In 1978, at 15 years old, I left home in the Ohio rustbelt and flew to Hawaii where I planned to live in a treehouse. I found work as a dishwasher, then learned to cook and trained to become a chef. At the same time, I discovered Hawaii's big waves and surfing.
Over the following few years, I learned American Red Cross lifesaving skills, became a County of Hawaii beach lifeguard, and went on to start a surf school. I taught surf skills to hundreds of people including international celebrities, movie stars and astronauts from NASA.
My love for surfing, learning, and meeting new people led me to the University of Hawaii's Chinese philosophy summer program at Peking University. It was a great way to travel and earn a B.A. at the same time. This path led to study abroad in China, Costa Rica, South Africa, and Spain.
After graduating, I was fortunate enough to obtain a prestigious Taiwan Scholarship to study for a Master's degree. My research took me to the mountains of Taiwan to live among the world's last headhunters, the Formosan aborigines, and document their lives in ethnographic films.
But surfing remained my true passion, and after discovering perfect uncrowded waves on the Andaman Coast, I moved to Phuket, Thailand, to join the Faculty of International Studies at Prince of Songkla University.