Top Reads #10 Let My People Go Surfing

22nd Jan 2015

Yvon Chouinard is a legendary figure in the vertical world.  After escaping into climbing during his teenage years he went on to become one of America’s best climbers.  During this period he decided to fund his adventures by making climbing equipment and his business became the highly successful Chouinard Equipment (which later morphed into Black Diamond Equipment Limited).  Initially they made pitons but gradually the business expanded and they were soon making a whole range of top quality equipment.  By 1970 they had become America’s largest supplier of climbing hardware but Chouinard was troubled by the environmental damage the equipment was causing.  In 1970 they switched production to reusable alloy chocks and by 1972 the clean climbing revolution had taken hold.  Chouinard’s environmental commitment was clearly revealed.
During a climbing trip to England Chouninard discovered some hard wearing rugby shirts that he thought would be perfect for the climbers back home.  This began his move into haberdashery and would later become the iconic clothing brand Patagonia.  Chouinard imported the rugby shirts because he felt they would be the ideal garment for climbers needing a hardwearing functional item that offered good value for money and would last well – a philosophy he has maintained and yet developed further over the years.  After over 4 decades Patagonia is still thriving and Chouinard has stayed involved in the business throughout.  
Alongside durability Chouinard has always aimed to use his business as a way to safeguard the natural environment as much as possible and Patagonia is certainly a market leader in environmental initiatives and sustainability.  From their move to all organic cotton use in 1994 to Chouinard’s introduction of a scheme to pay 1% of turnover to environmental causes (the scheme now has many members and is called 1% for the Planet), Chouinard has always believed business should be a force for good.
It’s a fascinating business story and the next obvious step for Chouinard was to share it with others.  His book ‘Let My People Go Surfing’ tells that story.  It is an highly recommended read for anyone in business but it’s also a great read for anyone with a passion for protecting the environment or who simply wants to find out more about what makes Chouinard and Patagonia tick.  Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard becomes Peak Mountaineering’s Top Read #10. 
Posted by Cal