Antonio Lennert, a member of EO Canada Bridge, is an entrepreneur, designer and neighborhood builder. He’s the co-founder and CEO of Surf the Greats, Canada’s largest model and neighborhood for surf schooling, journey and life-style on the Nice Lakes and past. Marina Byezhanova interviewed Antonio about his entrepreneurial journey and contribute this submit.
When Antonio Lennert left Brazil at 20 years previous, he was in quest of a neighborhood. Upon arrival in California, he met his accomplice in each enterprise and in life, Lucas Murnaghan, and the 2 constructed a brand new dwelling in Canada.
The transfer to Toronto meant that alternatives for browsing, his favorite pastime, appeared few and much between.
“Canada is just not identified to be a browsing hotspot,” mentioned Lennert. “In my thoughts, I had principally mentioned goodbye to browsing solely.”
After pursuing a level in graphic design from Ontario School of Artwork & Design, Lennert launched and scaled a profitable inventive design company, which he ran for over three years. The company was an early foray into the entrepreneurial world—however one which took its toll.
“I really like the design world,” mentioned Lennert. “However constructing an company was a posh, always-on sort of enterprise. Earlier than I knew it, I used to be fully burnt out.”
Lennert exited the design enterprise. Whereas on a sabbatical in Costa Rica devoted to recharging his psychological and bodily well being, which included a 10-day silent meditation retreat, one thing started to shift for him.
“I began browsing once more throughout that sabbatical,” mentioned Lennert. “Browsing not solely helped to heal me, but it surely jogged my memory of one thing I had forgotten: Time spent browsing on the water was the place I felt at my happiest.”
Lennert and his cofounding enterprise accomplice, Marcello Gortana, earned their instructing certificates with the Worldwide Browsing Affiliation. A brand new imaginative and prescient for Lennert’s life started to type—and he introduced that imaginative and prescient again to Toronto.
As he started to discover Canadian browsing, he realized what felt like a “secret” each to surfers throughout the globe and to Canadians themselves: There’s wonderful browsing available within the Nice Lakes in Ontario!
He noticed the beginnings of how their ardour could possibly be utilized for a better objective.
A Ardour, a Trigger, and an Alternative
Though a pre-existing browsing neighborhood existed within the Nice Lakes area, Lennert rapidly discovered that it contained veterans who had been driving these waves for many years; that they had little curiosity in catering to newcomers.
“My model of the Canadian dream concerned capitalizing on the inclusivity of Canadian life,” mentioned Lennert.
He contemplated hanging up his wetsuit as soon as once more. But, after rescuing individuals who have been unfamiliar with the Nice Lakes’ waters, he noticed a possibility to develop and form this neighborhood into one pushed by inclusivity, schooling, and journey.
Lennert’s trigger initially targeted on making browsing safer within the north. Launching a web based retailer with Marcello, the 2 often opened pop-ups to deliver the neighborhood collectively. Ever the adventurer, Lennert quickly left Toronto’s promoting scene, at which level his new enterprise actually took off.
Lennert and Murnaghan opened a newcomer-friendly, Toronto-based surf and occasional store in 2017, Surf the Greats. The enterprise rapidly scaled past its preliminary imaginative and prescient. What started as a go-to supply for surfboards, wetsuits, swimwear, and different browsing gear rapidly remodeled into a sturdy neighborhood for everybody searching for journey on the Nice Lakes and past.
Whereas Lennert’s life accomplice, Lucas Murnaghan, remained a silent accomplice for the primary few years, Murnaghan turned significantly invested in day-to-day actions in 2019 after falling ailing, forcing him to take depart from his place as an orthopedic surgeon at Toronto’s SickKids Hospital. Lennert continued to develop the enterprise with Murnaghan’s assist.
Right this moment, the group is making main waves in recent water. Surf the Greats has collaborated with a veritable tsunami of leaders within the sports activities business: Patagonia, Rip Curl and Pink Bull, in addition to artists of all identities and backgrounds.
“The entire objective of this firm has been to coach and create areas for the neighborhood to return collectively and stay this life-style,” Lennert famous.
With an ever-growing social media following counting 25,000+ and collaborations which have despatched Canadian surfers to world surf competitions, Surf the Greats has helped elevate Canadian browsing to the worldwide stage. What grew to change into the Nice Lakes’ premier surf authority has since advanced into Canada’s surf model.
“Via numerous work constructing this neighborhood and showcasing our waves, we gained worldwide respect within the browsing world,” Lennert mentioned.
The success, very similar to the rolling waves, continued for Lennert and firm. A documentary, Fresh Water, chronicled his journey.
Lennert’s exceptional story of overcoming prejudice, discrimination and limitations was the showstopper. Whereas the movie’s unique idea was to showcase Canada’s surf tradition at giant, filmmaker David Kalinauskas uncovered Lennert’s story—and knew it was one which wanted to be instructed. The media world agreed: the documentary is now stay on Crave in Canada, and continues to be featured by media shops and platforms throughout the globe.
To this present day, occasionally, Lennert wakes as much as a random message in his inbox from strangers thanking him for each his work and his voice for inclusivity. Apart from amassing a cascade of collective curiosity within the sport, Lennert’s journey pulled on the heartstrings of athletes, entrepreneurs, dad and mom, youngsters, and anybody who discovered themselves in quest of their very own inclusive neighborhood constructed on ardour. “I simply really feel so honoured and humbled to have my story documented,” Lennert mirrored. “And to have my life with my accomplice documented eternally that manner. It’s so particular.”
Sadly, Lennert misplaced Lucas Murnaghan to most cancers in 2021. It was a tragic occasion that continues to ripple via Lennert’s life. But what started to raise him from the depths to proceed on his personal journey was the very factor that had given Lennert a renewed zest for all times years prior: neighborhood.
He was invited to an EO occasion in Quebec Metropolis by Julie Mitchell, a Toronto-based entrepreneur within the well being and athletics area who knew Lennert from their neighborhood. With out figuring out what to anticipate, he was thrust into the EO world—and it helped encourage him to remain heading in the right direction together with his enterprise targets, his goals, and his objective. “I want I had identified about EO years earlier than,” mentioned Lennert. “It’s been instrumental for me in such a short while.”
He’s seen some challenges, to make sure—however there’s a lot to look ahead to in his story in addition to the tales of the colourful, passionate communities of which he stays a core pillar.
“I really feel like I’ve such a robust assist neighborhood,” Lennert mentioned. “Not solely in my chapter, however wherever I am going. It’s the perfect factor that’s occurred to me in the previous few years.”
Marina Byezhanova, is an energetic member-leader inside EO and a member of EO Canada Bridge chapter, is an entrepreneur, world speaker and college teacher on a mission to encourage entrepreneurs stand out, converse up and be radically genuine. She is the co-founder of Brand of a Leader, the private branding company for entrepreneurs. Picture of Antonio Lennert browsing the Greats by Sam Moffatt.
For extra insights and inspiration from right this moment’s main entrepreneurs, take a look at EO on Inc. and extra articles from the EO weblog.