MEET: SHELBY STANGER
Age / Location / Passion
Age 37 – but I keep saying 32, is that weird? / Solana Beach, CA / Surfing, Yoga, Running, Moving.
Also stoked about?
Cooking plants. I am a newly converted plant-eater but try not to be preachy. Hanging with Johnny and spending one-on-one time with good friends.
Favorite place to get outside?
Right in front of my house in Solana Beach, on the sand and in the water.
Go to Gear?
What’s your story?
I grew up in Cardiff, and we moved to La Jolla when I was 13. La Jolla and Cardiff were very different in the 80s and 90s, but I was a lucky kid. I started writing young, and published my first story in a magazine when I was 15. I wrote about a family member’s battle with alcoholism and interviewed my mom’s student (she taught at SDSU) who was date raped. Both stories received a ton of feedback, and I learned how far words could travel. I went to school for journalism, played soccer and ran track for at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a good place to focus and not surf, and I had the privilege of interning at CNN, for a newspaper in South Africa. I had my own paid surfing and adventure column in four local San Diego newspapers during my summers home.
Vans hired me fresh out of college at age 21 to be their journalist for the Vans Warped Tour. This was 2002, pre-Wi-Fi days, so in addition to coming up with two stories a day and taking a hundred or so photos of everything that goes on during a travelling 60-day punk rock concert music tour every day, I had to find a dial-up phone to send the photos and stories through every night. This often meant I hitchhiked with the most non-ax murdering-looking person I could find to take me to Kinko’s and have me back before the tour bus left for the next stop. This also set the stage for the rest of my career. After the tour, I got to lead the girls marketing and PR at Vans then worked in International Marketing at Vans before I left in 2009 to become a full-time writer and consultant again. I wrote about business, travel, surfing, the environment, adventure and more. Last year, I decided I wanted the stories I was covering to live as full conversations, longer than 500 or so word essays. I love positive stories of people going after their adventures or overcoming adversity – it’s a topic I have covered since I first started writing and will never tire of. The podcast, Wild Ideas Worth Living, is that result.
What’s something coming up this year that you’re stoked about?
I am headed to Nicaragua next week so I may have some stories when I get back. Starting the podcast was the biggest thing I did this past year. Getting to have my heroes share their personal stories with me is an experience I really cherish. Having listeners who listen to the show and respond is also amazing. One young woman just wrote to me saying she quit her job to pursue her dream of moving to Alaska. That kind of feedback feels really good and keeps me going.
Who inspires you?
My mom. At 70, she wrote a book, Falling Up. She’s not only been through a lot herself – including the loss of a son, her dad, and my dad – but she lives to lift up others when they are having a hard time. She’s also super cute and rocks out as the oldest lady in Soul Cycle classes in West Hollywood with all the celebs know her by name. And she has epic style. Most of all, she’s kind to so many people – regardless of their background, race or socioeconomic status, and she gives a lot to others.
I am also inspired by my fiancé Johnny, because he’s always mellow, never lets things ruffle his feathers, and he is incredibly healthy, fit, active and a great listener. Izzy Tihanyi, who started Surf Diva, the first all-women’s surf school, has been a mentor and friend since I was 13. She lives by the motto to do one inappropriate thing a day, and to always find the fun. My older sisters are also entrepreneurs, and my middle sister just opened up a beautiful boxing studio called Box Union in L.A. that’s been inspiring to watch grow.
What’s Wild Ideas Worth Living? What inspired you to start this and where do you see it going?
Wild Ideas Worth Living is a weekly podcast show that interviews people who have taken a wild idea, and made it come to life. I have always been fascinated by positive people who broke convention and did something wild, but for the positive. I wanted to know how they did what they did, and how I could apply what they learned to my life. I also wanted to create a positive show so others could benefit. After 20 years as a journalist and writing for national magazines in addition to working in outdoor and action sports, I knew a lot of people with amazing stories and thought I had the skillset to make it happen. I also love podcasts and used to host a radio show.
