Fernando Aguerre rides the waves to global success

Fernando Aguerre was born in the coastal city of Mar del Plata, Argentina. He was groomed by his father (an attorney and ranch owner) and his mother (an attorney and psychologist) to become an entrepreneur and ocean-lover. He is proficient in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and has a basic knowledge of Italian and French.

In 1969 at age 12, his brother Santiago introduced him to surfing, a passion that has since encompassed his life. His first business was a surfboard repair shop. But in 1977, the military dictatorship banned surfing in his hometown. Aguerre founded the Argentinean Surfing Association and organized a lobby for lifting the ban. He got the ban canceled a few months later and a surf boom followed. He also founded the first surf and skate magazine in Argentina, and opened Ala Moana, the first beach clothing store in Mar del Plata.

In 1978, Aguerre entered law school while he continued to run the ASA and his surf shop. In 1984, he completed law school. Degree in hand, he turned down offers from his father and friends to join their firms, resigned as president of the ASA, and left for California to join his brother.

By early 1985, the Aguerre brothers were into something new: beach sandals. From its beginning as a two-man/one-desk operation selling 3,000 pairs, the brand “Reef” originated, eventually becoming the No. 1 sandal company, and one of the world’s leading surf labels. In 2005, the brothers sold Reef to VF, the largest apparel company in the world.

In May 1994, Aguerre was elected president of the International Surfing Association. He led the ISA in obtaining recognition by the International Olympic Committee in 1997, and the increase in national federations.

The ISA sanctions three annual events: the Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championships, Billabong ISA World Surfing Games, and ISA World Masters Surfing Championship. The ISA also directs development programs: Adaptive Surfing; Surf Scholarships; Coaching & Judging; and a Surf School Register dedicated to the safety of surfers around the world.

He serves on the senior advisory board of the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA) and is president of the SIMA Humanitarian Fund.

What brought you to La Jolla?

I first visited for two days in 1980. I loved it. My brother moved to La Jolla in 1981. I visited him in 1982. Moved from Argentina in 1984. I wanted to spend time with my best friend and brother Santiago, but I also loved the nice weather, relaxed-yet-sophisticated social/cultural environment, and last but not least, the great waves 365 days a year. It became the perfect place to start our surf business (Reef) and start a family, now 14-year-old triplets.

What makes this area special to you?

The people are great, there’s easy access to international flights, and it’s very close to the heart of the global surfing community. There are very, very few places in the world that offer the diversity of geography, climate and people in one county. As a resident of La Jolla, you can literally have it all. My girlfriend Florencia, also from Argentina, loves La Jolla as well, and has started her own business in town: Greenpacha Hats.

How would you improve La Jolla?

I would add easier parking near the cove. I would bring back to value the two abandoned and very cool wooden houses by the Cove Park. I would make tree plating in the front of every property mandatory, especially in the downtown area. We need more trees on the streets. They are great during the sunny hours.

Who or what inspires you?

People who do the right thing, even when nobody is looking, and people who are willing to listen to the things they disagree the most with because those are probably the things we need to listen the most to ... My grandma gave me two phrases many years ago: “Giving is better than receiving,” and, “Fer, bring me flowers now while I’m alive, I won’t be able to smell them when I’m dead.”

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, who (living or deceased) would you invite?

Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe, Lady Gaga, Martin Luther King, Jackie Kennedy and Che. plus me, a perfect round table. It will be Malbec (from Argentina) fruits and good cheeses. By the way, for more than four people, round tables should be mandatory, everywhere.

What are your favorite movies?

“Dersu Uzala” (from Akira Kurosawa), “Gladiator,” “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Casablanca.”

What is your most-prized possession?

Health. It is the only real wealth. All possessions pale when compared with health. Absolutely no doubt about it.

What do you do for fun?

Surf, yoga, and travel. I also continue my education about everything I love, including history and how to make this a better world.

Describe your greatest accomplishment.

Other people can talk about it. That’s what Google is good for. There is no way to hide the good or bad from Google.

What is your philosophy of life?

I try to treat other people like I like to be treated. We all need love. We all need a hug. So I give as much love as I can, and I give as many hugs as I can. The world needs more hugs, more open doors.