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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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