Willie Fannon’s Ocean City NJ Surf School Passes Knowledge Along to a New Generation

first_imgWillie Fannon loves teaching. He also loves surfing.  In 2010, Willie combined the two passions to form the Ocean City NJ Surf School.“One of the most rewarding aspects of the business is passing along my knowledge of the sport to someone else. When one of my students stands on his board for the first time and catches that first wave, I know exactly what they are feeling, because I remember my first wave.”His approach is catching on. Last year almost 500 students took advantage of his surf camps, group and individual private lessons.  His roster of employees has swelled from 15 in 2014 to 40 last year.  He also operates Elation Surf Camps in Avalon, in conjunction with the Recreation Department there.Willie’s camps and lessons stress technique, safety and of course, fun. They’re designed for all ages and skill levels.  His expert instructors work equally well with novices to experienced surfers. More information is available by visiting the website www.oceancitynjsurfschool.com or by calling 609-736-0131.The camps take place on the 51st St. Beach, where he learned to surf.  They are also near Surfers Supplies, Ocean City’s original surf shop, where Fannon bought his first board.  The Ocean City NJ Surf School counts Surfers Supplies as one of his first and best marketing partners, and co-owner Greg Beck as one of Fannon’s role models.“Greg is one of the first figures I looked up to,” Willie said. “He is a great guy and a great surfer and I always loved going into that shop.”It’s a mutual admiration society. “I’ve known Willie since he was a little kid,” Beck said in a recent interview with OCNJDaily. “He works hard and puts himself out there for the good of the sport.  He brings a lot of joy to people by opening them up to the world of surfing.”His late mother, Linda, a former art teacher in Baltimore, Md., provided inspiration and a love of teaching. She also passed along the creativity Willie brings to his business.“I am more visually-oriented in my marketing materials than word-oriented,” he said. “I would rather try to wow you with an image than with words. I get that from my Mom.”Although he counts Beck and his Mom as inspirations, Willie says the real secret to Ocean City NJ Surfing School is his group of employees.“I look for a certain type of person, and I always try my best to take care of them. I have worked at places that don’t take care of their employees and I never want mine to feel like they aren’t being taken care of. We would be nothing without the hard work and effort our employees put in.”Fannon, 37, is a lifetime summer resident of Ocean City who was always attracted to surfing and skating because they are sports “that really help you get involved with yourself. You are able to focus on where you need to be and get there. I like the progression aspect. If you put the time and practice in you are going to progress and keep learning and getting better.”Skating ranks up there with surfing for Willie. He is a regular at the Ocean City Skate Park and he attended all the meetings and his voice was heard while the park went through the process of being approved, financed, designed and built.He brings experience to his role in the skating community. He helped run Ocean City’s original skate park near the boardwalk from 2002 to 2005.  Willie also organized skate contests and events.Prior to opening the surf school, Fannon pursued and earned a business degree at Stockton College (now University) and worked in sales and marketing for Anheiser Bush for several years. Both school and business experience served him well, as the Surf School has grown in each year of its existence.Now he is in a position to give back. Willie is active in the Heart of Surfing organization, which introduces the sport to children with disabilities.  He also runs his own charity events, such as the Catch Surf Rodeo, which raised more than $3,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  He was inspired to help by his brother Greg, 28 a cancer survivor stricken with the disease at 16 and who has been in remission for years now.But if you ask Willie to pick one case that touched his heart the most, it was helping to teach a young severely autistic boy how to surf.“His mother came to me in tears and said learning to surf opened up a whole new world of confidence, and helped him with other aspects of his life. That pretty much brought me to tears as well.”last_img

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