Will Tant ModelSurfer, Model, Philanthropist and Ivy League University Student
We travel around the world meeting interesting people, but we didn’t need to go very far to meet Will Tant, a professional surfer living in New York City. Professional surfing took Will to dozens of countries, from England to Indonesia to Australia, and many places in between. So what’s a professional surfer doing in New York? Modeling, running a charity, and studying at Columbia University, of course. We quickly learned there’s much more to Will’s book than his cover.
Three words Will would use to describe himself: Compassionate, dedicated, blessed.
Three words we would use to describe Will: Philosophical, inquisitive, and easy on the eyes. OK, it’s more than three words, but trust us on the last part.
Galavante: You have a really interesting story. How does a professional surfer end up in New York City?
Will: I love New York City – there’s a great energy to the city and the people are so interesting and diverse. The city is where I come to escape from the beach. After 15 years of surfing and traveling, New York is also where I’ve been able to fulfill a promise that I made to my parents before I turned pro out of high school – to attain a college education. They never expected it would be at Columbia University.
Galavante: We imagine there aren’t many professional surfers in class at Columbia. What are you studying?
Will: Right now, I’m taking my general classes. It’s interesting going back to school later in life. I get to connect my experiences of traveling around the world with what I’m learning in class. This semester, I took a class about religion, which reminded me of my time in Sri Lanka. In 2004, I volunteered to rebuild homes after the tsunami. I visited candle-lit Hindu shrines and just soaked in the experience of being there, which I have a new appreciation for after learning about the religion in class. While the surfing wasn’t the best, the people and sunsets were amazing. It left a huge impression on me.
Galavante: That sounds quite spiritual, kind of like surfing. What’s your favorite place to surf?
Will: All the places I’ve been to, for both the actual surfing and the uniqueness of every place. I’ve been all over Central America, South America, Hawaii, Australia, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Indonesia has the perfect waves, and thousands of islands to explore. In Australia, the country is phenomenal and the people are funny. In New Zealand, I rented an RV with two photographers, the surfers and a cinematographer, where we shot footage used in surf videos. And France in the summertime is tough to beat.
Galavante: Agree on France, and the New Zealand trip sounds like it has the makings for a reality show. What’s a good place for beginners?
Will: I would say Costa Rica or Nicaragua. Both countries have good surf camps and are travel-friendly. In Hawaii, the waves are huge and intimidating; you really need to know what you’re doing. Kauai is beautiful also – completely undeveloped.
Galavante: Any tips for surfers?
Will: When I travel, I talk to the locals, who know the best places to surf, for all levels. It’s also important to understand local surf etiquette, and respect the locals’ rules. You don’t want to get in trouble with these guys.
As you’re learning to surf, you may get in trouble in the water. The key is to relax; don’t get scared, as the moment you tense up, you use more oxygen. Take it moment by moment. Use the power of the ocean to help you – never fight the ocean.
For more advanced surfers, surfboards are performance-based, and expect them to break and damage easily. When I’m in Hawaii, I break a lot of boards. Also, if you plan to bring your own boards on the airplane, they charge per board, sometimes up to $150/each.
Galavante: Surfing is clearly a passion in your life. Can you tell us about your surf charity?
Will: I started surfing around the 3rd grade, after my parents moved to Florida. My brother Tommy and I first used my Dad’s surfboard. Eventually, my parents bought us used surfboards, and we taught ourselves the sport. My brother Tommy was a surfer but died suddenly when he was 24 of an aortic aneurysm. Two years ago, we learned that it was a genetic disease, and my mother and I both have the same heart condition. My mother recently went through life-saving heart surgery, and eventually I’ll also have to have surgery. Each year, we celebrate my brother’s life, raise awareness of Marfan syndrome, and give scholarships to local kids.
Galavante: That’s a lot to contend with; you look like the picture of health. When is the event?
Will: The event is November 17–18, and it will be our 13th year. I also model for Nautica, and I am featured in their 2011–2012 international ad campaign. We’ve been fortunate to have them as a sponsor, and as a great supporter of the cause. The president of Nautica, Karen Murray, is a passionate supporter of the Tommy Tant and National Marfan Foundation. Her family is also affected by the disease. The event has grown into a surf competition with over 300 contestants, Red Bull night surfing, and a food and music festival. More details are at www.tommytant.com.
Galavante: We’ll definitely stay in touch with you about the event; it’s a great cause. So what’s next for you this summer?
Will: I’m sticking local in New York, and will be teaching private surf lessons this summer for all levels of surfers – learn more at www.willtant.com.
Galavante: We’re sure you’ll have quite the crowds in the Hamptons once word gets out. See you at the beach!