Tag Archive for: Mark Wilson

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

MarkSainWilsonphotobyRyanKettermanweb

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.

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