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Let My People Go Surfing

The Education of a Reluctant Businessman

By Yvon Chouinard
13-minute read
Audio available
Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman by Yvon Chouinard

Let My People Go Surfing (2005) is an inspiring look at the popular outdoor gear company Patagonia, an organization that has shown the world that there is more than one way to operate a successful business. In these blinks, you’ll not only get to know the company’s history and its unique philosophy, you’ll also find out about why Patagonia has some of the happiest employees around and why people feel so good about buying its products.

  • Fans of Patagonia and its products
  • Readers interested in eco-friendly brands
  • Climbers, surfers and outdoor enthusiasts

Yvon Chouinard is the founder and owner of Patagonia, based in Ventura, California. He began his career by designing rock climbing tools before moving on to a variety of environmentally friendly and sustainable products for outdoor adventurers. He has also founded several initiatives and charities that support environmental causes.

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Let My People Go Surfing

The Education of a Reluctant Businessman

By Yvon Chouinard
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman by Yvon Chouinard
Synopsis

Let My People Go Surfing (2005) is an inspiring look at the popular outdoor gear company Patagonia, an organization that has shown the world that there is more than one way to operate a successful business. In these blinks, you’ll not only get to know the company’s history and its unique philosophy, you’ll also find out about why Patagonia has some of the happiest employees around and why people feel so good about buying its products.

Key idea 1 of 8

Yvon Chouinard took his early love of climbing and nature as inspiration to start his own company.

It’s possible that you’ve been shopping for outdoor gear at Patagonia for years without knowing who Yvon Chouinard is. However, if you want to understand how Patagonia became one of the world’s most successful companies of its kind, it all starts with Yvon Chouinard.

His story begins in Maine, where he was born in 1938 to a French-Canadian family. When his French-speaking family moved across the continent to California, he began to feel like an outsider and took comfort in mountain climbing.

His interest in climbing only intensified from there: after graduating from college, he taught himself how to work as a blacksmith so he could make his own climbing gear.

Chouinard wasn’t happy with most of the gear available at the time, as the majority of it came from European companies that had a different approach to mountaineering than what he was after. They designed equipment based on the idea that climbing was a battle of humanity versus nature; to help you conquer a mountain, they built tools that often damaged the environment.

Soon after learning how to make his own climbing gear, Chouinard was selling it to others and quickly expanding his business.

Even though his tools were expensive, his radical redesign of climbing equipment was very appealing to his fellow outdoorsy types: he simplified standard equipment while at the same time making it lighter, stronger and more functional.

There wasn’t much profit at first, but Chouinard was only really interested in earning enough to continue climbing, surfing and fishing. He was, however, eventually able to hire some friends as employees and bring in just enough money to continually improve the products they were putting out.

It all paid off by 1970, when Chouinard Equipment became the biggest climbing hardware supplier in the United States. Even so, improvements still needed to be made.

When Chouinard was climbing, he saw that pitons were being left dug into the sides of mountains everywhere. Keeping with his philosophy of putting nature first, Chouinard decided that his company would phase out pitons, despite their popularity, and only produce removable aluminum chocks.

Getting rid of a top-selling item is a radical move that could spell the end of a company, but Chouinard was just getting started.

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