You’ve mastered getting to know some really rad people doing really amazing things. Do you ever feel intimidated by this or like there’s someone who’s unreachable to you? What’s your secret to getting past this?
Thank you. As a kid, my mom talked to everyone – the guys at the grocery store, in line, at the gym, at the post office, you name it. She’d also invite everyone over for Thanksgiving dinner or to my little kid birthday parties. There’s a lot of other things I am scared of, but the ability to talk to anyone has always been in my blood.
Why is what you’re doing important?
There are many things more important, like just being kind to your neighbor and curing cancer, but I am just trying to put out more positivity into the world, and share the tips and tricks of those doing what they want with their lives.
Who’s someone you’ve interviewed or met recently that has been a personal game changer for you? What did they share and how has this impacted you?
Steph Jagger was my first guest and a really popular one. She said that starting lines are often more important than finish lines. I’ve been afraid of failure many times, but that line changed things for me. You can only spend so much time writing a business plan or planning a wild idea, but eventually, you just have to open the doors and go for it.
When you’re not working on the podcast and meeting rad people with wild ideas, what are you up to?
I love cooking healthy food with Johnny, surfing, watching and creating comedy, telling immature jokes that belong in junior high school, and spending time with good friends. I also love spending time my family. I am lucky.
What’s a bit of advice you’d share with someone wanting to break into the podcast/freelance game that you’ve found to be invaluable to helping you get to where you are right now?
For podcasting, just know it will be a ton of work and most people quit after show seven. I took a business accelerator class through Hera Hub that was incredibly helpful for me to start the podcast. I also hired an editor because I knew I needed help with that part and didn’t love staring at a screen. One thing I’d recommend for podcasting is you have to have a plan to grow it, and to finance it, or just be cool with it being a hobby. I am lucky that I have long relationships with outdoor companies who knew my work and were willing to take a chance on me, but it’s a hustle. Freelancing as a writer is the same thing. You have to be willing to work for free at first, then write really well, be easy to work with and learn how to pitch. You are going to spend almost as much time pitching your stories as you are writing them. The great thing about all of this is technology today makes it easier to be a freelancer than ever, and there’s a ton of resources online to get started. Most people (including myself) are happy to offer advice. If you are nice to people, they will give you a lot of information and help you on your journey.
What’s one adventure you’ve had that has molded the way you view the world today?
I once paddled down a portion of the Amazon River in Peru because I got invited to do an assignment, but I realized part of the reason I did it was just because I just thought it sounded cool, not because I really wanted to. At the time, I was becoming this Amazon version of myself attempting to be some grand adventure journalist, but that’s not really who I am. Before the trip and during, I was so scared of getting eaten by a crocodile, I ate a jar of peanut butter pretzels, trained by standup paddling every day all around La Jolla Cove, and weighed about 20 pounds heavier than I do now and would ever like to. It was a lesson that I could stop taking these assignments to become the Amazon version of myself. Instead, I could just be me.
The other adventure that comes to mind is one I took in 2009. I was invited to Indonesia to surf in the Mentawais in waves bigger than anything I’d ever seen. I had no choice but to drop in – on the waves and then on my dreams. I learned that like surfing, when you look over the ledge of a steep wave, it’s super scary and it looks like you could fall, or get worked, or get eaten up by the reef, but going and then falling is always better than staying on the boat and getting sea sick. Just drop in! That’s a lesson I know works, most of the time.
One Instagram account that you’re crazy about?
@BaddieWinkle. She reminds me of my late granny who lived in Waikiki and laid out in a bikini almost until she died. My Grandma always dated younger men, wore crazy outfits, told dirty jokes and probably drank too many Mai Tais but she just makes me laugh and so does Baddie Winkle. I love women who are so honestly comfortable in their own skin, they don’t give a f*’ about just being themselves. I also love @She_Explores, my favorite female podcaster. I love her voice, production, and the fact she interviews ordinary women, on the road and beyond.
If you could eat one thing for the rest of time?
Guacamole, chips + salsa… is that a food group?
Thanks for sharing your story with us. Keep exploring + inspiring.
Stranded on Land