Tag Archive for: Tim Hamby

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.

 

 

Guana River State Park

01 Jan
January 1, 2014
Guana River State Park

Guana River State ParkGuana River State Park

Guana River State Park between Jacksonville, FL and St. AugustineGuana River State Park ocean side, between Jacksonville, FL and St. Augustine

Above are a few images of 12,000-acre Guana River State Park in the Greater Jacksonville, FL area, between Ponte Vedra Beach and St. Augustine. Even on a cold winter day in December, her beauty shines through. The park runs from the Atlantic Ocean, across dunes, marsh and over to the Tolomato River. The place is gorgeous, loaded with hiking and biking trails, and lots of wildlife (bird sanctuary, calving ground for Right Whales, among many other species). I asked my wife to marry me here at the northern entrance to the park. I love to surf at Guana because it breaks well, handles larger swells better than most places around here, and is typically uncrowded. Gretchen thought that I was stopping to check the surf on the way out to eat one evening when I popped the question to her on top of the highest observation deck in the park. We later built a home right on the edge of the marsh in Guana and lived there for about 12 years or so. We ended up moving, but not too far- just about mile down the road off A1A. Guana River State Park is an excellent place to run, surf, fish, kayak, hike, bike, look for sharks teeth, or just explore and relax. If you’re looking for something to do in the Jax area one weekend, try to check it out. There’s also a great research center with some pretty cool displays at the southern entrance near Vilano Beach.

Dunescape

25 Aug
August 25, 2013

Ponte Vedra Beach sea oats and sand dunes by Tim Hamby

Rise and Shine

24 Aug
August 24, 2013

Florida lakefront

Florida Reflection

24 Aug
August 24, 2013

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St. Augustine Cross

24 Aug
August 24, 2013

A3

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.

Wild Florida

23 Jul
July 23, 2013

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Natural Art

23 Jul
July 23, 2013

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More Beach Weeks Results News

07 Jul
July 7, 2013

8/6/2013 Update on Beach Weeks... I was informed today by my former Operations Manager that Southeast Volusia County’s bed-tax collections for the month of June, 2013- the primary month that Beach Weeks took place – was $158,000 – the highest amount for this traditionally slow month in a decade (since the 2003 fiscal year!) GREAT results that should ensure the future of “Beach Weeks” for a long time to come, and a rewarding acknowledgement for a lot of hard work! Big shoutouts to my former SVAA Team Members including the Board of Directors, who trusted me enough to approve my recommended funding for this concept;  Frank DeMarchi of Black Crow Productions, who spearheaded production and without whom it would never  have occurred; Former Chairman of the SVAA Board, David Kosmas, who challenged me to make it happen this year, despite a short timetable; Liz Yancey, who helped steer some of the events/production and Elizabeth Gifford, who helped drive planning, budgeting and marketing from beginning to end. Thanks also to Sherry Hendershot, Myriah Chandler and Bobbie Clemente for all of their administrative and design work that went into this, and to Doug Garrison and Ed Bondi for their initial branding concepts! May Beach Weeks become a “can’t miss” annual event for Southeast Volusia County for years to come!


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

03 Jul
July 3, 2013

Bustin’ Down Doors: Right Coast Resilience

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

 

Brian Weissmann: Trident Surf Shop

 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.

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