This is a documentarianistic post about Epicurrence No. 2, from October 3rd – 9th, so it is quite lengthy! All photos were taken by me and my FujiFilm X-A2 or iPhone 6+ unless otherwise noted.

What is Epicurrence?

Epicurrence is the brainchild of Dann Petty. He started it less than a year ago with the idea that gatherings should be real and raw and less scripted and structured. It’s a retreat more than it is a conference, and that’s the exact intention. Get people together in common quarters, eliminate the structure and awkwardness of standard conferences, and allow them to make new friendships and get to know each other on a personal level.

Integrating activities that everyone can participate in helps alleviate the nerves and allows people to get uncomfortably comfortable. Epicurrence is unlike any other event. It’s a truly special experience and despite living on Oahu for a year before the event, my eyes were still opened to the beauty that this island has to offer.

“Epicurrence is for the creatives. It’s for the makers. It’s for the ones looking for the biggest inspirational thrill ride. Loaded with 3 full days of surfing, unheard of stories from the all-stars and inspiration everywhere — Epicurrence is the definition of experience.”

How It Started

After seeing the internet blow up with all of the posts, images, and tweets about Epicurrence No. 1 this past March, I was envious. There were so many of my design heroes and amazing people that have inspired me along the way both through their work or their play. I wanted a chance to meet every one of them and get to know them beyond the screen. When I saw that Epicurrence No. 2 was on Oahu where my wife and I had moved just 5 months prior, I knew I had to reach out.

Dann and I connected a few weeks later on the phone and I was eager to help any way I could. After planning single-day events in our first startup 6-7 years ago, I could only imagine the type of planning and chaos that goes into planning a week long event of this magnitude.

Before anything happened, I knew this was going to be a special event.

Saturday

Ben & his wife Mindy, came to Oahu a few days early and were staying in Lanikai, only a couple miles from our place in Kailua. Ben and I connected and we made breakfast plans to meet up on Saturday morning. The crepes were good but the conversation was even better. Shortly into meeting, we found out that they’re Wisconsin/Michigan natives and went to Northern Michigan. What a small world! Definitely not the only people representing the Midwest at Epicurrence.

After breakfast, we made plans for the day ahead. We went bodyboarding at Kalama Beach in the afternoon in some pretty turbulent water. Add that to some poor bodyboarding instruction by me and by the end everyone was tuckered out and ready for some beverages. We synced up later that evening for the Lanikai Pillbox Hike and capped off the day with dinner and drinks at Haleiwa Joes in Kaneohe. We tried to stay up late to build our tolerance for the week (the Clines from the time change and me from my typical 3am wakeup calls), but I think I only made it until 11pm before hitting the hay.

Photo Credits: Mindy Cline.

Sunday

Sunday was more laid back with some more free time. Dann and I ended up picking up the VW Westfalia Bus that Daniel Waldron would end up piloting for the majority of the week.

Sunday Night after we wrapped up a few other conference-related preparations, Lauren and I met a couple groups of people downtown Waikiki at Dukes for some PuPu’s (appetizers) and Drinks. It was great to see some more familiar people and put avatars to faces & names in real life. The crew consisted of Ben & Mindy Cline, Anthony & Caylin Lagoon, Juan Arreguin, Jeremy Graham, Brandon Weiss, Joanna Chao, and Jeremy Goldberg.

Sunday night when we got back home, I finally packed and got ready for the exciting week ahead.

Monday

Monday morning came and I worked an early shift to get some things done for work. Around 11:00am I packed up the VW Bus and headed to HNL to pick up Daniel Waldron and Belinda as their incoming flights were arriving.

Photo Credit: Lauren Verboncouer

It was great meeting and chatting with both of them on the ride, although the loud bus and open windows were challenging to hold a deeper conversation over.

As we arrived at the house early, we were helping final preparations wherever we could. Making sure we had the welcome bags, leis, and badges grouped together, we started placing them at the appropriate houses. My wife Lauren came through big time and drove up some last minute shipments that ended up being delivered that afternoon at our house all the way to North Shore. The sweatshirts arrived and she helped Belinda get them unpacked and organized in the Epic House for everyone to pick up. With a minute or two before 5pm, all of the packs were placed and everything was prepped.

I woke every day to the view of the waves crashing against the shore between the three middle glass panes.

Hooked Up!

Around 5:30pm, I finally opened my welcome bag.

Dann and all of the sponsors really brought it all together. It’s going to be amazingly difficult to top this!

