Grit.org Podcast - Episode 3: Sean Poynter
Colby Harris: Alright, welcome back to the “Grit.org” podcast. My name is Colby Harris with me today is Brian Harbin as well as our guest Sean Poynter. Sean, thank you so much for coming on the “Grit.org” Podcast.
Sean Poynter: Thanks for having me on.
Colby Harris: Absolutely. So, Sean was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and raised in Ferdinando Beach, Florida. He was introduced to surfing when he was just 10 years old and it wasn't long after riding his first wave that Sean wanted to become a professional surfer. At 13, Sean got his dream sponsor Volcom and started traveling for a sponsor just a year later. Going to places like Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, California. As he honed his surfing and competitive skills. At age 20, faced with career difficulty, Sean pivoted into a new sport, stand-up paddle surfing and made the goal of becoming a world champion. On the quest to reach that goal, Sean traveled the world over, visiting 28 countries and winning prestigious tiles along the way.
In 2013 and 2015, Sean won gold medals for USA at the ISA World Championships in Peru and Mexico. In 2017 and two 018 in California, he won the US National Championships and then in 2018 at the final stop of the season in Grand Canaria, Spain, Sean reached his goal of becoming the APP SUP surfing world champion. After reaching his goal, Sean changed paths moving back to Florida from California to pursue a career in real estate. Residing now in Jacksonville and Murray Hill to be exact, Sean works hard on his new business and personal life to reach new goals.
So, for everyone listening in today, we actually had Sean out speak at Grit Camp this past summer during summer 21 and after that, we knew we need to bring his story to life and really just bring him on to the podcast and get more in depth. So, Sean, just from the intro, we know you're an advanced watermen from a young age and whether it was surfing, paddleboarding, kiteboarding, or even foil surfing, you've had a passion for water sports your whole life. But can you take us back to your early years in Cincinnati and share any other passions you had up to that point and really what eventually led to you moving to Florida?
Sean Poynter: Well, surfing definitely wasn't my birthright. Coming from Cincinnati, we are far away from the ocean. The closest body of water for us was the Ohio River and that's like one of the most polluted rivers in all the US so we weren't getting on that, so a lot of my activity was landlocked and it was soccer. That was my big passion, that's what I wanted to do. I played on a competitive club team up there Cincinnati Classics and I just loved it. I had great friends up there and we competed and was really serious about it. And then basically, it was in the situation of moving to Florida. It was my dad who needed a job. Found a job and it was down in this little island Amelia Island this small little Northeast Florida Barrier Island and that's where we're going to be moving.
The deal was because of course we didn't want to go. I have three siblings I'm the youngest of 4 and they all had their things going on. But the deal was that my dad had presented to us, like if you move with me, I'll get you surfboards and it'll all be good, right. So, of course we didn't have a choice we hop in the car with him my mom and awe drive. So, that's how we got down there and yeah, that's kind of where the story began.
Colby Harris: Yeah, definitely. Well, a new surfboard can definitely heal a broken heart without a doubt. So, now in Fernandina you said you picked up your first surfboard 10, thanks to Pops of course and had your first sponsor Volcom by just 13. And honestly this sort of progression is really unheard of in surfing, especially somewhere like Fernandina where the waves are so inconsistent. You got to wait on these swells and honestly the quality of the waves are pretty low. So, can you really give some insight into what you believe helped you progress so quickly at that age?
Sean Poynter: Well, I quickly found a love for it. All my love for soccer which it just pretty much halted when I got to the island because the competitive clubs weren't there and getting to Jacksonville was too much of a hike from my parents being that they were getting busy and they had kids, other kids to deal with as well. So, that was just out of the question, but picking up in surfing, it just took over my interest and it really and move right into, alright this is what I'm going to do now. No longer a professional soccer player I want to be a professional surfer. That's where it shifted and I spent a lot of time doing it. I think that's one thing that really added value or help me out. There were some instances that I remember going to sleep with my wetsuit on, fully zipped up to my neck. I'd have my board in the bed with me, sleeping on the covers with me, so that I could jump up out of bed before school and be the first one out.
So, it'd be like instances like that where I just loved it. I want to get out as much as possible and then location was a big thing too. We lived two blocks from the beach which I could get out there when there was a breaking wave. And we want to get breaking waves a lot as you know coming from there. But when they would break, I'd be on it and I would get out there as much as I could. So, the proximity of next to the beach was a big thing and then and then just support. I mean, like I said, from my parents with getting the surfboards and I had older siblings that I would go out and surf with their friends and I could just get out on the water all the time. And then extending into when I started getting a little bit more developed with my first sponsor Driftwood Surf Shop and Peter Parkin who is behind the shop there. Getting his support, having him take me around in different waves around the island and introduce me to different lineups. All that stuff added to this me developing this skill.
