CSR Alumni – Chris O’Connor

Seeing the world is a dream that many people strive for throughout their life. I have already been to more countries then most people my age because of my passion for surfing and adventure. I graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in Sustainable Tourism Management in December of 2010. Since my graduation, I moved to Mexico where I lived for almost a year opening up a boutique resort destination then moved to Western Samoa. I was recruited to Western Samoa to act as their assistant manager to the two owners/GM’s. In the past two years I have seen the highs and lows in the world of tourism and in myself.


The road that led me to these opportunities originated in my passion for the ocean and meeting Jess Ponting one day. I was recently talking about Dr. Ponting in a lot of my interviews to pursue my new career as a Commercial Real Estate Broker in Orange County. I was studying real estate for the first two years at SDSU, then I met Dr. Ponting who told me he received a PhD in Surf Tourism. I was taken off guard hearing something like this was possible so I decided to educate myself on the program. Once I saw the opportunity of moving around the world and being my own boss I signed up the next day, then worked hard at pursuing a dream.


I moved to Mexico December 17th, 2010 and the only reason I can remember this is because the last final I took in college was Pols 101 on December 16th. I packed my life into boxes and left the day after my last final with my dog Monster. I opened Playa Loma Bonita, a boutique resort property about an hour south of Zihuatanejo that weekend with three straight weeks of bookings. I learned living down there that you need to think five steps ahead and ‘what can go wrong, will go wrong’. I was given the opportunity to use my own knowledge of tourism and assist the owners in building this destination to it’s full potential. I lived there until July, when I moved home because the resort closed due to severe seasonal storms that would flood the property. After that stint, I went to Indonesia where I spent two months on a motorbike with a best friend, a couple boardshorts, books, surfboards, journal, and a camera. We moved around searching for the unknown, usually after overhearing people in the surf talk of big swells hitting other island with no crowds. The journey ended and I moved back to Orange County where I was recruited to Western Samoa to help manage Salani Surf Resort.


I had always seen photographs of Samoa as a kid – the big blue barrels and lush jungle – I never thought I would reach this distant island. I found myself boarding an airplane in November 2011, after a couple Skype interviews and strong references, I was moving there for a year-long contract. Samoa, as many people know, is known for its very large people so it was quite intimidating for a polongi (white person) living there. Respect and humbleness will get you far in foreign countries because I never had a serious issue. I learned what long hours of work meant in this country because I worked three days a week from 6am-9pm, and three days for eight hour shifts. Hardest thing for a surfer is to watch people get continuous double overhead barrels while you having to work… torture. After a month of living there, the owners left on holiday and I was given the opportunity to run the resort for three weeks all on my own during Christmas time. I organized a magazine shoot there with Volcom and Surfing Magazine, which was a great way to expose our property to the public. I unfortunately had to return in March of 2012 because the resort could no longer afford my services.


I came back to USA and for the first couple months I was lost in what I should do for work. I decided to stay here in Southern California and pursue a career that I had put on hold while accomplishing my dreams in surf tourism. I had a beautiful girlfriend at the time who might have been a slight influence on me to stay in America. I recently was hired as a Runner for a Commercial Real Estate Broker firm in Newport Beach. I chose this career change because I have always had a deep interest in Real Estate and I want to raise a family in Southern California. I have scoped out many countries through travel and work and the draw of our local area has always brought me home.