Contents Included:

– Topo Designs Rucksack
– GoPro Hero 4
– Epicurrence Sweatshirt (Aviator Nation)
– Epicurrence Trucker Hat (Aviator Nation)
– Epicurrence Tee (Aviator Nation)
– 2 Pair of Billabong Boardshorts (not pictured)
– Oversized Billabong Towel (not pictured)
– Invision Swell Bottle
– AirBnB Wooden Wax Comb
– 2 Epicurrence Stickers
– 1 Epicurrence Patch
– Tens Classic Sunglasses
– Thomas Campbell – Um Yeah (Book)

Other Gear Accumulated from Sponsors Throughout the Conference:

– Unsplash Tee
– Flux Magazine
– Album Surfboard Stickers
– Album Surfboard Trucker Hat

Around 5:45pm, I headed over to the Epic House, which was at the famous Billabong house next door from where I was staying.

On the short walk over I finally met Mikael Cho and Ben Johnson in person. Mikael was raised in WI and Ben is a few hours from us in Upper Michigan. There’s something about sharing Midwestern roots with other people that’s comforting – even in unfamiliar situations.

When we arrived, there were beverages from Red Bull and some local brews as well. To welcome everyone in aloha fashion, two legendary big wave surfers played ukulele and guitar and sang some soothing island tunes.

We filled up our glasses and started to settle in for the opening talk. The whole event was inspirational but the way Dann shared the people, things, and activities that inspired him personally really brought it to another level for me. It was vulnerable, it was honest, it was real – and it made me pay even more attention to the details.

Thomas Campbell

After opening up and giving an introduction, Dann handed the mic over to Thomas Campbell. He talked about his process, his background, and his deep obsession with gourds of all kinds.

“Gourds are my biggest source of inspiration.”

His body of work was extremely impressive and extensive. It included pieces of art in the form of drawings, paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos, writing, and even musical production. I believe this really allowed me to empathize and understand him even more. He was a creator and when he felt the urge to create something, he just did it. It didn’t matter if it was what he was most talented at, or if he thought people would buy it, or what the result of him creating it might be. He’s motivated about the act of creation.

There’s a lot to learn from his approach, and something that we’ve seen in impactful inventors and innovators over time. When we are able to roll up our sleeves and just get to work, we learn, we grow, and we become something more than we were before. Doing what we love changes us, so we should seek to do it daily. We might start off failing miserably, but if we truly love and enjoy something, our love and zest for it makes us strive to improve.

“We work to become, not to acquire.” – Elbert Hubbard

We were given a pre-release show of his new surf film accompanied by the Mattson 2 (twins) who played over the film with their mixed jazz / folk tracks. With one on jazz drums, the other on guitar / percussion, the sounds were minimal, but complex at the same time. They ended their performance with some synergistic improvisation that was great to watch.

I would definitely recommend taking a listen to their music, it’s instrumental, creative, and blends many different styles. It’s not your typical jazz.

In the after hours, it was time for some more brews and candid conversations with the Epicurrence crew.

From the first day, I could tell that this event was different. The people were different. These were world class designers leading the best startups and companies in the world. Each and every person was unique, but they shared some very common traits and characteristics.

Be Ego Free – Everyone was humble and was genuinely interested in one another.
Share & Contribute – The trust circle around many of the conversations was impressive, everyone was sharing things that they probably had told very few people before. We design for experiences and gathering so many seasoned and genuine people into one place created a catalyst for people to learn from each other’s experiences.
Hustling is Essential – Work hard, put in the time, pay your dues, do what you say.
Be Passionate – Do what you love and do it with passion. Work as Play. Play as Work.

Tuesday

We met at 8:30am every morning at the Epic House for breakfast and the opening talk. Coffee cups by Invision were another amazing reminder of the community and people that we were all surrounded by.

We had Sambazon’s famous acai bowls with the works every morning – this was a great start to the day. I grabbed my acai bowl, Invision coffee and fueled up for the day.

Opening Talk

The open talk today was with Jamie O’Brien and hosted by Marc Hemeon and Dianne from RedBull.

Hemeon has been a huge inspiration to me, his hustle, his experience and things he’s been a part of in the past. More recently, his wave paintings are incredible.

It was great learning more about Jamie O’Brien, how the RedBull HQ team helped get him into peak condition so he could make the biggest drop of his life this past season. Dianne also gave us some great insight into what it’s like being one of the biggest sports lifestyle brands and how they work with their sport sponsored athletes. I believe they work with athletes in 110 different sports. Crazy. Everything from Surfing to Skydiving to Chess.

Monday Night, I somehow missed meeting Anthony & Natalie Armendirez, but I was able to meet and connect with them after Tuesday’s opening session. I’ve been both inspired and motivated by them for a while so it was great to finally meet them. Two really genuine and down to earth people.

Before heading out for the day, I was inspired by the decor in the Epic House and wanted to try and capture the surf atmosphere.

Surfing Lessons

At 11:00, lessons at Punea Point were kicked off. We forgot to pack some essentials so, Daniel Waldron, Anthony and I headed in the VW Bus to the local surf shop to gear up on some rash guards and sunscreen.

We arrived at the surf rendezvouz point around 11:30 and were ready to take on the waves.

