Tag Archive for: surf careers

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

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

03 Jul
July 3, 2013

Bustin’ Down Doors: Right Coast Resilience

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

 

Brian Weissmann: Trident Surf Shop

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Brian Weissmann        Photo: Mark Sain Wilson

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

Fortunately, Brian Weissmann is that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

03 Jul
July 3, 2013

Bustin’ Down Doors: Right Coast Resilience

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

Mark Sain Wilson: Artist & Photographer

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.

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.

Recent Piece for Eastern Surf Magazine: DaBuh.com

19 Mar
March 19, 2013

Recent Piece for Eastern Surf Magazine: DaBuh.com

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