This Craft Feature is a Special one...it is about a variety of Stoke. A combination of how Risk, Charity, Love, and Change were all Fueled by it. It's not only about Surf craft, it's also about my good friend John, and his journey into owning a business and Crafting Organic Coffee. This cafe is the very place where my wife and I found "The Stoke" a few years ago while on vacation here in San Diego. It was the very catalyst for our move. Surfing, Crafted Coffee, Family, Stoke, and how Lives were changed. The Stoke works in magnificent ways...Enjoy.
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself? Where you are from and what company/organization are you with?
My name is John Vallas. Originally from New Orleans, LA, through Raleigh, NC, and then joined then Navy and ended up in San Diego, CA. I am currently the CEO of The Swell Coffee Roasting Company and Swell Cafe, as well as on the Board of American National Investments and the President of BeautifulMB (a community non-profit).
My passion is coffee, and I am currently focused on finding ways to bring more US dollars to the people who work the hardest in the coffee industry, the farmers and their families. We are doing that by creating direct relationships with them across the world, eliminating some of the extra 'middle-men' in the process of getting the coffee from the tree to the cup.
2. What Surf (Coffee) Craft(s) do you make/offer?
We are currently sourcing and roasting coffee from Mexico, Ethiopia, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Guatemala, and Peru. We roast coffee for our cafe in Mission Beach, and the rest goes to retail and wholesale customers. Our cafe is obviously located right across the street from the beach...so we can get plenty of surf when the waves are good!
3. When and How did you get into Surfing (Coffee)?
I initially fell in love with coffee at a little spot in Raleigh, NC called The Third Place. Then, while in the Navy it became a necessity (12 hour watches, work afterwords, 18 hour days, submarine deployment, etc). After I transitioned fully out of active and reserve duty, I started looking for my next adventure. A little cafe in Mission Beach called out to me, and although the business had previously failed, I couldn't get away from it. I pulled my first espresso shot AFTER I bought the place, and I was HOOKED.
Surfing was a lifestyle I committed to after I left San Diego for a 2-year stint in Tennessee. My wife had been transferred there and I reluctantly followed. Right away I realized how much I missed being in the water, and hadn't gotten wet often enough. I bought a surfboard off craigslist before we even got back to San Diego, and have been gettin' stoked ever since. That was about four years ago.
4. What is your favorite form of Stoke (SurfCraft)? Why?
My little 5'11" quad shaped by Solid surfboards. It's a one-off version of their "Butter Knife" shaped especially for an annual surf fundraiser called the "100 Wave Challenge" which supports at-risk teenagers. The poly-epoxy resin board light and is tough as hell, I basically just throw it in the back of my truck wherever I go, and yet is still as flexible as a regular PU/fiberglass board. The board is good for everything from groveling on mush to getting shacked.
5. Any specials projects or events you'd like to share or start?
I really encourage everyone to check out the 100 Wave Challenge if you are into any form of stoke. It's like a marathon of surfing, and there are 100's of people out in the water having fun and catching waves. Plus it's put on by some great people for a cause that is changing the world. www.100wave.org
Also, please come and check out The Swell Cafe in Mission Beach. Great crew, awesome hangout spot (Mondo and his better half are usually there hanging with us!), and you can hit it right after a sesh. www.theswellcafe.com
6. Where do you see the Culture (Surf or Coffee) heading in the near Future?
I don't know if I'm qualified to answer this question...but what I see in the surf culture is a simplification of branding and getting away from some of the bigger brands that have dominated the surf world for so long. There are tons of small companies out there sourcing sustainable raw materials and not splashing their logo all over everything. Maybe that's just what I'm wishing for!!!
For coffee, we've got some great things in the pipeline, coming out in the near future. Expect 2015 to be the year of the cold brew, it's going to be EVERYWHERE. And, again maybe this is just a wish, but I think people, as they start to explore coffee and deviate away from the fast-food coffee chains, will become very interested in what specialty coffee roasters are doing with sourcing and creating direct relationships with farmers. It's a win-win for everyone: the farmer is able to make more for their hard work (it takes 5 years of cultivation before a coffee tree even begins producing coffee!), specialty coffee companies are able to share the farmers' stories, and charge a price closer to the true value of the product. And the consumer gets to feel good about it...supporting the farmer in Mexico or Guatemala or Ethiopia.
Any shout outs, Thank you's, or comments?
Big shout to Solid Surfboards, Windansea Surf Shop in Mission Beach, Mondo for sharing the love, and of course the crews at The Patio Restaurant Group and The Swell Cafe!!
Thank You John for sharing your story, and seriously...Thank You for The Swell Cafe! There you have it Folk! Truly Different Stoke for Different Folk! We all have a different form of Stoke, but in the end we are all in pursuit of Good Vibes and Happiness. Every now and then we cross paths, the Vibes align and we interact and create Lives based off of it. Please check out The 100 Wave Challenge! Join my wife and I at The Swell Cafe damn near every weekend after Dawn Patrol...a Bitch'n Pannini at Swell by the way, and of course...Find and Stay Stoked!!!
Good Vibes & Lovs Everyone...