Read: Let My People Go Surfing

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I knew I would like this book, but let me back up. I’m sure that most of you are aware of the brand Patagonia. If you aren’t, just know that most of my friends have said to me at one time or another, “I just want to work for Patagonia.” This is rare. Rare indeed. I’m sure there are plenty of detractors out there but the truth is Patagonia has a different philosophy and is very much a product of its founder Yvon Chouinard. I’ve never met Yvon, but he comes across as slightly ornery. In a good way. He writes the same way.

Okay, first things first. The book is beautiful. SLIGHTLY larger than 6×9 and utilizing an uncoated stock that feels great to the touch.(I did get carrot juice on it and it soaked right up.) Oh, did I mention the book is illustrated? Heavily illustrated. Why don’t more people do this? If someone has a good answer please share. Having illustrations is so critical to the mission of the book, and critical to Patagonia’s brand. Not sure if you have ever seen their mail order catalog but if you aren’t careful the images inside will make you feel like a fat, lazy, urban-dwelling heathen. Again, in a good, motivating way.

This book is full of hard truths, some of which will drive a certain segment of our entrenched, conservative, dismissive, political nightmare of a culture to the breaking point. But that’s the point. Chouinard is quick to point out his own flaws, mistakes and the reality that Patagonia is far from perfect, but continuing on our current path isn’t going to end well, for any of us. Rich, poor, idle.

The book breaks down the history of the company, their philosophy in regard to things like production, distribution, marketing, repairs and frankly the idea of NOT buying their equipment. Running an international, product-producing entity is a mission in trying NOT to lose you soul, something that can happen quickly and mercilessly when the financials are what they must be with Patagonia. It takes a special kind of human to continue to take the path of what must be the most resistance.

On a personal note, roughly twenty years ago I was gifted a Patagonia fleece pants/jacket combo. Two actually. I still have them. Still wear them. They won’t die. One of these babies, in a forest green, is my go-to “try not to freeze my cajones off” base layer when I’m attempting to act like I can do something like….snowboard. I can’t snowboard, but what I can do is go too far up the mountain then attempt to board down a mislabled blue run that was actually double black diamond. I can also blow through a snow fence at 12,000 feet. I can also spend most of the run upside down attempting not to break my collar bone or tailbone. I’m great at sweating too. So this little outfit goes unused in my Santa Fe basement until I find a yearly reason to attempt the unthinkable. Then I sweat it up, wad it up and leave it for another year. And it still looks like the day I got it. Strange.

I think I found this book at the perfect time. I’m restless. Damn restless. The wilds of my Wyoming youth have been haunting me in a way I find difficult to describe. Many of you know this already. My next project is coming soon and will document some of the things I’m feeling. We are at the tipping point as a species. Or maybe we are already past the tipping point.

I will read this book again. And if I ever start my own company again I’ll be keeping Yvon’s ideas in my philosophy. If you are a hike, cast, climb, pedal, paddle or dyno kind of person then this book is for you. Get it, read it.

9 Comments on “Read: Let My People Go Surfing”

  1. Yvon is awesome. There needs to be more CEOs like him. I, too, want to work for Patagonia. I’ve applied. Several times. I’m sure it would help if I lived in Ventura.

    You should read The Responsible Company. Great insight into how the company runs and why.

    1. Sean,
      I KNEW you would respond to this, and I figured you would have read it and probably wanted to work for Patagonia. The other book sounds great. Thanks for sending.

      1. Ha. Well, I can no longer focus on what I’m supposed to be doing. Another city. Another hotel.

        Vincent Stanley, who coauthored the book, was the CFO of Patagonia if I remember right. He came to the Boulder store a few years ago to talk about the book. An amazing few hours. Totally open and answered all kinds of questions about the company.

  2. On my ‘To Read’ list. Thanks, sounds amazing. Looove this company and its ethical approach to apparel .

  3. Just found, and ordered, a used copy on Amazon for £3 + postage. Love a bargain and reckon Yvon would like the fact his book is being reused 🙂

  4. Ha, another “Patagonia fleece pants/jacket combo”-story: bought mine 18 years ago to keep me warm during high altitude, long distance soaring over the Patagonian (!) Andes. Now they have a couple of thousand air-miles in them and still keep me warm, out camping or when a sudden coldfront enters our rustic ‘cabaña’. Like good friends they never let me down (only my girlfriend wishes every now and then that I trash the ‘old rags’ …).

    1. Wolf,
      I just packed my Patagonia, I guess it’s a thermal layer, that I’ve had since 1990ish. Love these stories. I just bought a Patagonia Duffle bag yesterday. I have two old duffles that I can’t get repaired, so it was time.

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