[hang ten]
From Surfer Dude to Tie Guy
by Krystn Shrieve

I t helped him work hard without forfeiting fun. It made him a star. It reminded him of his mother. So it’s no wonder that even though it also broke his back and limbs, and siphoned every penny he earned, he keeps coming back for more.

It’s surfing, and Devon Howard ’99 can’t get enough of it. His mother, a professional surfer in the 1960s, had him in the water at La Jolla Shores from day one. He turned pro at 19 and in 2000 ranked No. 5 in the world.

Howard has lived off the surfing industry ever since. Even before he earned his degree in communications, Howard interned for free at Longboard Magazine in San Clemente, Calif., just to be part of the scene.

“I covered surfing competitions, took photos and did whatever I was told,” says Howard, whose dark hair is sometimes short, sometimes shaggy, but always a bit bleached from the sun. “When I graduated, they created a position for me as associate editor.”

He ended up at the helm of the magazine for five years, covering competitions around the world. He also appeared in independent surfing films such as “Singlefin: Yellow,” which documents the travels of a surfboard and the six surfers, including Howard, who rode it. He also surfed in “Sprout,” the documentary film that lured him from the magazine.

“My friend, Thomas Campbell, was making the movie and traveling to Mexico, New Zealand, Australia and Indonesia,” Howard says. “He invited me along, and I couldn’t pass it up.”

When Campbell ran out of money, Howard, through surfing connections, convinced Converse to kick in $125,000. Converse then hired him to promote the movie on a 44-city tour throughout the United States.

Howard has watched the sport evolve from a compulsion only for beach bums to something that makes everyone a surfer wannabe. Now he plans to ride the wave all the way in to corporate America.

“Surfing is a youth-oriented business and I’ve seen dozens of famous guys hang on too long,” says Howard, 31. “I want to use my passion and knowledge to start my own marketing and public relations company.”

What about surfing?

“I’ll surf until I can’t walk anymore. Even then I’ll have my grandkids push me into the waves on my stomach.”