Brian Harbin: Yeah, I love hearing your and dedication you know going to sleep with your wetsuit on. But going growing up in this tiny island surfing, was there a specific event where you got noticed as an up-and-coming surfer?
Sean Poynter: There was one event. I would say it was the one event it was my coming out party if you will. Coming from Fernandina, it's a small island, it's this 13 by 4 mile island. It's on the most westerly point of the eastern seaboard. I feel like we just don't get waves in there, waves either hit the North Carolinas or South-Central Florida. So, it doesn't fill in very much and people knowing that surfers and industry folk, they don't make it into the island because why? Would they? And that was the case for us on the island. We didn't leave, we were young, we didn't have cars and we thought the waves are pretty good in the island. You know, hey, it's a rideable wave, it's good let's ride. Kind of find out it was actually pretty good and people now have found out and people join there now with us.
But it was event down in Saint Augustine it was a EQS event. It was a Volcom qualifying series event and Volcom was my dream. It's what I wrote on the wall. That's what I wanted as my sponsor and Peter knew that who was had kind of the connection to Volcom at the time and he was the one who was in there. You're like, hey, you got to check out this kid on the island but of course, they didn't come check out this kid on the island. So, we had to go down into this event and I was went down there with the wards who Evan and Emory, they're buddies of mine on the island that we surfed a lot together and pushed each other. And went down there with Peter and us and to show out. Fernando boys come to surf. Kind of first time to show and certainly myself to show Vulcan what I could do and I did pretty well.
I finished third in the event. I think I may even surf up a division and at the prize giving, they're like, alright and with the third-place trophy, we're also going to give sponsorship to Sean. So, it's this really cool moment and my parents were there and actually my good buddy from was there with his family. So, they all got to kind of witness this and see me get my dream sponsor and yeah it was really fun moment. So, that was my opening event for sure.
Colby Harris: Makes it sound like it was all meant to be especially even having your buddy from Cincinnati there your parents there you know having Peter there someone who support you from the get go. So, now that you are on the Volcom team you are making trips around the world to progress your surfing and really learn from the best of the best. Myself along with the rest of the surfing community would really describe this living the dream. Every young surfer, frankly, any young athlete for that matter really envisions a similar experience of getting to travel around and hone their skills alongside the best of the best. So, can you tell us what were some of the things you learned about yourself or some important life skills you learned while traveling all over the world and getting to compete as a young athlete?
Sean Poynter: A big thing is being comfortable with the uncomfortable. That was a big thing for me because here I am. I'm 14 years old. I go out to California, my first trip. I mean, just going to the alone was uncomfortable I mean my parents they're pretty darn cool. They're like, oh, you want to go out to California on someone else's dime. Like we'll drop you off at the airport. I kind of didn't know how to interface with the airport. So, like there's a lot of things that I just didn't know. And then getting out into these environments, I wouldn't know people and I wouldn't do this whole thing being like a shy guy. That was tough for me. So, there was all these instances that I'd be put in be it in environments be it in the waves or lineups that I didn't know anybody and I was uncomfortable. So, it became kind of a standard for me that if I'm uncomfortable, I can make it through and be comfortable. And then what would that do for me it would raise my confidence.
So, I would generate more and more of these experiences where I go in kind of unsure and uncertain about things and then I would exit with that much more confidence and belief that I can do something. So, that was a big thing and then a small thing too which is also really big is appreciation and giving thanks. I had a really by giving thanks and one example for me helped me out a lot is actually when I was out my first trip out there in California and stand at Volcom House. I left the Volcom House and I wrote a thank you letter to the house manager Cory Rice and the guys and everybody at Volcom seemed to really appreciate that and see that. The next step from the Volcom House in California is like the Hawaii house. That's the house you want to get to and that really kind of opened it up like man is kicking surf well and he’s respectful. Like we like you, let’s take you maybe to the next house, you want to go.
Colby Harris: Yeah, you are checking all the boxes and I totally agree one thing I love is if it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you. That's one thing that we believe in so much at “Grit.org” is putting yourself in these uncomfortable situations to be better prepared for that next opportunity or that next unknown event that could cross paths with you. So, while traveling competing again at such a young age you obviously still had school to worry about. After joining Volcom and really being out of town all a time. Again, local to Fernandina. How did you balance school being a professional surfer and kind of living what we would call a normal teenage life?
