Want to Climb the Corporate Ladder or Jump Off: Learn to Surf
By: Shah Gilani, Forbes Magazine
A small but rapidly growing number of corporate executives, successful business owners and entrepreneurs are upping their coolness quotient by learning to surf.
And a smart few have jumped off the corporate ladder altogether to open surf schools.
I just came back from an amazing surf camp in Costa Rica (I could always be cooler) where the young owners of this dream business (oh yes, it’s definitely a business) were both fresh off the fast-track corporate ladder and building a unique lifestyle business.
These days it’s not unusual to see surfing listed alongside advanced degrees and corporate experience on fancy resumes making the rounds at oil companies and investment banks.
Why not? A lot of the folks at the top of the food chain are learning to surf themselves.
That’s what the owners of Kalon Surf (Kalon is an ancient Greek word that means inner beauty) told me. They ought to know, they cater to a high-end clientele who come to Kalon to learn to surf.
“We have pretty much an equal number of men and women coming to surf, some of whom are bankers and lawyers, doctors, entrepreneurs and families from all over the world come to Kalon,” said Kjeld Schigt, the young Dutch self-described “city boy” who founded Kalon two years ago.
Kjeld was once one of those fast-track corporate types at BP, the third largest oil company and fourth biggest company in the world. He loved the corporate world and it loved him. But, when he had to decide between a dream posting in a position he coveted and sowing his own entrepreneurial dreams of opening a surf school, he caught the wave.
But that’s not all he caught. He had the good fortune to be a premier client at HSBC, and when he needed to set up accounts in Costa Rica to open Kalon, he was introduced to San Jose, Cost Rica native beauty Silene Vega Delgado, a fast-track MBA-minted executive at the bank.
After unsuccessfully trying to romantically navigate the choppy waters of a professional relationship that Silene wouldn’t compromise, the dynamic-duo eventually dated after she quit the bank to chase her own entrepreneurial dreams in the arts and retail business.
They just got married and now Silene is building and running Kalon with her husband and their professional surfing instructors, chefs and the staff who keep the “mansion” nestled three hundred meters up in the jungle overlooking the endless Pacific Ocean in perfect condition.
That’s where you stay and relax in hammocks when you’re not catching a wave and sitting on top of the world. Well, in my case it was more like catching whitewater and standing up long enough to learn that surfing is totally addicting.
But it wasn’t just that surfing was easy to learn, (they video you, which helps) and totally awsome. The other guests at Kalon were as cool as the sport itself.
Divrina had just quit her editing job at Vogue to go on a surfing safari, with Kalon her first stop. No doubt the “Divrina Diva” will be at the top of the masthead of her own flagship fashion magazine after she masters the big surf at Pipeline.
Ned or “Dead-hand Ned” as we nicknamed him for his unique surfing style, was a second-timer at Kalon and booked another trip before he left. Ned, an executive with AT&T has a wicked sense of humor almost as sharp as his cutbacks.
And finally there was Allegra, who Ned and I secretly nicknamed “Bikini Babe.” Not only could the Bikini Babe surf, she is no-doubt the hottest general contractor in Miami. And, I’m not just talking about her looks; I’m talking about the mega-mansions she builds for the rich and famous on Star Island and elsewhere on South Beach. How did BB become a general contractor? She cut her teeth in the corporate world working for the Related Companies in both New York and Miami.
So, if you want to up your resume or your cool quotient and you don’t surf, maybe it’s high tide, I mean time, that you thought about schooling yourself in the ways of waves.
And if you’ve had enough of climbing the corporate ladder and want to open your own surf school, watch out for the Kalon competition, because they’re expanding globally and will probably be the Big Kahunas of the surf school set.