When he was 13 years old, New Jersey surfer Douglas Barry wanted to be the CEO of a major corporation. Encouraged by his parents, Doug began writing letters to CEOs of various Fortune 500 companies and received an overwhelming response — to date, nearly {{{300}}} replies — which four years later, have been compiled into his first book, Wisdom for a Young CEO. SURFING caught up with the young {{{Avalon}}} Beach local to see if any of that wisdom was, uh, wise.

So, Doug, having learned so much about it, do you still want to be a CEO? I’m not really sure. A lot of the advice I got said follow something you really love to do. I’m into surfing, and I like to write a lot, so I might get on that track. Maybe someday I’ll be the CEO of a publishing company or something, I don’t know.

Quiksilver’s Bob McKnight was one of the CEO’s you contacted right? His letter was so nice. He told me about how when he started out he just wanted to hang out by the beach and make boardshorts. He loved to surf, so he turned that into something profitable.

Who gave you the best response? George Fisher, the CEO at Kodak. He wrote just one line; it said, “There’s more to life than being CEO, but go for your dreams whatever they are.” The first time I read it I was like, “What is this? He couldn’t even write a whole letter.” But then I thought about it, and that was probably the letter that had the most impact on what I wanted to do.

You think your average surfer — the ones that can read, that is — would be interested in this book? Yeah, I definitely think so. I got a lot of out of what these guys said. I never thought surfing would get me anywhere — I mean, I’m not a world-class surfer or anything — but Bob McKnight’s letter for instance, was like, okay, here’s something you love to do, whether it be surfing, writing, or anything. You don’t have to just forget about that in order to be successful, you can turn it into whatever you want to do. Something like that is more important than just work. You have to have a passion, you have to have drive, in order to be successful.

There’s a skateboard on the cover of the book. What’s up with that? Yeah, I know . . . my publishing company couldn’t get a surfboard graphic to work, so they just switched it with a skateboard.

You’re going to Tulane University in New Orleans next year? Not much surf there? Well, I heard there’s some hurricanes down in the bayou country. They’re hard to find but, I don’t know . . .[nervous laughter]

Good luck with that. –Team Surfingthemag.com

Doug Barry’s Wisdom for a Young CEO is available at bookstores everywhere May 25th.