Sean Poynter: Well, I wasn't really living a normal teenager life. I think about that and I just go, it wasn't really anything normal about my life. I was 14 years old and I was traveling around and I was pursuing work. I mean that was kind of earlier on coming into high school years, senior year I decided to go homeschooling I didn't know anybody in my class that was doing homeschooling. And so, that was new and it was in a way I was kind of creating this new normal. School, it was kind of tough I mean reality I finished three months or so, two or three months I graduated actually after my class graduated. Because I was doing it all on my own and like me being an 80D kid and like traveling around like my had surfing on my mind was always my focus. So, it just didn't drive me that well, but ended up getting it done of course. But yeah, the whole thing is just I was creating kind of my new normal.
I heard this the other day and I really dug it and it was like, don't be normal and expect abnormal results and I thought that's exactly that. I've been kind of creating this abnormal to get, I mean, I just abnormal life in a way and be comfortable with it and it's just kind of led me in that path. So, this whole journey of tackling this is been kind of an interesting one.
Colby Harris: Yeah, I love that saying as well and there's nothing fun about being normal either.
Brian Harbin: Yeah, I love hearing you talk about the Volcom House because one of the things we talk a lot about is these incubators of success, these hotbeds of talent and hearing you talk about the Volcom House is exactly that. So, kind of thinking back to your experience at the Volcom House. I mean, what were some things that kind of stood out as far as what helped shape you, some of the things you learned from the Volcom House and what makes that environment and kind of incubator if you will, so successful developing top surfers?
Sean Poynter: Well, I mean a big thing to answer your question. You know what I learned? I mean I learned how to be a better surfer and when I start breaking it down when you start breaking down surfing and the feeling Colby as being a surfer. Yeah, there's a lot of lessons learned in being a surfer. There's a lot of components that translate over into life and by going out there in Hawaii where they are the proving grounds of surfing, that's what they are deemed in the surfing world. You want to be good. Well, go prove yourself out in the North Shore of Hawaii. Go surf waves, like pipeline, backdoor and off the wall and challenge yourself amongst the best in the most aggressive ways in the world. And being in that environment when I was young 16, 17, 18 or so, I was thrust into those environments.
Surfing in general, understanding your surroundings, understanding what's going on around you, so that you don't get caught in a hairy situation. I mean I would see countless times at the house where guys would paddle out a pipe and they want to know what they're doing. They're sitting like not the channel in the impact zone they would get wiped out. And because they weren't situational aware, situationally aware of what was going on. So, that kind of component that came into it and another one about commitment. Like pipeline is one of the most aggressive most dangerous waves in the world where guys can die out there and have some of the worst wipeouts of their life. I for one have gotten lucky with not getting hurt out there seriously. But it would always be an issue for somebody including myself. If I had hesitation on a wave that I wasn't fully committed in that was going to be my demise.
So, if I didn't have full commitment piling into this 10, 15, 20-foot wave chances are I was going to get tossed. So, I learned that there's a level of commitment that you have to have if you really want to go for it. If you're not fully committed in something, then you might as well just be backing out because it's going to go wrong. So, there's kind of that component to it too. So, there's a couple things and also a big one like stuff happens. Stuff happens that you can't account for and you kind of just got to brush it off and don't beat yourself up about it. If you got to forgive yourself, forgive yourself. If you got to be forgiven, then, be forgiven. You can't control everything and that's just one thing about life that I learned in surfing and out there that got to kind of go with the flow, right. A little bit in that element.
Colby Harris: Absolutely. Take it as a lesson and move forward.
Sean Poynter: Right.
Colby Harris: And I mean, I can totally understand about Pipe. It's crazy to hear you talking about because I've even been to the hospital from surfing on Amelia, had to get my tooth replaced. I mean, I've suffered these things on Amelia Island and we're talking that's some of the worst waves and here you are talking about pipeline best of the best and having to send it out there. So, now that you've spent your teen years doing all these amazing things as a surfer for Volcom and you did in fact get your diploma in the process. You start to pursue surfing full time, but really came to a fork in the road. Stand up paddleboarding. So, this is really where that comes into play. For listeners who may not be familiar, stand up is very similar to traditional surfing but you ride a larger board, stand on it rather than lay down and you've got this single-bladed paddle to get you around. I can say from experience, it's much more difficult to ride for performance purposes but nonetheless, Sean, can you kind of tell us more about that transition from traditional surfing to moving into stand-up power board surfing?
