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Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman Hardcover – October 6, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press; 1st edition (October 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594200726
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594200724
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 7.7 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (165 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #152,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Like the carefully engineered dies which created his company's first products--steel pitons and carabiners which climbing enthusiasts would recognize as primitive forerunners of today's sleeker gear--Yvon Chouinard is if nothing else an original. How many other shy French-Canadian boys become surf-and-climbing bums, then blacksmiths forging their own play tools, and eventually founders of world-renowned sports equipment and apparel companies like Patagonia? How many other heads of multi-million dollar enterprises open their memoirs by stating bluntly, "The Lee Iacoccas, Donald Trumps, and Jack Welches of the business world are heroes to no one except other businessmen with similar values. I wanted to be a fur trapper when I grew up." The proverbial mold from which Chouinard was cast got broken.

In Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman, readers get a fascinating look inside the history and philosophy of both Patagonia and its irascible, opinionated founder. From its beginning, the book shares a sense of Chouinard's strong-willed personality and his love of the outdoors. He recounts a mostly happy childhood spent in a still-unspoiled southern California, climbing, diving, fishing, and surfing. The narrative soon moves into Chouinard's early entrepreneurial efforts, which were less focused on market-share domination than on earning a basic living to finance his own sporting habits. As his company's first catalog noted, delivery could be slow in the summer months, when Chouinard typically left the "office"--a dilapidated shack converted into an ironworks--for climbing adventures across the American West.

Eventually, though, the story settles into a pattern familiar to business audiences: Patagonia grows rapidly, takes on more employees and product lines to sustain hungry demand from customers, but overreaches with over-ambitious expansion plans and suffers a hiccup in its adolescence. This make-or-break juncture of a business's development often contains the most interesting material, and here Chouinard and his beloved company are no exception. He describes a series of wrenching decisions through which he and Patagonia management team navigated in 1991, as sales growth stalled while capital and operational expenses sprinted ahead. From this crisis emerged Patagonia's first-ever layoffs, affecting a hefty 20% of the workforce, and a serious re-examination of the business's core principles and methods.

The historical part of Chouinard's book largely ends at this point, and gives way to an exposition of philosophies which emerged at Patagonia during its dark moments in the early 1990s. The rest of the book serves as a kind of primer to business, the Patagonia way: one chapter each on product design philosophy, production philosophy, distribution philosophy, image philosophy, financial philosophy, human resource philosophy, and so on. Fans of Patagonia can revel in the company's working details, as can those who support or want to build businesses with self-consciously cultivated soulfulness. Readers who enjoyed Gary Erickson's story about Clif Bar, for example, should definitely find this a welcome addition to their bookshelves. --Peter Han

From Publishers Weekly

Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia Inc., presents his philosophy for a "new style of responsible business" along with a chronicle of his personal and company history in this sincere if self-congratulatory creed. A Californian of French-Canadian descent, Chouinard started forging climbing hardware and selling it out of his car in 1957 and published his first catalogue, a one-page mimeographed sheet, in 1964. Today, his sporting goods company has annual revenues of $230 million, but he nonetheless identifies himself as more of "a climber, a surfer, a kayaker, a skier and a blacksmith" than a CEO. In this vein, he lays out his alternative vision of business, detailing eco- and people-conscious philosophies on aspects of the supply chain from product design and production to human resources and management. Chouinard has backed up his rhetoric with action: Patagonia pursues sustainability, gives 1% of annual net sales to environmental groups and has set benchmarks with its employee-friendly policies. Patagoniacs and socially conscious businesspeople may appreciate this account despite its wooden writing, especially as an antidote to headlines of corporate fraud. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Yvon Chouinard is a noted alpinist and the founder and co-owner of Patagonia, Inc. He's also the co-founder, with Craig Mathews, of 1% For The Planet, an alliance of businesses that contribute at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental causes. An avid surfer and fly fisherman as well as climber, he lives in Ventura, California, and Moose, Wyoming with his wife, Malinda.

Customer Reviews

Anyone interested in business should read this book!
Courtney
Compact, clear writing telling the fascinating story of how Yvon Chouinard pursued his passion and in the process created a successful and admirable company.
Sean Park
This is one of those drop everything books that you want to buy and give to all your friends and relations who will read and gain from it.
R. M. Williams

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 70 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Williams on February 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of those drop everything books that you want to buy and give to all your friends and relations who will read and gain from it.

