The Inertia Editorial Intern

These surfers, some professionals and some enthusiasts, have managed to ride a wave of success outside of the ocean. Here are five very successful entrepreneurs who began with an idea and turned their dreams into reality with passion and perseverance.

Please add your own success stories to this list, which is just the tip of the iceberg.


Nick Woodman, GoPro billionaire.

Nick Woodman, GoPro billionaire.

1. Nicholas Woodman started out by taping a 35mm camera to his hand while surfing. Today, he is the current CEO and founder of GoPro. Frustrated with his inability to capture quality action photos while surfing in Australia, and seeing many others around him in the action sports world distraught as well, Woodman became inspired to start GoPro. With money earned from selling shell accessories with his soon-to-be wife and a loan from his mother, his GoPro dream became a reality. Amateur photographers now have an affordable way to capture and stop the action like they never had before. Once a frustrated surfer, and now a billionaire, Woodman is crafting his own wave on the ride of his life.

Woolcott, talking Volcom.

Woolcott, talking Volcom.

2. Richard Woolcott suffered a broken neck at the age of 19, while surfing, after a wave slammed him into a sandbar. With his dream of being a professional surfer shattered, Woolcott was forced to redirect his career plans. Once a sponsored surfer for Quiksilver, Woolcott left to form his own brand, Volcom, in 1991. Woolcott and Tucker Hall started Volcom as clothing company that would embody everything they loved about surfing, skating, and snowboarding. Making numerous surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding DVDs, starting Volcom Entertainment, their own record label, and helping fans and athletes showcase artwork on websites has helped Woolcott build Volcom into the empire it is today.

3. Conan Hayes watched as once-great surfers got pushed off the World Tour because of injuries or simply because they were getting old. Looking to start a different life before he was forced, Hayes co-founded RVCA in 2001. He had grown weary of the repetitive nature of competition after being a part of the World Tour for a while. A well-known professional surfer on the World Tour and throughout the surfing community, Hayes decided he would find success out of the water as well. RVCA quickly became a hit with surfers and skaters everywhere. After selling RVCA to Billabong in 2010, Hayes continued on his journey out of the water. He now makes children’s toys, focuses on his family and refuses to let any waves crash on him.

Quiksilver's Bob McKnight.  Photo: Transworld Business

Quiksilver’s Bob McKnight. Photo: Transworld Business

4. Bob McKnight started by giving away Quiksilver boardshorts out of the back of his Volkswagen van to the kids who surfed along the California coast. McKnight recognized the importance of getting the Quiksilver brand out and started to sponsor surfers, hoping to gain more press and the reputation of being a sponsor. What started out as a simple two-man operation has since grown into a worldwide corporation. In 1990, McKnight noticed an untapped market of clothing for young, active girls and launched Roxy. It has become the largest action sport fashion brand specifically designed for young women. Still the executive chairman for Quiksilver, McKnight continues to be an influential force on the Quiksilver brand he helped build from the back of his van.

Aguerre, following his passion. Photo: Anthony Ghiglia

Aguerre, following his passion. Photo: Anthony Ghiglia

5. Fernando Aguerre
was inspired by his love of the ocean. He and his brother Santiago put that love to work and found an otherwise untapped market. Reef footwear was designed for the wear and tear those who live the active lifestyle constantly put their sandals through. A simple idea for a quality sandal that truly fit was the foundation, and surfers were the target market. The traditional flip flop was turned into a reliable brand that quickly lit up mainstream fashion. However, Aguerre has since branched out from Reef and become the president of the International Surfing Association. Still working to better the lives of surfers, he is pushing hard to get surfing into the Olympics. His love for the ocean pushed Aguerre to create a brand of footwear which makes surfer’s lives better.


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