Professional big wave surfers Myles Padaca, Pancho Sullivan, and Tawa led the surf instruction and also helped us push into some waves.

We were blessed with some really smooth and patterned sets that helped myself, and everyone that paddled out get up with ease. I stood up on my first attempt and rode in a few hundred feet. What a rush.

After riding for about 3 hours we were tired and ready for some poke bowls and a shower.

Photo Credits: William Edwards

Women’s Panel

To kick off the night’s talks, Joanna Chao, Chloe Park, Jessica Collier, Ara Feducia, Heather Phillips, and Roni Eshel led a woman’s panel that aimed to talk about the opportunities and diversity in our industry. Represented at the event there were about 50 men and only 13 women, which was coincidental, but noticeable. I unfortunately missed a large portion of this talk because we were all trying to cram into the Epic House kitchen / living room area and some of us were left just outside the sliding doors.

Daniel Burka & Katie Dill

The second talk of the night was conversation format led by Daniel Burka and Katie Dill.

It was one of my favorite talks of the event and was great to hear about the design team, challenges, and values that Katie’s team at AirBnb experiences.

It was also interesting to hear about the different backgrounds that people in our industry come from. Katie went to school for history but is now leading one of the hottest startup design teams.

There are three things that she and the team value that really stuck out to me.

1. Craft
2. Hustle
3. Humility

These three traits are important at any level but it was apparent that everyone in the the room subscribed to those as well.

Wednesday

Do it LIVE!

We all gathered in the kitchen / living room area of the Epic House as Brian Lovin & Bryn Jackson set up for the live recording of the Design Details Podcast. This session was with Dustin Senos and Hali. It was a great balance between two leading designers, one operating within a product team, and the other operating within an agency team.

Lots of knowledge was spread throughout the show and was mostly focused around inspiration, mentorship, and being a T-shaped creative. The episode we recorded is out now so make sure you take a listen!

Helicopter Tour!

After recording, we laid low for a while around the house. Around 12:30, Ian, Juan and I left from the Epic house in one of the Jeep Wranglers and headed to Paradise Helicopters.

This was absolutely epic. Huge shoutout to Ueno and GO Solar for sponsoring these tours. It was 30 minutes of rush.

Spending the past year on the island I was growing familiar with the land we toured but I’ve never seen it from above before. Lots of interesting facts and filming locations that were close to my house that I had no idea were filmed in those areas; like Gilligan’s Island & LOST’s beach.

We circled twice in a specific spot and had a great bird’s eye view of the waterfalls nestled within the mountains ridge.

After the tour, we stopped for some poke bowls at a local mart, which was a little sketchy even for me being around the island for a while – but it turned out pretty good!

Evening Sessions

For our first session, we had a surprise visitor and changed up the plan. Mark Healey dropped by and was accompanied by Surf photographer Jason Murray. Mark is one of the best, if not the best watermen in the world. He grew up on North Shore Oahu and shared his experiences and how attacking a 40+ foot wave in Waimea Bay at 14 years old kicked off his career.

“Everyone is equal when they’re in the ocean.”

The second talk was Late Night w/ Hemeon + Geoff Teehan. This was another one of my favorite talks. It was great to have the veil lifted and get to know Geoff on a more personal level. The entire week was special and things were shared that I’m sure people haven’t shared before. Everyone became comfortable with each other and then shared their discomforts. It really humanized a lot of people that I had looked up to and proved how important humility is.

It was insightful getting behind the scenes intel about Teehan + Lax, their sale to Facebook, and really shatter one of the bad rumors that was being spread about the acqui-hire situation. I was able to connect with Geoff a bit later that night and he definitely had an impact on me. He was leading his life with full intention and lead a group of attendees in Bikram Yoga every morning. A week after the conference, he hit 100 days straight!

He kept driving the excuses people use to not make progress on their goals, their dreams, their apps, and their life. I can’t emphasize this enough, just do it.

After the session, conversations continued.

Throughout the conference we had the Amigo Booth on the Epic deck and had tons of fun taking photos together.

At about 1:30am I started heading back to my place and noticed the stars were out and it was mostly clear so I decided to get my camera out and try to do some star shots. I think they turned out well but despite thinking it was a clear star location, there were still some lighter clouds that moved during the exposure.

Thursday

Dropbox Panel

The first panel of the day was a panel with designers from the Dropbox crew. Unfortunately, I had to miss the beginning of to get to my massage that I had scheduled earlier in the week (bittersweet!). I was able to catch the end of it and Donovan Bass and the rest of the Dropbox team had some really good insights on diversity and how it’s currently being addressed.

LOCALS ONLY, BRO!

After getting loosened up, I was all ready to head out to Punea Point again and catch some waves with everyone. We loaded into the VW bus and made our way to the park where we paddled out from.

