Monday night we closed the stores a little early so each member of Team Hobie could get to The Surfing Heritage Foundation in San Clemente for a fireside chat with Dick Metz. He not only co-founded Hobie Surf Shops with Hobie Alter, but he along with Hobie are the originators of what the “California Lifestyle” is…. no hard leather shoes, no jobs that require a suit and tie, and never work East of Pacific Coast Highway. They shared a vision of an unheard of lifestyle, and they made it happen. Actually, that is kind of an understatement, they created a lifestyle that people will aspire to achieve for the rest of time. And that, is no exaggeration.
When we sat down for the talk and accompanying slide show to start, I have to say none of us were really sure what Dick was going to talk about. By the second slide we knew we were in for something extraordinary. Dick’s life has stretched across the globe and through the entire surf culture in a way that I’m positive no other human being on the planet could match. To state it simply, you KNOW you are in for some great stories when his life starts with having none other than Peanuts Larson as his babysitter.
I’m not quite sure there is any possible way I can do justice to the evening, my brain is still swimming through everything I saw and felt during the presentation. (Our local papers shared a story on the night HERE, and a DVD of the talk is in the works too. So when that comes up we will share the details with you.) Which seems to be the general consensus from everyone who attended the night.
Over the past days the office and shops have been buzzing with “Dick Stories”… from his life growing up in the heart of downtown Laguna Beach, to being a lifeguard in the famous Laguna lifeguard tower and the many many legendary debauchery filled afternoons spent on the second floor, to how many topless women had come through his life… seriously, a LOT of ladies have taken their tops off for Dick… and he has the photos to prove it! haha!!
One of the favorite memories has to be his three year hitchhiking sojourn across the globe. Oh, yeah, I know right now you are thinking “Ok, so he saw a couple countries and came home” No, not even close. This man jumped on a freighter in California one day, and ended up at Quinn’s Bar in Tahiti (affectionately known as The Toughest, Worst Bar in the World.) the next. Stayed there for a bit, then jumped another freighter and traveled all of the South Seas, and got to Australia… stayed and surfed there for a bit, then traveled to Europe, then into Egypt, Africa. It is when he got to Africa that not a person in the room wasn’t hanging on the edge of their seat soaking in a story that you wouldn’t believe if he didn’t have the photos for proof!
To us hitchhiking around anywhere sounds dangerous and a total no-no, especially across the continent of Africa, but for Dick it was standard Tuesday, so off he went. His travel through Africa didn’t only change his life, it changed all of ours. Part way through the trip, he jumped in a truck with a man heading “South”, Dick said he was looking to get to Victoria Falls, so the man offered to take him. At this point in the story, Mr Metz reminds us that all it takes to change your life is one moment with the right person, and this was that moment for Dick, us, and the surfing culture. Upon arriving at V Falls in the dead of night and seeing only a few huts and a not very inviting fire, the driver asked if he was getting out. Dick, looked around asked where the guy was headed to next, he said South Africa (about a 2000km drive)… as you can imagine, the waves in South Africa sounded a lot better than a cold fire in the middle of nowhere, so off he went.
It was here in and around the Southern parts of Africa where Dick met and lived with the locals and surfed a little place called Cape St Francis… yes, that Cape St Francis of Endless Sumer fame. See it was Dick who first discovered this (sadly, now ruined) most perfect of waves. When he finally got back to the US and back to his buddy Bruce Brown, it took Dick about 5 years of nagging and talking about the perfect unspoiled waves before Bruce finally made the journey with Robert August and Mike Hynson to Africa and started filming on The Endless Summer. Sitting in the room as this story was unfolding you could hear the collective minds of everyone at work… if Dick had gotten out of that truck at Victoria Falls instead of staying in, there might never have been The Endless Summer, without that movie where would our surfing heritage be today? But, luckily for us, an uninviting fire in the middle of the night led a legend to change all of our lives and help inspire a few pieces of surf history.
There were more wild stories… hitchhiking across the Saraha Desert in 130 degree daytime heat, helping start the company Jams and selling a $10k order to Macy’s when all they had ever made were 6 pairs!, surfing Makaha with only one other person out, even a short stint in New York City as a beatnik… but mostly it was his 65 year partnership with Hobie Alter that played a part in every story he told throughout the night.
See, through Dick’s whole adult life he and Hobie have been business partners and friends. It was Hobie who talked Dick into heading to Hawaii to open Hobie Honolulu based on the success of the Hobie Dana Point shop. The Honolulu store, at first, only carried three things: resin, Surfer Magazine, and Hobie Logo T Shirts. It wasn’t long before Hobie sent over the first boards that would be sold in the shop. 17 in total, and as every surf historian worth his salt knows, all 17 of them were sold before they even got in the front door of the shop. The success of that shop spawned many many many more locations throughout the years. At it’s peak, 22 in total, even one ending up in Houston Tx… that one, was very short lived.
You would think while we were sitting listening to him talk about the shops various openings, we would be given a lesson in business strategy and accelerating growth potential and lots of other buzz words you would assume to hear from a man as successful as Dick Metz has been. We heard the contrary. Dick and Hobie’s business strategy was kept simple from day one. It was never about the money. It was never about fame. It was and is about the beach and the people who call it home. Styles of boards, surf brands, products, and even a lot of our shops have come and gone throughout the years, but at it’s core Hobie Surf Shops business strategy has remained unchanged (especially under it’s current co-owner Mark Christy and General manager, Jake Schwaner)… It’s about the California Lifestyle that Dick and Hobie invented, the people who carry on that tradition today, and inspiring the next generation to follow suit.
After hearing the talk, the room was alive with the Hobie spirit! All the shop kids stayed after to ask Dick questions, shake his hand, and get a few pictures in. (See the photos below of the night) Eavesdropping in on a few of the conversations, all of them centered on the stoke the kids felt about carrying on in Dick’s footsteps. More than a few of them were already talking about how they couldn’t wait to get to work the next day and start spreading the Hobie way of life.
If the “Memories with Metz” talk ever comes to you, it is a must hear. Not just for the surf enthusiast, but for anyone anywhere who wants to learn what it really means to live a full life at the beach. Thank you Surfing Heritage for a fantastic night, and thank you Dick Metz for sharing your life with us.