Off The Map

Surf's Up

Company: San Diego Surfing Academy
Location: San Diego
Owners: Pat Weber, 38, and Lynne Weber, 34
Date started: June 1995
Start-up costs: Less than $5,000
Sales: $200 to $1,600 per day

He used to sell carpet for a living, but his heart always longed for the waves he had surfed since age 6. After talking with owners of other surfing camp companies, Pat Weber knew he had to make the break.

While his wife, Lynne, continued working as an administrative assistant, Pat bought three used surfboards for $250, begged friends to donate wet suits, bought liability insurance and started the business. The company offers surfing lessons; a six-day adult surfing camp in the spring and summer; and surfing jaunts to Baja, California, in the fall and winter.

Pat still remembers his first clients, a twenty-something couple who'd always wanted to surf but lived in the Midwest. Other clients who now flock to his camp for sun, fun and adventure include teenagers who get surf lessons as graduation presents, people battling midlife crises, and sales representatives who win surf lessons as workplace incentives.

Working from home, the Webers (Lynne's now in the business full time) market their company through the chamber of commerce and local tourist bureau, ads in surfing magazines, and word-of-mouth; much of their business comes from their Web site. Although the business sounds glamorous, there's a great deal of grunt work: loading equipment, rinsing wet suits and completing paperwork. "Some days, I'm a poster boy for Advil and Ben-Gay," Pat says. "But I have a romantic notion about being paid to be an athlete."

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This article was originally published in the September 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Off The Map.

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