Surfin’ USA!

Here at the Sports MBA program, we like to show students just how many opportunities are available to them in the sport industry beyond the major sports. While many think of San Diego in terms of professional franchises and collegiate athletics, we’re also extremely fortunate to be home to a vibrant action sports culture.  Most San Diegans grow up with the ocean in their blood, and the cultural impact of this fondness for the beach creates significant opportunities in the sports industry.  In a city where wearing flip flops year-round and going surfing on your lunch break are extremely common, we like to encourage students to think about action sports as a career path.  In the past week, Sports MBA ’18 students have gotten great exposure to the industry through two SDSU alumni, including one Sports MBA alumnus.

Shaper Studios & the Self Shape Surf Contest

Program alumnus Chris Clark (SMBA ’12) was generous enough to give us a tour of the headquarters of Shaper Studios,the company he founded six years ago as a Sports MBA student. In just a few years, Chris has transformed his passion for surfing into a global giant in the industry, with a San Diego headquarters for Shaper Studios now joined by Shaper outposts in Vancouver, Montréal, and two in Chile.

According to their website: “Shaper Studios is the world’s first DIY surfboard workshop and retail surf shop. Emerging from San Diego’s progressive surf culture, Shaper Studios is a tribute to the original California surf shop. The first surf shops were a place where surfboards were made and a clubhouse for the local surfers.”

The class of 2018 got to see what it takes to build your own surfboard from scratch and asked Chris questions for over two hours about the business strategy behind his global expansion of not only the Shaper Studios concept, but also the Shaper retail brand.

As a loyal alumus who has taught an Entrepreneurship module in the Sports MBA program in the past, Chris wanted to get this year’s class involved with the Shaper Studios, but insisted that the group get their hands dirty and experience what it’s like to run their own operation.  The result: the Class of 2018 will assist Chris with the planning and execution of the fourth annual Self Shape Surf Contest, the world’s *only* surf contest in which every competitor is riding their own handmade surfboard.  The event this April will be the fourth annual contest/festival, and Chris is handing the reins to the Sports MBA students so they can get hands-on sports and event experience in their first semester on campus.  The class will be involved in every aspect of the contest and will make key decisions every imaginable area of event management including marketing, hospitality, sponsorship sales and fulfillment, and day-of logistics.  This year’s event will add two new features to the surf contest: live music and a beer garden, which means that in addition to wrangling the contestants for the heats in the surf contest (which include a number of big names in professional surfing), Sports MBA students will also be tasked with finding local talent to perform on stage and negotiating with local craft beer partners for pouring rights.

If you’re in the San Diego area, we hope to see you in Encinitas on April 29th!

Volcom Co-Founder Thom McElroy Speaks at SDSU


Last Wednesday, the 2018 cohort heard from Thom McElroy, Co-Founder of Volcom and the creative mind behind the iconic Volcom stone logo that still serves as a benchmark in the industry to this day.  McElroy, an Aztec alumnus (’85), talked about how he has made a small fortune from his time with Volcom but his lecture also touched on his time with O’Neill, Quiksilver, and the trials and tribulations of his own graphic design company – McElroy Designs.  The basic theme of his presentation was that “luck is by design.”  He spoke to how many times various people have come up to him throughout his life and commented on how lucky he’s been to have worked for all of these great companies while still pursuing his passion; surfing.  In actuality, he wasn’t lucky; he manufactured his own luck.


The four main pieces of advice he gave on starting your own business (and the main takeaways for the students from this event) were:

  • Be passionate
  • Take risks
  • Be confident
  • Surround yourself with the best people possible.