Sean Poynter: So, in general, that transition was an overview. I mean, it was a closing of one door with the opening of another and it kind of extend on that. In 2008 December, it was at every end of the year is renewal period for athletes. Contracts that's the that's the time where you start negotiating with the companies Volcom in this case on what your next year's terms are going to be and compensation, everything like that. I was on the phone with my team manager at the time and hearing, hey, you've had the great year, you've done this and done this. Everything that's checking the box of my mind like, alright here prime me for the great offer and the offer stickers. I'm like, stickers, what do you mean? That's worse than I had last year and I had a better year as you just explained. It's like sorry that's what we can do.
So, it was 2008 it was a great recession it was tough for every company and I was on the low end of the totem pole and so I got I got the cut basically. I always knew when I traveled out to California earlier that the amount of love and support that guys are getting out there that's just because they're in the arena if you will. Here in the East Coast, you're not necessarily in the game out there is just a level of different credit that you get based on your level of surfing. So, I knew that I hadn't done it yet. I haven't done professional surfing yet that I wanted to do. I wasn't going to Europe, I wasn't going to Australia, I wasn't going to heated. I wasn't going to these far-reaching places and tackling these waves that the greats do or that the real professionals do. So, I wanted that and I realized, well, I got to get out to California to do it.
So, I was set to move out September the following year and prior to that move I was introduced to stand up paddle boarding with by a friend of mine Steve Sugarroot who had a couple boards. We went out and I got completely humbled, couldn't stand on the board for five minutes. I had was on a 10-foot-long board. I mean I should have been able to stand on the board right, couldn't. I was frustrated and we reset and got back to it, and over that couple months’ time from when I was introduced to it when I had moved, I was starting to get kind of decent and it was fun. I was riding waves and then I moved out to California and he had mentioned about this event in in Dana Point to go check out and it was a stand-up paddle boarding event. I went and saw it and hundreds of people on the beach hundreds of athletes, vendors. I mean this beach was packed there in Dana Point Doheny Beach. Man, it was just palpable this energy and it was exciting and exhilarating and I went to go, he was actually in touch with the company. He was kind of integrated with the sport as a whole with helping found a magazine in it. He was speaking with the company Starboard at the time that was looking for a new international writer.
I went to go meet them there and upon me and then they're like, hey, we have this board why don't you check it out. And it was this 7/11 this this like revolutionary design first time. It really small and it was actually funny enough designed by this Terry Hawkinson who is a Volcom snowboarder who I met at the Volcom House earlier in my earlier years. I got out on the board and started ripping it up and it was the most high-performance board that I had been on. Man, it was like really fun. Getting in flow, riding this whole thing. Margaretta Angstrom on the beach, head of marketing for Starboard was there. I could see that there was some excitement behind what I was doing out there and I was starting to think in my own head like, oh this is cool. Maybe it can kind of go a little bit further than this. But that resolved and then went home to the house and I was still working on getting new sponsors with the traditional surfing route that I moved out to California to pursue and well, nothing was really quite happening. So, yeah.
Colby Harris: Yeah. Well, it sounds like, you obviously took some time but once you got out there in California and just started tearing it up like you said. You could tell that people were taking notice and that definitely led you into getting that first sponsor with Starboard and then as well as becoming a more serious competitor. So, can you share with us how you continue to progress. I mean, in just a matter of 2 years, you went from never standing on a stand-up pal board to competing in contest, getting sponsors, and honestly, doing very well. So, can you just share more with us about that? From your training regimen, I know you mentioned you had that revolutionary board. So, how are you able to just continuously perform at your very best?
Sean Poynter: It was a definitely a trial period that first year I saw it on with Starboard in beginning in 2010. That's when my base my contract period start with him and that first year and first couple years, I mean it was like Formula 1 driver coming from. And then going back into like a normal everyday car on the road or something like that. Because I'm coming from surfboard design where we have everything is refined, the rails, the board and then coming into a up where it's a lot larger. Those design elements that were very fond of and familiar with on a surfboard just weren't even thought about yet. So, that was a big component to it.
I mean to scale back really originally; I mean it's to answer your question it's it was certainly an understanding of what was happening, what was going on and then what I wanted to do with it. There was a goal that I set in place and then from that goal it kind of started working backwards from it. Alright, what's the equipment doing. Alright, we're really far off from where we can be which what I'm familiar with in surfboard design. So, we got to rat to that we got to start working on this and start working with Star War and helping design this stuff. And then with the fitness and then with diet. So, all these different layers kind of started to layer on as I was reaching towards this goal of becoming a world champion, which I set in 2011. That started tracking towards that, but a couple components there. The drive to a goal and then Understanding where things were at and what we had to do to try and etch them and get them there.
