Toronto, Ontario

Surf the Greats

Founder Antonio Lennert

What did you see was missing from the outdoor community? 

Access to information on what to do in Toronto was a bit scarce. Although we can do pretty much anything in and around the city, I had to work pretty hard to find information and communities to join. I also thought the lack of commitment to the natural environment was something very apparent.

How does STG solve that? 

 wouldn’t say we solved it, but we’ve contributed to the shift. We educate and provide information for people to connect with our natural environment through surfing, stand-up paddle boarding and beach yoga. We started unifying our community through regular events and beach clean ups, while working hard to place Great Lakes surfing on the global surfing map. We unified many small surf communities from all over with #surfthegreats.

Who comes to your events? 

It ranges from kids to seniors to people from all walks of life; what we have in common is a passion for the natural environment and an overall feeling of goodwill. We respect and celebrate our differences. Whether you’re a surfer or not, it doesn’t matter – you’re part of a community of outdoor enthusiasts who live in Canada’s largest urban centre.

What talents do you need to be an Outdoorpreneur? 

I think it takes a lot of courage. You need to have several skills as you are pretty much in charge of all aspects of your company. I was trained as a graphic designer and I think that’s one of my biggest strengths, as design thinking and methodologies can be applied to pretty much any task. Talents aside, I think you also need a great deal of support to be successful. I feel so lucky to have the support from so many people in our community and from companies like MEC that see the value in what I am doing and want to help me make my dream come true.

What do you wish people knew about your program that isn’t immediately obvious? 

I would really like to emphasize that they don’t need to be surfers. Although we are building this platform through surfing, there are so many offerings for everyone.

What do you most value in your community? 

Trust. Our community supports us because they trust our values and what we are doing. You can’t build without it. We had to earn that trust by proving we’ve had everyone’s interests in mind along the way.

What have been the biggest challenges along the way? 

Since we are trailblazing in this part of the world, it’s been really challenging figuring out exactly how create a financially viable business in a place where surfing is inconsistent and seasons play such a major role in how we get outside. It took us years of trial and error trying to figure out how to make the most of every season and figure out how to run our business in a lean and smart way to fulfill the demand for surf lessons and standup paddle boarding tours. Once we decided to open a brick and mortar shop, financing wasn’t an easy task. Try going to a bank or a venture capitalist to ask for a loan to open a surf shop in downtown Toronto to see what happens. Luckily, we could find the support we needed from private investors and from companies who believe in what we are doing.

What is your current state of mind? 

Focus and awareness. Despite how crazy life has been for the past while, I’ve managed to stay tuned in with a daily mindfulness meditation and yoga practice.

What is your most treasured memory? 

The day I surfed on the Great Lakes for the first time. It changed my life forever.

Where would you most like to travel? 

I would love to get lost in Indonesia, Java and Sumatra for a year.

What is your motto? 

No bad days.

Who are your heroes? 

Ayrton Senna, Terry Fox, Gerry Lopez and Yvon Chouinard.

Home is: 

Where the waves are.

Want to join Antonio out on the waves?

Photo Credit: Denise Militzer
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