.

The school has since called upon Kendall to assist three times this year, both with individual students and larger groups. And not just sixth graders but also students transferring in from outside school districts. All the while, true to the universal, reciprocal nature of giving and sharing, Kendall’s own self-confidence has continued to blossom.

I am sharing Kendall’s powerpoint here. It is an easy program to duplicate and apply at any school and doesn’t require that that peer volunteers have to had to suffer from anxiety, themselves. It’s simply about being on-call to provide support and encouragement to anyone who may need it.

Beyond just sharing the program with those who might be interested in it, my greater point in writing about Kendall’s experience is this: Like her 9-year old sister, and many other young, sensitive children, Kendall, from an early age, always seemed blessed with a strong sense of empathy and compassion. Her mother and I recognized it and we always made it a point to nurture those feelings.

Now, at age 12, we’ve watched Kendall’s special qualities give birth to an idea. That idea evolved into action. And that action may well be helping a few people through a very difficult time in their lives.

If this is what compassion can develop into by age 12, what might it become in another 5 years … or 20?

We can’t wait to see.

A-1.M.A._Presentation

Giving Thanks

26 Dec
December 26, 2011

 

I’ve just returned home to Ponte Vedra Beach after traveling up to Hartsville, South Carolina (pop. 7,764) to spend Thanksgiving with my wife’s family. This is one of my favorite annual holiday traditions – when I pack up, hit the road and head so far out into farm country that my cell phone is rendered useless. I couldn’t receive one of GAP’s Black Friday mobile coupons (or any retailer’s), even if I wanted one. And if I actually wanted to go shopping (HA!), I would have had to travel countless miles just to try and find a store. For someone whose career has revolved so heavily around marketing and online digital communications, I must admit I’ve always found it remarkably easy to just “unplug” on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Rather, I relish this rare and special time on my wife’s grandma’s (Nana’s) 70-year-old farm, trying to shoehorn 20 family members ranging from ages one to 93 into a humble 3-bedroom home, and ultimately around a vintage bench-style kitchen table for a Thanksgiving meal where we slide in close to those we love.

Despite floors that creak, guest beds that dip about 6″ in the center and all the challenges of a home strained by the burden of accommodating five times the number of people it was ever designed for; I still find comforts there that the most modern conveniences could never provide.

And I am so grateful…

Grateful to learn that a mix of honey, lemon and whiskey can vanquish a head cold faster and more effectively than any overpriced, over-the-counter medication ever could.

Grateful to witness my 12-year-old daughter, Kendall, get behind the wheel of a truck for her first driving experience, in a lap around the cornfields with her grandpa.

Grateful to know that my 9-year-old daughter, Kaelyn, who seems to grow taller and more independent with each passing hour, is still not too big to find sanctuary in her daddy’s lap.

Grateful to sit back quietly and just admire how truly beautiful my wife and daughters are, both inside and out.

And shopping, and work are the farthest things from my mind…

Only… How lucky am I?

Interestingly, researchers say that there are enormous benefits resulting from living with an “attitude of gratitude.” Not just spiritual benefits, but physical and emotional ones, as well. In fact, they say it has been scientifically proven that people who live with a “spirit of gratefulness” live longer, and enjoy better overall well-being.

Like most people, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my life– a lot of times when I could get down on myself, lose myself in self-pity and ask, “Why me?” But I understand that everything in this world is relative. Somebody’s always going to have it better. Someone’s always going to have it worse. So I never question my circumstances, or why I don’t have this gift or that blessing. I just focus on the things I do have and try to remember to thank God for each and every one of them, every day.

In the “Black Friday” scrambles that so often seem to characterize routine existence, I thank God especially for those too rare occasions when he strips away the superficial extravagances of our everyday lives and allows us to focus on the real gifts standing right beside us.

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