I don't even know how the book came to my attention to buy i the first place, it sat in my TBR pile for several weeks until i had the time to read the first chapter and skim the rest, my usual routine with new books as they come into the house. However it is so good, from the first sentence that i just set aside my other reading and finished it.

It is about doing good and having an adventure while doing so. Partly biographical, partly a history of the company's beginning, mostly a philosophic discussion of how to interact with an increasingly polluted and destroyed planet in a responsible corporate way. It's a story about a man, from all indications one of those rare individuals who consciously walks through life (perhaps climbing is a better word for his travels) aware of what is around him and how he is responsible for his wake through the world.

From the decision to end pinions and switch to clean climbing chocks to the 1% of sales to progressive environmental activist groups, his philosophy not only interacts with his outdoor activities but with the wider world. This book ought to be required reading for every MBA, every business student in the world. And recommended reading for everyone else.

I'm not a very hopeful person, perhaps being in contact with people like the author would turn me around. He is realistic, a little pessimistic but puts his money, his deeds where his words are, in action. An excellent book, just drop everything and get a copy and read it tonight.

thanks for reading this short review.

if you can offer suggestion like this book, please email rwilliam2@yahoo.com subject amazon review.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By John F. Mcmahon on October 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Yvon Chouinard takes all current and accepted business practices and turns them on their ear! Being involved in the "corporate world" I am witness to all sorts of techniques, behaviours, policies, practices etc. The driving force is always the bottom line. While Chouinard is, and has to be concerned with the bottom line his path to that bottom line is both bold and unique. Clearly this is a very practical guide to a more healthy and sustainable business culture.

Chouinard is clearly a wonderful man leading a wonderful charge. Hey, I want my boss to let me go surfing!!A must read!
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45 of 55 people found the following review helpful By TPS Student on January 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I've loosely followed the Patagonia over the years and read the book based on the recommendation from a colleague as we search new means to "engage" employees.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first part of the book and would recommend it as a case study for any business person trying to grow their own business but especially for those confronting their first major crisis after the first success although I am not entirely sure the success of Patagonia has been more because of brilliant management and leadership or just plain luck. Probably a combination of both.

The problem I have with the book is Chouinard's preachy bigotry against anyone that doesn't fully subscribe to his philosophy of what makes the world a better place. As an avid outdoor person I accept the need to be wise stewards of our limited natural resources so I don't have a problem and would gladly support responsible organizations that do the same. But Chouinard takes it one step too far by classifying all Christians as evolution denying morons and anyone that drives an SUV as a myopic terrorist against the survival of the world. In Chouinard's world anyone that has more than one child and doesn't bicycle to work or drive a hybrid is deserving of contempt from the all knowing and all wise Zen master himself. And while he derides every form of fossil, hydro, and nuclear energy the best alternative he can come up with is to put a solar panel on his office building. I think this is all hypocritical as he jet sets around the world to bag this peak or that, admire his contributions to nature preserves, and travels from stream to stream to catch and release innocent trout.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By DenaliKen on October 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Yvon Chouinard (YC) breaks the barriers and shatters the models of business not simply by thinking differently, but acting differently. I am a CEO and His honesty about his mistakes, missteps, is completely refreshing and provides an honest assessment of his role as entreprenuer, businessman, and steward of the earth. YC leads with his weaknesses and many failures which is atypical for the successful "how to succeed" book by the entreprenuer of the moment. He challenges everyone to think deeply about how we treat everything from people we employ, to simple things, such as overnight shipping (high cost to the environment) and making shirts that don't require ironing. Do not expect a perfect flow of language--the book is broken up into sections, but more closely represents a free flowing dialogue with interruptions and random comments. His thoughts on the environment fit nicely with a stereotypical environmentalist, and his thoughts on mutiple distribution channels could fit nicely when speaking to a Harvard Business School class. YC is an enigma. This book, while sometimes a bit disjointed and sometimes clunky, might very well be regarded in 50 years as THE book that started a new thought pattern in business that has responsibility to be profitable, and yet be responsible to the employees and the earth. The new, responsible Henry Ford of our time? BRILLIANT! GO YC!
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