Nick Woodman, founder and CEO of sports camera company GoPro, was the highest paid U.S. chief executive of 2014, Bloomberg recently reported.
Woodman was granted 4.5 million restricted stock units valued at $US284.5 million at the end of 2014, earning him the top spot on Bloomberg’s list. In 2013, he earned a salary of $US800,000 in addition to a bonus of $US1 million.
Woodman’s financial success is more than a decade in the making. He founded GoPro in 2004, initially just making wrist straps for small cameras and then eventually branching out into building the hardware itself.
Woodman came up with the idea for GoPro before leaving town for a surfing trip, when he realised he needed some kind of device that would make taking action shots easier. When he returned from the trip, he used his mum’s sewing machine to start work on GoPro’s first camera strap.
Woodman’s life hasn’t slowed down since — he’s an adrenaline junkie, Red Bull addict, snowboarder, mountain biker, race-car driver, and an avid surfer.
Woodman's high school classmates remember him as being immensely passionate, waking up at five in the morning to go surfing before classes. 'Now professional content is inspiring kids around the world to pursue their passions, just like I was inspired by those Surfer magazine tear outs on the wall,' he told UCSD's alumni magazine.
After building his first startup, a web marketing company that eventually flopped during the dot-com crash of the early 2000s, Woodman decided to fund his next venture himself. He moved back in with his parents and travelled up and down the California coast in a Volkswagen Westfalia van called 'The Biscuit,' where he worked on the first GoPro wrist straps and cameras.
Woodman sold his first GoPro cameras in surf shops and even on QVC, which he appeared on several times in GoPro's early days. Here he is on the home shopping network in 2005, three years after creating the first GoPro. 'It was very humble beginnings for GoPro, but I think it's the right kind of beginning,' he told Outside.
Once GoPro started taking off, the company bought a Lotus Exige, which Woodman would use to test the latest camera straps and mounts. 'He'd spend all day going 130 miles per hour around the Infineon track. He was basically the product test engineer,' Neil Dana, Woodman's friend and GoPro's first hire said to Inc.
These days, Woodman still has a need for speed. In 2013, he used a GoPro HD Hero3+ to film himself competing in the 540-mile General Tire Vegas to Reno desert race.
Woodman is famously high-energy. He has said he was inspired by Red Bull both as a lifestyle brand and as a fuel for creativity. He told Fortune that when he was starting GoPro, he 'became enamoured with the brand. And I was drinking a lot of Red Bull -- I'm not kidding, getting a company off the ground isn't easy.'
Woodman's longtime passion for surfing has remained central to his company. In 2014, GoPro announced a sponsorship of the Association of Surfing Professionals, and the legendary Kelly Slater is among twenty or so surfers on the company's surf team.
Woodman has been known to take GoPro's Gulfstream jet on trips to exotic locations, where he can show off what the latest GoPro devices can do. Here, he takes some of the company's early employees on a ski trip to Montana.
In January 2014, Woodman accepted a Technology and Engineering Emmy Award in the category of Inexpensive Small Rugged HD Camcorders. He brought his GoPro onstage for his acceptance speech.
GoPro went public on June 26, 2014, closing the day at $31.34 a share. According to documents filed with the SEC, Woodman's mum, dad, and two sisters all became millionaires.
Though GoPro's stock has fluctuated over the past year, Woodman currently has an estimated net worth of $2.4 billion.
The couple donated a whopping $500 million to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation in 2014. The gift, which will reportedly go towards creating the Jill + Nicholas Woodman Foundation, made Woodman one of the biggest donors in the tech industry last year.
Over the past decade, GoPro has become the go-to camera for extreme sports enthusiasts, and it's been used to capture some incredible moments. Here South African animal expert Kevin Richardson gets up close and personal with a lion.
A group of adventurous skiers and snowboarders use GoPros as they stand at the top of a ridge in the Andes Mountains.
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