Brian Harbin: Yeah, Sean two of the things that you've said at camp that really stuck with me is that, your vibe is your tribe, your tribe is your vibe. Then also with decisiveness comes calmness and so you can kind of start to hear and feel that all these things are kind of starting to come together for you. And not just full of the story for our listeners but as mentioned in introduction so you're in 2018 you were the standup paddle board world champion. And for the listeners who don't follow surfing to become the world Champion, there's about 36 surfers for each event that qualify through a series of events throughout the year. With elimination rounds that narrow down to, and surfers accumulate points. And then one of the most points at the end of the year is Crown Champion. So, in 2018 though there was only two events. There was the New York event and then there was a Canaries.
The flip side of that is it puts more pressure on you to kind of perform on those. So, tell us about kind of your mindset going into that year and also did you know that that was the year that you really wanted to take the crown?
Sean Poynter: It was. It was definitely the year I announced it to my sponsor to my sponsors and to the world in a way at least certainly to myself. But that was going to be my last year, that was already predetermined. I had set a goal; I want to be a world champion. I set a goal in 2011 that was give myself 5 years. So, that was up to 2015, the end of 2015 to do that. 2015 came and gone and I didn't get it. I was coming into; I have other interest or I need to start moving on to the next thing. Money was starting to get tighten as I'm getting older in this whole thing. So, 2018 was my predetermined last year to compete. Announced to the sponsors and also to my coach. Which was the first time and being that committed, like I had seen that brings value at pipeline, right. Committed and go, ‘Ian, I want to win the world title this year and I want to do it with you and sponsors. I'm going for the world title and I need your backing to help bring coach with me. I need additional financing and support in this.’ So, they got behind it in this whole thing. So, the whole mindset was we have a goal and we are committed and we're going to do everything that we can to do this to help myself out. So, that was the mindset going into it.
Colby Harris: Yeah, I can even feel the pressure in myself a little to put myself in your shoes and understand this is the year to announce it to your sponsors, to announce it to your coach your friends or family that this is going to be my last year and I'm going to do it or I'm not. But didn't even consider that latter element. So, it brings me the next point of sometimes people create this misconception about success from the outside. It looks like this uphill trek of triumph and achievements and accolades. But there's always bumps in the road especially when you have so much at stake like you did that year in 2018. What were some obstacles that you had overcome that you're on your way to winning the title as well as was there ever a time that you really started to second guess yourself in this course of trying to achieve that world title?
Sean Poynter: First event, up in New York, Long Beach. I have round one heat and we have a break so there's a good break between one event and the next and the previous season and the event in New York. We had quite a few months between the two and a lot of things happen in that period. As I mentioned earlier about board design and fitness and things happen quick. And everybody has their own kind of camp and everybody has their own companies that they're working with in board designs. So, you don't necessarily know how you stack up come the next year, it's a whole new year in a way. And cut to round one in New York, I go out there I think everything is dialed in. I've got my coach. I've been working training all year like it's a 10-event year type thing.
Fully committed and I fall flat in the scores. I get out in the heat and I'm competing against guys and I just don't get the scores. It starts doing this whole doubt loop in my mind. Just like that, do all this preparation all year, and have this one instance that's like kind of insignificant but it wasn't in my mind. I let it overrun my mind and it came to extent where I remember asking my coach like, when did you decide to give it up? Like there was a question in there after that had happened that I asked that question in this. Which is crazy. Because I was there committed to win a world title, win this event.
So, to answer question yeah, I mean there was moments and that was in moment one. Like out of the gates, it was there. But what we did, we focused on what I could influence and that was a big thing. That's where one of my favorite authors or books, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey. Habit number one, be proactive. Focus on your areas of influence over your areas of concern. So, what can we do now to improve? Yeah, you did bad in round one but what is it that we can actually influence to make sure that round three and four can help us out. So, that's what we focused and then yeah so then we went on and I went up winning that event so it was a change from the very beginning to the end but there's yeah, some instances.
Colby Harris: Yeah, it definitely sounds like and I know that's tough too even the first event and surfing so hard in that way. It's such a roller coaster as mother nature can give and take. You might not be in the right spot and I love that point being made. One thing that really changed a lot of perspective for me is one of my good friends told me even just recently. There’re two things you can control in life and that's your attitude and effort. I come back around that on the daily now. But nonetheless I also want to add outside of clinching that title in 2018, after the New York event. Again, kind of had a rough start to get going. But during that summer you competed for team USA at the ISA World Championships in China. So, can you share more about that experience of not only getting to represent your country, but you were able to take a brief step away from competing for the world title? Could you just kind of dive into what that was like competing for something more than just personal accolades?