It was another great day on the water with the same amazing instructors and people. It was an amazing experience to paddle out and catch waves with so many talented and inspirational people.

After surfing, we grabbed some poke bowls for lunch and I headed back to my room to catch a quick cat-nap before the closing sessions.

Evening Sessions

We kicked off our last session in true aloha fashion with a pig roast and some more local cuisine. The chef’s really did a great job all week, every single meal was delicious.

We were blessed with an epic sunset on our farewell eve. I’ve also added in some other beach shots that I took before dinner.

Before we got into our last panel, Jared Fitch of GO Solar talked about how they value design at GO, what their goals and opportunity is, and how design plays into achieving that. It really opened my eyes to the possibilities of solar power and gain a better understanding of the type of initial costs you have when you want panels installed on your house – none! This was most surprising to me, as I thought you needed to invest $20-30k up front in order to start taking advantage of the Sun’s energy.

Photo Credit: Rico Castillero

After learning more about GO, Jared proceed to announce some awards for the conference:

1. I won the award for “Most Aloha!” & a $1,000 Check
2. Belinda Preno won “Most Stoke!” & a $2,000 Check
3. Anthony Lagoon won Best Instagram Photo & a Onewheel!

Thanks to GO Solar for the $1,000 Check! Photo Credit (right: Rico Castillero)

LATE NIGHT w/ Daniel Burka & Dan Mall

There were so many great talks and this one was a highlight for me as well. It was a pleasure learning more about Dan Mall, his history, mindset, and about creating products and structuring specialized teams.

Toward the end of the talk, the tables were flipped and a lot of attendees were asked questions. This was a welcomed twist and it created more of a dialogue. Stemming from this, Jessica was able to talk more about diversity, which you should absolutely read more about. I really believe this is something that we talk about as an industry but haven’t been able to do well.

One thing that Marc (Hemeon) kept hammering throughout the conference is that we need to put in the work. Many times people want something but they don’t want to do anything for it. There’s a sense of entitlement. I agree with Marc and think that people let themselves off the hook too easily and don’t fully realize their potential because they believe in being rational. In reality, every day is a blessing and life never ceases or gives us a break to do the things we want, so we need to take things into our own hands that are uncommon and irrational. This includes late nights, taking more risks, saying yes when others say no, and being open to the opportunity for success. The other side of this is saying no to the things that aren’t a priority and don’t contribute to your goals. If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.

“Do common things uncommonly.”

After the session was over, I enjoyed talking more with Mike Davidson and found out he was a Seahawks fan (GO PACK GO!). Unfortunately, shortly after the talk ended, I was feeling pretty awful and decided to head to the house early to try and feel better. I think I ate some bad poké the day before or too much poké that week – but either way it wasn’t doing me any favors.

Friday

Checkout was at 8:30am. It was hard to say goodbye to all of the new friends and amazing people we all had the opportunity to share a week with.

People hung around outside & across the street at the acai truck until they absolutely had to go. No one wanted the week to end. When it was time to pack up and leave, Daniel, Belinda, Lisa and I headed to HNL in the VW to get them to their outbound flights.

Mahalo & Stay Epic

It was a week I’ll never forget, with some of the most down to earth and amazing people I’ve ever met.

I can’t thank Dann enough for bringing this epic gathering together. Huge shoutout to the sponsors as well that helped make it all possible (BILLABONG, GO Solar, GoPro, AirBnB, Invision, Dropbox, Adobe, tens, UENO, Grid, Onewheel, Unsplash, Webflow, GoFlow, Aviator Nation, and Spec)!

It was such a blessing to be a part of such an amazing event surrounded by so many amazing people, and to be representing our team at Headway.

There were so many other amazing humans that I met and didn’t get to mention but literally everyone I met left a lasting impression: Gene Ross, Aaron Stump, Stephen Olmstead, Austin Hendrix, Rico Castillero, Bob Galmarini, Jon Ezell, Greg Corby, Chris Bierbower, Mackey Saturday, Christain Billings, Raleigh Felton, and Charlie Waite.

The biggest commonality I noticed with all attendees, was that they weren’t just passionate about design, this industry, or making an impact. They were passionate about life; expanding themselves, getting outside their comfort zones and making the most of everyday. It makes everything more valuable. Life is what you make it and therefore you can define yourself by deciding to live every day with no regrets and full intention.

Put people first, focus on great experiences and always be real.

Forever Inspired.

The EPICURRENCE No. 2 Crew on the beach behind the Epic House (Photo Credit: Rico Castillero).

Read More about Epicurrence:

Make Me Uncomfortable: The Discomfort Zone at Epicurrence, by Jessica Collier
How do you get inspired? Do you attend a conference? Listen to a speech? Go surfing? We say: do it all., by Toby Grubb
Epicurrence, by Daniel Mall
Try Everything and Fear Nothing, by Natalie Armendarez