There are lots of perks to starting a company in Southern California, whether it’s the warm weather, proximity to Hollywood, or reasonable distance from Silicon Valley.
A group of about 300 people working in tech, investing, media, and entertainment in Los Angeles are making the most of one perk in particular: the Pacific Ocean.
Calling themselves the Silicon Beach Surfers, this group of entrepreneurial-minded folk meets several times a month to hang out, network, and shred some waves.
The group ranges from rookies to expert surfers. They’re always trying out different beaches, from Point Dume in Malibu to the Trestles near San Diego.
Robert Lambert, founder of tech networking group Silicon Beach LA, started the surfing group with a few friends in 2012.
“In many cities and industries, the business sports are still golf, tennis, and racquetball,” Lambert said to Business Insider. “Here in L.A. the sport of choice is surfing, which is apparent when you realise how many of the more active and influential people in the L.A. tech and startup community surf.”
Lambert runs the Silicon Beach Surfers operation out of a surf shack in Manhattan Beach, not far from where many of the startups are based. He receives about 10 applications for membership each week and usually accepts three of that group. It costs $US50 to apply, and each person has to go through a one-month trial. Once they’re approved, membership costs $US30 each month.
Beyond how fun it is to do, surfing has become a way for people in the L.A. tech community to make important contacts. Lambert says the group includes employees from Omaze, Crowdfunder, Fullscreen, and Dreamworks, just to name a few.
“Surfing with the group has been really helpful, whether it’s for information, advice or contacts,” Hans Yang, VP of Operations for on-demand parking service Luxe Valet, said to Business Insider. “The contacts range from new entrepreneurs all the way to established investors … And regardless of experience, I enjoy surfing with all of them.”
Morris May, a special effects expert and founder of virtual reality company Specular Theory, has made several big hires based on contacts he made with the Silicon Beach Surfers. He appointed Ryan Pulliam as Specular Theory’s CMO after meeting her surfing.
Being introduced to Jessica Kantor, an associate director of marketing at the Sundance Institute, also ended up being huge for May’s business.
“We were just hanging out at the surf house, and I told her I do VR. She said, ‘I’m really interested in that,'” May told Business Insider.
Kantor introduced May to Sundance’s New Frontier team, who helped coordinate an exhibit of Specular Theory’s work at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
“That ended up fueling an enormous amount of press for us,” May said.
The Silicon Beach Surfers aren’t all about work, though.
“It’s not only business contacts, but people I genuinely enjoy spending time with,” May said. “80% of the time it’s just for fun.”
For Kantor, who didn’t know many people when she moved to Los Angeles from New York two years ago, they have been a welcoming community for both work and play.
“They have become my social group. We’ll talk about the waves while we’re on the sand,” Kantor said. “Then once we’re in the water we’ll talk about work in between waves. I’ve found everyone to be super warm, and I’m so excited about lots of their projects.”