Let My People Go Surfing

Let My People Go Surfing

The Education of A Reluctant Businessman

Book - 2005
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Penguin Putnam
Whether you care about adventure sports, the fate of the natural world, or pure brand maintenance and business success, Patagonia, Inc. is one of the earth's most interesting and inspiring companies. For almost forty years, its reputation for unsurpassed high quality, maverick innovation, and long-term environmental responsibility has put it in a class by itself. And everything flows from Patagonia's founder, Yvon Chouinard.

Chouinard's creation myth is now an American business legend. As a child, he moved with his father, a French Canadian blacksmith, and the rest of his family to Southern California in the 1950s with little English and less money. He escaped into mountain climbing as a teenager and by his early twenties was among the best climbers in America, making famous first ascents of a number of notorious faces. When he decided he could make better climbing tools himself for less money and when his fellow climbers agreed and clamored for more, a way of life became a business. Some forty years later, Yvon Chouinard still summits peaks around the world (though he now spends more time surfing). Patagonia still makes exceptionally high-quality things, only it now earns more than $250 million a year from worldwide sales, and Chouinard is able to leverage his concern for the natural settings he's spent a lifetime enjoying. His resolve to minimize Patagonia's impact on the environment has led the company to make its famous fleeces out of recycled soda bottles and to donate at least 1 percent of its revenue each year to environmental causes, among many other things.

In Let My People Go Surfing, Yvon Chouinard relates his and his company's story and the core philosophies that have sustained Patagonia, Inc. year in and year out. This is not another story of a successful businessman who manages on the side to do great good and have grand adventures; it's the story of a man who brought doing good and having grand adventures into the heart of his business model--and who enjoyed even more business success as a result. Let My People Go Surfing gives ample evidence as to why there have been few more influential companies in American business in the last forty years than Patagonia, Inc.

The long-awaited memoir/manifesto from legendary climber, businessman, and environmentalist Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of one of the world's most inspiring companies, Patagonia, Inc.

Baker & Taylor
The personal stories of the founder of Patagonia, Inc. describes his underprivileged childhood as an immigrant in southern California, early fame as a successful mountain climber, and company's dedication to quality and environmental responsibility. 75,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2005
ISBN: 9781594200724
Branch Call Number: 658.4 CH
Characteristics: 260 p. : ill. ; 24 cm


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Oct 13, 2019

As a company, Patagonia was never on my radar. I’d never browsed a catalog, visited their website, let alone purchased anything. If I knew anything about them, it was, at best, next to nothing. That is, until last year when they sued the Trump administration over its decision to sharply reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah. Unrelated, but soon after, I connected with the founders of Prairiewood, a tallgrass prairie preserve located in the Flint Hills just outside Manhattan, Kansas. Missional to their core, Kail and Becky, have long been fans of Patagonia, and see their own business endeavors, primarily in the restoration and preservation of both built and unbuilt space, as a means to an end — a way to do well and do good. Naturally, then, during one of my many conversations with them (I officially joined their parent company, Capstone3D, in January), Kail brought out a copy of Yvon Chouinard’s “Let My People Go Surfing” for me to borrow.

Conceived as a manual for the employees of Patagonia, “Let My People Go Surfing” is exactly that: a long-form narrative covering both the history of the company, as well as its philosophy on pretty much every aspect of its operations. As a primer on the origins of Patagonia and the freewheeling approach to business Yvon and his first employees had, it’s a scintillating read. But that only gets you through the first 70 pages. The rest of the book, another 180 pages or so, is devoted to Patagonia’s tenets on product design, production, distribution, marketing, finance, human resources, management, and the environment. Here, Yvon gets down to brass tacks, digging into the whats, whys, and hows, and, depending on what brought you to the book in the first place, your mileage may vary.

I’d argue, however, that whether you’re an activist, a fan, a customer, an environmentalist, a kindred spirit, a small business owner, a corporate leader, or a capitalist pig (okay, maybe not if you’re a capitalist pig; there’s simply no saving you), you can’t help but be inspired. Inspired, not because Patagonia is perfect and has it all figured out, because they never stop trying to do better, to do good, to do well. That’s something this planet could use a whole lot more of — from me, from you, from our corporations, and, yes, from our governments.

TechLibrarian Mar 04, 2017

I don't surf and would not have picked this book for myself, but it happened to be in a little cabin I'd rented, so I picked it up and thumbed through. It turns out it's not so much about surfing as it is about environmental stewardship/activism, business and leadership. It's choc full of wisdom, my favorite bit being about simplicity: "Good design is as little design as possible." Chouinard also makes the point that living life to the fullest means blurring the lines between business and pleasure, pursuing excellence in all endeavors. The new edition includes a forward by Naomi Klein. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the outdoors/climbing/surfing or business or the environment.

Apr 15, 2014

I would like to meet the founder of the company, Pantagonia, based on this book. It started me really thinking and researching Green living and sustainability.

It also confirmed that there are businesses and owners who care about their customers and the environment!

May 28, 2012

Refreshing read by a well-traveled gentleman. Inspiring.


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WVMLlibrarianTara Nov 26, 2014

“How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top.”


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