Let My People Go Surfing

by Yvon Chouinard

At the core of Patagonia is its founder, Yvon Chouinard, a man who is saving the world one fleece jacket at a time. A legendary climber, surfer, entrepreneur, environmentalist, and philanthropist, he is justly famous for success on his own terms.

Chouinard brings his extraordinary life and work to the page in Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman (The Penguin Press; October 10, 2005; $26.95), the long-awaited story of the company he grew, now an American business legend. A world-class mountain climber from a very young age, Chouinard quickly discovered he could make higher quality and less environmentally damaging climbing equipment than what was available in the marketplace. Before he knew it his way of life became a business. Some forty years later, Chouinard still summits peaks around the world, and Patagonia continues to make exceptional gear; today, worldwide sales top $240 million annually. Under Chouinard's fearless leadership, Patagonia has been a consistent innovator in corporate practice, giving away a percentage of its gross annual sales to small-scale non-profit work around the world and switching to only organically grown cotton and other recycled materials in its production.

Let My People Go Surfing shows how, by keeping an explorer's spirit, it's possible to blend work, play and social duty — and be all the more successful as a result. The book outlines Chouinard's philosophies on product design, production, distribution, branding, finance, management, and environmental responsibility. Patagonia, Inc. perfectly illustrates just how far a business can go in the direction of long-term sustainability and good citizenship, while Yvon Chouinard is an inspiring example of how far an individual can go in the direction of making his life a grand adventure. Speaking to a diverse audience, from the outdoor enthusiast to the die-hard environmentalist to the business school graduate, Let My People Go Surfing is a stirring memoir and business manifesto from which everyone can draw inspiration.

From the Inside Cover of the Book:
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.

Whether you care about adventure sports, or the fate of the natural world, or 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 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 story 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 with little English and less money. He escaped into mountain climbing as a teenager, and by his early 20's was among the best climbers in America, making famous first ascents of some of the world's most notorious faces. When he decided he could make higher quality climbing tools himself, 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), and his company continues to make exceptionally high-quality, innovative products. Patagonia now earns over $240 million a year from worldwide sales, allowing its owner to seriously leverage his concern for the natural settings he's spent a lifetime enjoying. His resolve to minimize Patagonia's impact on the environment has, among other things, led the company to make their famous fleeces out of recycled soda bottles, use only organically grown cotton since the mid nineties and to donate at least 1% of its revenue each year to environmental causes.

In Let My People Go Surfing, Yvon Chouinard relates his and his company's story, and the core philosophies that have driven and sustained Patagonia, Inc. This is not another tale of a successful businessman who manages to do good on the side 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 life – 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 40 years than Patagonia, Inc., and few more inspiring leaders than Yvon Chouinard.

Reprinted by arrangement with The Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman. Copyright © Yvon Chouinard, 2005. Publication date: October 10, 2006

Praise and reviews
"Here are three wonderful books rolled into one: a moving autobiography, the story of a unique business, and a detailed blueprint for hope."
— Jared Diamond, Professor of Geography at UCLA, author of the books Guns, Germs, and Steeland Collapse, and winner of a 1998 Pulitzer Prize.

"At last Yvon Chouinard has taken time to write his story, and some of us in the progressive business world have waited decades for his wisdom to be penned. This is a wonderful, wonderful book. 200 odd pages of truth telling, consciousness raising and ballsy bravery. His company created an awareness of the environmental issues linked to corporate behavior, product development and company action when others were just tinkering at the edges. Every wannabe entrepreneur, every school teaching a course on "business" and every MBA program should buy this book. This book has to be a best seller. Yvon, thank you, thank you!"
—Anita Roddick, founder and owner of The Body Shop

"Yvon lays out the philosophies and practical actions of a company that has been a leader in the world of values-led business. It is a beautiful read that gives valuable insights into this truly wonderful company."
—Ben Cohen, co-founder Ben & Jerry's, Pres. Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities

"An appealingly practical guide to encourage capitalism and ethics to play nice together"
—Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Yvon Chouinard is founder and owner of Patagonia, Inc., based in Ventura, California. He began in business by designing, manufacturing, and distributing rock climbing equipment in the late 1950's. His tinkering led to an improved ice axe that facilitated the French ice climbing technique and is the basis for modern ice axe design. In 1964 he produced his first mail order catalog, a one page mimeographed sheet containing advice not to expect fast delivery during climbing season. In 2001, along with Craig Mathews, owner of West Yellowstone's Blue Ribbon Flies, started 1% For The Planet®, an alliance of businesses that contribute at least 1 percent of their net annual sales to groups on a list of researched and approved environmental organizations.