Breakfast with the Surf Pros: SSPN

It’s a relatively chilly and overcast January morning by Southern Californian standards. Gunmetal skies hang low above Cardiff State Park as ominous clouds churn overhead and threaten rain. The water, however, is packed as a fresh round of head-high swell pours in from the Pacific and lights up the reefs with murky walls of tapered glass. The PCH bumps with a slow crawl of surfers cruising the coast, and parking lots from Imperial Beach to Oceanside fill to capacity as neoprene-adorned surf addicts suit up for their next fix. All in all, a fairly typical San Diego winter morning, but not exactly the type of scene you’d expect to be inhabited by a group of lawyers, financial planners, insurance brokers, real estate salesmen and bio-techies. Unless, of course, they’re members of the SSPN.

Welcome to the Successful Surfers Professional Network, says a cheerful and surfed-out-looking Tom English, SSPN president and financial planning specialist, the only professional networking group where it’s OK if your nose drips on a fellow members hand as you shake it. In fact, Tom continues, if that did happen, instead of grossing them out, they’d probably just be jealous and ask where you surfed.

SSPN Membership

SSPN accepts new members. Stop on by.

  • Ki’s Rest. Cardiff
  • 8:45am
  • Every other Wednesday
  • Next meeting 2/9/05
  • Business attire
  • RSVP Tom@wfpc.com

Tucked into a quiet upstairs corner at Ki’s Restaurant on PCH at a window-side table that conveniently overlooks all the action at Cardiff below, the 15-odd-member group sits down for one of their bimonthly breakfast networking chats, with the intent to promote friendship and business. The upshot of these little post-surf powwows lays in a philosophy that Tom touches on right away. If you help the businesses of others succeed, eventually that success will be returned to yours.

A somewhat lofty concept, especially considering the reputation lawyers, mortgage brokers and the like tend to have, but before passing judgment and calling all this public relations B.S., consider the two major things that every person at the table has in common. First, they all own or represent well-respected small businesses in San Diego County, several of which overlap in areas of operation and share common client groups, a scenario that makes the concept of networking to share ideas, information and contacts nothing but logical.

The second and far more crucial common element is the fact that every single person at the table is either a surfer or is committed to an ocean-oriented lifestyle in a similar way. There isn’t a Wall Street-hustling, rat-race-running type among them, and the easy flow of conversation that develops throughout the course of breakfast mixes tales from the morning session at Swamis with tips on how to manage long-term life investments and debt. It’s all fairly interesting to watch, and the seamless transition from utterly surfy topics to hardcore business theory is practically spellbinding. What’s even more intriguing is the mix of professional and surf jargon falling readily from every mouth. For example, while conveying the necessity of delicately handling Ph.D.-holding employees in the realm of biotechnology, Mo Bio Laboratories Mark Brolaski dropped more than one gnarly, and even compared his professional approach to his vocal and aggressive style out in the water.

Pretty funny stuff, especially considering the general public’s perception that gnarly only gets play from stoned-out, glazed-eyed Spicoli types clad in the mandatory baggy shorts/tee-shirt uniform with perpetually stupefied grins. But if there is a lesson to be learned here, that might be it: Surfers can be anybody or do anything, and sometimes a commitment to professional success doesn’t necessarily translate to less time in the water, nor does it make one any less of a committed surfer. Ask the members of the SSPN and they’ll tell you they do what they do because they love to surf, not in spite of it, and they’ll also tell you that, handled correctly, small business and the financial security and freedom it can provide will actually get you in the water more, not less. They’ll also point out that the proof is in the people around the table. Tanned, surf-satiated, neck-rashed and confidently successful, they all are working to steer a path that gives them the best of both worlds, and in the process have developed a network that cements their bonds in the community, behind the desk, and in the waves.

But before straying too far into the realm of surf power and dropping unwarranted lines like Curren for President, maybe the above isn’t really the main point at all. Perhaps it’s mostly just about the merits of seawater-spattering sinuses and a warm handshake. Maybe it’s about the positives that come from an open-minded group dedicated to friendship and mutual prosperity. Or maybe it’s just all about talking story with your surf buddies over a big plate of Ranchos Huevos.