Surfers of UC San Diego: Mark Weber ’94

Man surfs through a wave.
Mark Weber ’94 surfing a wave.

Mark Weber ’94

  • College: Warren
  • Major: Economics  
  • Hometown: Sunset Beach, CA 
  • Currently Lives: Del Mar, CA
  • Career: Global General Manager – Billabong Men’s

When did you learn how to surf?

I grew up in a tiny postage stamp of a town called Sunset Beach. I started surfing casually around age five. I didn’t know anything different than walking out my front door, being in the ocean all day and then going back and painting at night. I went to a high school for the arts, and had planned to go to Art Center for college, but that came off the table quickly because I wasn’t able to afford that. After that, my decision really came down to geography. I’d fallen in love with San Diego the second I came down here to surf as a kid, and I knew UCSD from its academic reputation. I didn’t even investigate whether the art program— I just liked the location. 

Surfing has been the guiding force in life as a kind of passion and reprieve from the world, and also a radical connectivity to it. It’s kind of both. It washes away a lot of the anxieties and complexity as a society, but it also pulls you into a kind of culture and community that is a powerfully shared passion and and that’s pretty darn special, you know?

What inspired you to join the team?

I joined sophomore year, and I was really young and just setting up shop and surfing. I was creating my own little network of friends, and then inevitably I think the team just came about through connections with people that I was already surfing with every day. I made some lifelong buddies on that team, just super talented, brilliant guys and girls. We had a good run, just enjoying the camaraderie, traveling together and spending all that time as a unit.

Do you have a favorite memory?

You could say “every day”, really. Waking up at the crack of dawn with the key, jamming down the hill and being in the water, then trying to get through classes so we could get back down there to surf again at sunset. It’s not so much a moment as much as it is the people. It was a true culture that came together as our own little local surf community.

A woman, man and young girl sit together on a bench.
Mark Weber ’94 and his family.

Can you tie anything about your career journey back to what being on the surf team was like?

The team was composed of these guys who’ve gone on to be doctors, lawyers, scientists and entrepreneurs. I think that crew had a different perspective than your average kind of local surf crew; I don’t say that disparagingly at all, but more inspirationally. They were really good surfers that were super passionate and wide-ranging in their interests. We all connected over this sense that we would all go on to do pretty interesting things, and whether it was the few who had a shot at meaningful professional careers, making covers of surfing magazines, or those who were very intent on making a more profound impact out of the water. I think that that set a tone, and I think that was a great lesson for all of us.

My passion has always been this marriage of art and science. It’s the way my brain kind of stitches things together as an artist. Industrial design always was fascinating for me because it was a marriage of aesthetics and functionality. 

I ended up getting a degree in economics as it was kind of an easier version of a math degree; I figured I can find some practical application of it. By graduation, I was running the Rusty Surf Shop in Del Mar, which was a really grounding, communal thing, as surf shops tend to be. Then I started applying creative skills to all kinds of consumer experience stuff for Rusty, and I went on the road for them as a sales rep.

I found my way into the surf industry while still thinking about what else I might want to do. I was considering grad school, an architecture degree, a few different things. But the surf industry just kept clicking the right way; this culture where you could share these passions with the people you met day to day made work feel a little different.

And in 1998, Bob Hurley, who was the Billabong licensee, was going to launch a new brand on his own. Basically handing over the keys to a huge brand and start from scratch, and he wanted a completely new team to do it with. We came to each other and decided to partner up on that with a good crew of guys. I was there for 15 years, starting off in sales, and then eventually went in-house to employ that marriage of art and science I loved, being the head of product.

I went from head of product to general manager of men’s to eventually being the global general manager for Hurley through those Nike years. And so we had 15 great years together and it was a pretty wild ride. It was a long ride, and it reached it’s course. and I’d started to take some time to kind of reset. I wanted to collect my thoughts and figure out what the next chapter of life was going to be.

I was around 40 and realized my entrepreneurial spirit has been pulling at me. A good friend of mine, Shannon North, who is the president of all of Asia Pacific, called me up and asks if I want to partner up on something with him.

I didn’t think I was going to jump right back into the fire, but he’s an incredibly inspirational dude. I said yes, and now it’s seven years later as the Global General Manager of Men. Anything that touches the brand in the world on the men’s side of the fence is something that my team and I get the purview across. So product and design merchandising, product development, brand marketing, brand creative sales yeah— kind of the whole show.

What would you share with someone thinking about joining the surf team?

Later in life, you realize these kind of connections you make in college are truly many of your lifelong friends. Those years are probably your most formative as a young adult. The team was a great opportunity to put myself in maybe similarly talented and driven entrepreneurial types of people that shared this incredibly powerful passion.

Read more Q&A’s with UC San Diego surfers here.

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And read and submit your surf memories on this group Google Doc!