Striking a deal with a prospective client or employee over a round of golf has been commonplace in the business world for a long time. Its handicap system and leisurely nature allows people of all abilities to compete against each other without too much exertion or awkwardness – fertile ground for doing business. However in California they do it differently, picking the lush swells of the Pacific Ocean as their al fresco boardroom.
Back in 2012, entrepreneur Robert Lambert established Silicon Beach L.A, an online networking community for people working in the regions start-up tech and entertainment industries. The community grew rapidly and left Lambert constantly having to move from one business meeting to the next. The whole time Lambert couldn’t help feel that the conference rooms and restaurants where he spent most of his life lacked the communal and easy-going feel of the surf culture he was used to, and as a result the Silicon Beach Surfers Club was born.
Initially just a handful of friends, the club grew rapidly into what is now a 450-strong network of surf fanatics/entrepreneurs from some of Silicon Valley’s most notable companies; Omaze, Crowdfunder and Dreamworks to name a few. Its success can be largely attributed to the club’s focus on surfing above business and the strict application process which weeds out those who don’t surf and are only interested in networking. Lambert runs the club from a surf shack on Manhattan Beach, accepting around a third of the 10 membership applications he receives a week.
As some of the savviest minds in the West, members have been integrating cutting-edge technology into their surfing since the club was born. One Silicon Beach surfer recently attached prototype sensors to boards that measure speed power and difficulty of waves, allowing other members to analyse their performance over a beer once they’re out their wetsuit and dry.
A number of important deals have also been struck while out in the surf. Last autumn at a club barbeque virtual reality expert Morris May was introduced to Jessica Kantor of the Sundance Institute, who told him about Sundance’s interest in new storytelling forms. A few weeks later at Sundance’s L.A headquarters Matt was co-directing a film called “Perspective; Chapter I: The Party”, which portrays a college rape through the eyes of the victim and the attacker.
As well as these obvious networking opportunities, perks of membership include weekly photography sessions, underwater photography events, custom board-shaping deals, member barbeques, international surf trips and access to the club house/shack.
When you think about it, surfing is actually an excellent way to facilitate collaboration, particularly in creative sectors. Being in the water is the ultimate form of meditation and relaxation, ridding that horrible self-consciousness at the start of an interview or first date and allowing innovative ideas to surface. When Bristol Media launch their surf club we’ll be the first to sign up.