Sean Poynter: Those events are really cool. I mean we meet up with all the other top guys in the countries. Maybe 30 countries plus that all come together at this island this South Island and Hanan China. It's like the Waikiki of China. I mean it was really something. I mean we ended up scoring some just fantastic surf for that event, which I had no expectation at all. I arrived not even doing any prior research to, because it's one of those things where it's not a tour event. It's not as much pressure and I had competed in 6, 7 world championships at the time every year since I started them. So, I had some comfort. It wasn't my first rodeo if you will. I knew the guys on the team and I knew my ability. So, just going to have some fun, but doing something outside of yourself, it almost empowers you and that would be what it was down there. You have all the support of your fleets and the camaraderie within the camp of the USA squad. You're out there cheering for the racer and you're cheering for your guy who's surfing.
It just brings together the whole view of this thing where it's like the common goal. We have a common goal here and how can we help raise each other, encourage one another so that they can do their best. It's always kind of looking out for who's up that day and how can you help to help them out to bring out the best. And that was really fun because that's alternative to what we think about on the tour. It's a really kind of single-minded, small, intimate group on the tour. So, having it so large and having some great waves in a new environment that I've ever been to and it's really special, those ones.
Colby Harris: Yeah, it sounds like it too especially as you said brings out the best of you. Sounds like that time it brought the best out of you personally even so that's really awesome.
Brian Harbin: Yeah, I the fact too that you kind of saw the larger purpose traditionally individual support sport you see kind of the bigger picture of working together as a team. So, here we are though you're about to go into the Canaries which is the final event of 2018. Basically, everything comes down to this right and you talk about control the things that you can influence. So, tell us what were some of the little things that you feel like you did to help kind of prepare yourself for that final event.
Sean Poynter: Well, a big thing as I mentioned, I mean, being comfortable with the uncomfortable. I say that but I want to get comfortable with that uncomfortable, right. I mean so I went there early, that was a big thing. I went there early, a week and a half early before the event started. I was there well before anybody else had gotten there. So, I had set up my shop and in this unfamiliar territory of just I had complete uncertainty, I tried to create some familiarity to it. And with my apartment and with the places that I would eat and the wave of course that I would surf. It was just dialing in everything to where I could be as comfortable as possible in a space that I didn't know.
I mean it was the extent that the local shop where I was getting my food at knew my order. My breakfast order right after I come in from a surf and I started creating like this weird this bond with family, there people in the lineup all locals of Spain there and canaries, but kind of friends of mine now that they gather. So, when everybody got there, I had done like that prep work and then and then the actual work itself which is well before that event. I mean, I've been working at the very beginning of the year with the fitness and the diet and the equipment that was everything dialed in. I mean, it was all just teed up that I just had to go out and perform and do my thing and the last step was just getting comfortable with that environment.
Colby Harris: Yeah, I definitely could see that's a huge key point when you're going to these new areas. I know in a lot of professional contest. Guys, do like to get there even up to a month early. Get used to the wave and personally as you said even settle in with the locals will feel like you're welcome there and get into it's almost like gives you that comfort of being in your hometown. You rip your hardest when you're at your hometown as your way, you know everything about. So, you definitely found that year in the Canaries. And as we all already know Sean, you'd end up clinching that title, the 2018 World Championship at the event in the Canaries. And not to say I was all could do or anything crazy, but I was going through your Instagram just to kind of see some of your history as we're preparing for this thing. There's a picture of you on your Instagram on the podium and you have the world championship trophy over your head. I can only imagine the sensation that comes with that to hoist up the trophy, and look out to the sea of people applauding for achievement and to know that you would accomplish that goal that you've been so set on for so long. Can you give us some insight into what that was like during the event, after the event when you had won and kind of what led up to winning during those last few heats?
Sean Poynter: It was focusing on what I can control, that was a big component of it. We knew exactly what the wave would do at this time. We had our peaks situated. We had three peaks out there, which ones I was going to be developing between based on this situation based on that. I had beach markers. So, a lot of it was what I could control. In my quarter final heat that was basically I had the final day. I had a quarter final heat with Luis Denise, a really great Brazilian surfer who I knew it's going to be a challenge. It was the first heat always kind of getting the feet and the waxes. See how it goes and I had a really slow start. Actually, I think my coach is like tearing out his hair because it was, I definitely waited to the last couple minutes to kind of get it done to get through.
