Living on the beach in Southern California as a little kid, I would paddle out to surf just about every day from the age of 5 or 6. I had my half-shaped piece of wood to surf on, and I simply thought of catching waves as a really fun activity. I never thought about a future in surfing or anything; it was just part of my childhood routine. Wake up, take a piss, and jump in the water!

After so much repetition, by the time I was 12 or 13 years old, I was getting pretty good at the surfing thing. My mom told me one day, “You know, Robert, there’s really no one any better than you. You’re just as good as all these older guys.” At the time, I just shrugged it off like, yah … big deal. I just thought of surfing as something fun to do.

As I kept on surfing, unique and amazing opportunities opened up themselves for me. Because of my passion and dedication to riding waves. I ended up shaping boards, creating my own brand, making movies, and going on the trip of a lifetime with my pal Bruce Brown. I never planned on any of these amazing things to happen, I just loved getting into the water and catching a wave.

Now this mentality of surfing for its true passion is relatable to just about any successful surfer, from the 11-time world champion Kelly Slater, to my friend and co-worker, Ryan Waldron.

Kelly is originally from Cocoa Beach, Florida and I’ve been there many times. I used to travel there each year for the Summer Surf Festival at the Cocoa Beach Pier. Conditions were generally mediocre at best. At each event, we were greeted with small onshore waves there that were just barley surfable. Sure, every once in a while I’d catch one and say, well that wasn’t SO bad.

Likewise, Ryan is from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Now if there is anywhere on the East Coast that is less consistent wave-wise than Cocoa Beach, it could very well be Virginia Beach. I’ve been there many times as well. In fact, that’s where one of the first surf shops in the United States was, a long time ago. My buddies and I would drive over from California trying to sell surfboards, t-shirts, wetsuits and other items while trying to catch a few waves in the meantime. Once again, the waves are pretty marginal most days, but you can still have fun with the right equipment and attitude.

The story that Ryan and Kelly share is similar to my own. Who cares what the waves are like? Just being out in the water stroking into a few waves is worth the while. I’m not the greatest friends with Kelly Slater, but I did ask him one time, “How did you get so damn good growing up in Cocoa Beach, Florida?”

Kelly responded, “I really didn’t care what the waves were like growing up. I would surf for five hours straight in 2-foot wind chop and still be able to make progress in my surfing. If you can make bad waves look good, then when it’s 6 foot surf and perfect, the wave just lends itself to you for the taking”.