Then on the way in, man, I hit my knees and I hit my knee and it like fully damage my knees. So, I had like all this emotions kind of running through with that, because here I am. I'm like on the eve of clenching this world title that I've been working on now at this time 8 years. I get injured in my knee prior to the last heat that is going to determine if I am champion or not. I'm like, I can't bend my knee. So, that run through on my mind. So, like on the last day there was this mix of emotions and then we got into that final/semi-final heat and I had to win to basically be crowned champion. And finally, kind of found my feet in that quarter final and the knee was okay and fully just rid it out with all the adrenaline that was running. But I just do what I know I needed to do. Played the game and executed and cut to actually clinching it probably with the picture that you saw of me on the podium. You probably saw-like complete joy on that shot and relief.
I mean seeing myself smile is it brings a smile to me. When I look back at that we worked really hard for that my coach and I mean he made commitments too with his family to think about it. He left his family to join me touring around to events and this and my sponsors commit. So, there was a lot to it. I mean I miss my sister's wedding because but actually now I think about it. I mean my sister was getting married the day before that we finished the final day back in the States and I forewent that wedding to accomplish what I wanted and I had set out for. So, there's a lot of things kind of weighing on that that released after I accomplished that.
Colby Harris: A lot of sacrifice.
Brian Harbin: I bet and being a world champion so tell us a little bit more about that. I mean for those of us that that have never been a world champion, right. I mean in the moment just after I'm sure it's this feeling of just relief. Tell us more about just and the moment just after.
Sean Poynter: Yeah, well it hit by that evening where I've really started to feel just the weight and the release of that and also just the self-proving of that. I just, man I just remember that night crying a lot. I was crying a lot, because I set this goal initially back in 2011 with not necessarily knowing that I could do it but like believing that I could. And having so many years where I just fell short and then I getting closer to the end of the road. Like when I just knew I had to move on, it was kind of fearful. I said, the goal though to prove myself that hey I can actually be great at something or like I see these champions, like let me I believe I can be that but only until I achieve this will I say that I can. So, I mean that was really a self-personal accomplishment for me and it just overrun me with them, but I even getting emotional now thinking about it.
Colby Harris: Yeah, we appreciate you sharing that and I think that's what draws people so heavily to sports is it's unlike anything else where your accomplishments 99% of the time are going to align with the work you've put in the time, you've put in the preparation you've done. So, it's hard as much as you try to tell yourself I'm a person first I'm an athlete second. It's very hard not to tie yourself to your sport which is something that we work a lot within Grit Club with our athletes is trying to remind them that you're a person first and athlete second, but the passion and the work you've put in. It is who you are. It really is. You're of an athlete for your sport and you eat, sleep, and breathe that. It's hard not to fully attach yourself to it.
So, again, me and Brian sitting here not world champions of anything. So, to say, I can only imagine what that's like. I mean, even just winning a local ESA contest. I go home and I feel relieved. So, following that, you finally had this accomplishment. All the sacrifice was made. You got to come home, a world champion and you decide to pivot into real estate. So, as you're even working on achieving the world title, you're actually getting stuff done to become a real estate agent throughout 2018, which again is just super impressive. So, can you tell us more about stepping into that career and if you kind of knew what niche you want to work in within real estate as well as how that's kind of progressed over the few years that followed after the world title.
Sean Poynter: Yeah, it was it came about when I was living in California really. I mean, I found there's something after surfing of course. I learned that ever since I started taking this track in the surfing route. I wasn't your normal kid. I wasn't going to go to college. I wasn't going to get the degree to get the job and do this whole thing. I knew then that I would have to create my life, create my work, create my pay in this whole thing. I was getting near the end of my surfing and I was thinking what is that? What is that work that I'm going to create? What is the business? And I was introduced to real estate and actually over an infomercial and join my team and I called in and I went to a seminar to it and I'm like this is it. I remember calling my mom afterwards being so excited, like, I found this is it, this is how I can like compete post and like win but yet make money doing it and it was real estate.
So, I ended up moving back to Florida in 2018 to kind of pursue that while training for the title. And one thing led to next, I didn't necessarily know what I to do. I know I want to do investing in that space, but it took me a year to kind of figure out to really be able to make actionable goals. I think that's one thing about it like you kind of go in with no expectations to start. And then once you understand the lay of the land, then you kind of start to get a little more granular what you want to do and that was the case for me. Now I have a business where we buy and sell real estate, flip properties, flip contracts, and stuff like that. I have a small team of guys that work with me and it's fun. It's a way that I now can make some money and reinvest in ideas that I have or what have you.
Colby Harris: Definitely an awesome network in there too. Some amazing guys you can find in the real estate space.
Sean Poynter: Completely.
Brian Harbin: And Sean to kind of piggyback on that question because one of the things we talk a lot about young athletes and business professionals about is leveraging previous successes into what's next or something else and taking those things that helped you be successful in one area and apply them in a totally different area. So, what would you say would be a couple things that you've been able to apply that you learn from surfing to now applying in your day to day in real estate?
Sean Poynter: There's a formula to it. There's a definitely a formula to it that I learned and kind of devised in the competitive space I think translates to just in general to life and accomplishing things. It's kind of all relative, but understanding what one, where the actual market is. One what you're doing like where I mentioned earlier you want to on a delights like where's the arena that you're going to play in. Like where do you want, what are you going to play and then yeah, where is that arena that you want to get in. That was the case for me. Like I was in front of Dina and I want to get to see this investment thing and I realized the market's too small here. What's the next closest market I can get into? Okay, Jacksonville and it's an emerging market, I understand a little bit about it. Alright, so let's move to Jacksonville. Where do I need to move to Jacksonville? Let's move to Murray Hill because it's emerging space there and central. So, I can get to any old property in California or I'm sorry in Florida, in Jacksonville.
So, understand the lay of land, what I want to do, what the arena is, and then finding the support. Find the support, finding the person who's kind of gone where you want to go and attaching yourself to them. I linked up with a guy here, Adam Lochlear and his father and like, hey, can I work with you for free. Because I'm seeing what I want to do. And any education is good education in this space even if it is without pay and I started training with those guys and kind of creating this business of mine. So, there's a whole thing man. Just environment and attach yourself to somewhat of a mentor if you will work for them and then just commit and keep at it, persevere. If my story is anything in the world championship it's just persevere man. I put up for 5 years I did an 8, things take long than you expect.
Colby Harris: Yeah.
Sean Poynter: Give yourself time.
Colby Harris: Takes grit 100% and having a mentor again is so important. As I'm sitting here next to you with Brian and even alongside you, I appreciate you coming on so much today even as you've met with me a few times this past summer and you've let kind of we've gotten into the things I've been doing and sharing some insight. You're the president of our Fernandina Beach Board Riders Club. So, you've really inspired a bunch of people, myself included, come out to our great camp to speak to our kids there. So, just appreciate everything you've done and it's incredible to hear more in depth. I can't wait for all the listeners to be able to reflect on the things you've done.
So, just one last question here for you. We ask everybody, as you know, we have our Grit Creed which is really just 12 principles that we believe everybody could live by. So, I have to ask, can you share us what part of the Grit Creed resonates most with you and why is that?
Speaker 4: I will do what I say I will do. That's a big one. I love that you guys have that in there. For me that resonates because every day I challenge myself to be who I choose to be every day getting out of bed. It's tough getting out of bed. I don't want to get out of bed, but I am disciplined and I am prepared and I am all this stuff that I have to live up to. So, like the word is a powerful thing. I heard it recently early this year and it impact me in a big way that, life and death live on the tongue. So, what you speak externally and internally is going to have an influence on you. It's going to create who you are. It's going to create your reality because it's influencing your choices.
So, the spoken word and doing what you say you're going to do to self and to others. I mean it builds this confidence in yourself when you actually do that and you live up to it day in and day out. It's a battle every day that I suffer with, a challenge every day. It's one thing that I don't always get right. Sometimes I got at the end of the day I got to look and just go man, you kind of didn't do as good, because you could do, but that's okay. I'm going to roll with it and the next day I'm going to do better. Be forgiving on yourself. So, I love that about you guys as Trina I love what you guys do Grit as a whole organization. I did come out and I spoke with the kids and met. Well, everybody as they're throwing the balls and I can tell you got a lot of stoked kids there. So, what you guys are doing is super cool and I appreciate you guys have me on the show and excited to see what you guys continue to do and provide for the community here.
Colby Harris: Thank you so much Sean again we really appreciate you everything you've done. So, it's been a thrill having you on today. Honestly, I hope every guest that we have on here brings the passion and the perseverance to the conversation that you have today. So, that's going to be it for today here at the “Grit.org” Podcast. Make sure to like, subscribe, be ready for our next episode, and we can't wait to see you then.