On Surfing, Travel, and All Things Outdoors
Photos courtesy of Dylan Efron
Growing up in a small town outside of San Luis Obispo, Dylan Efron had two options: hang out outside of a Walmart on a Friday night or get creative and travel with his friends. As he describes it, they would float down rivers and rock climb without the right gear. But most importantly, they were down for an adventure. When Dylan graduated from college with a background in film production, he got a nine-to-five job and unfortunately, things changed.
“I think being indoors while the sun was out really wore on me,” he says.
To cope, he turned to triathlons and Ironman races to maximize the little bit of sunlight he had left. When he wasn’t on the clock, he was running, biking, and training. He was even on his way to becoming a pro-triathlete. In the process, he was reminded that all of his best memories and most of his happiness tied back to being outdoors.
All the best moments in our life are outside so it’s time to step out and make more of those.
Now, Dylan is determined to share the benefits of the outdoors with the world. He probably spends more time traveling than at home and has been anywhere from Italy to Guyana. He highlines, rock climbs, surfs, and more. In my opinion, there isn’t one outdoor activity that Dylan doesn’t do. And even though he wouldn’t consider himself good at many of those things, I’m convinced we can learn something from him.
Below Dylan shares what he loves about surfing, how the outdoors affects his mental health, and why traveling is really where growth is.
What do you love about surfing that you might not get from other activities that you do?
Tough question! Surfing with friends are some of the happiest days I’ve had in my life. I think the water has a way of making you feel alive as soon as you jump in. The power of the ocean and the cold water wake you up and gives you energy. And surfing itself is challenging and pushes you to be better. So, it’s a mix of being in nature, being with friends, and being fully focused on surfing—no distractions from your obligations, work or cell phone. Life just seems simpler when I’m out on the water.
Favorite thing about living by the ocean?
I was raised near the ocean and love those foggy mornings and coastal breeze. Seeing the ocean just gives me that feeling of home. And the ability to jump in for a cold plunge. If I’m having a slow day or working behind the computer, running down to jump in the ocean for 10 minutes immediately turns my day around and recharges me.
Do you have a favorite place to surf and why?
Costa Rica. The warm water and being able to look at the beautiful trees, birds, and nature on shore. It doesn’t get any better than that.
I’m curious, sunrise or sunset?
100% sunset. I’m not really a morning person. Plus, the first time I truly fell in love with surfing was during a glassy sunset session. After that day, I was hooked and nights like that remind me why I love it.
What do you do mentally to help you stay grounded, whether you’re rock climbing or surfing? What does that internal dialogue sound like?
This is a good one because I don’t think that I’m good at a lot of things. I do a lot of things, but I don’t think I’m good. I always think if I was athletic, I wouldn’t have as many scars as I do. My shins would be clean or I wouldn’t have gotten stitches twice last year. So, I don’t think I’m anything special as an athlete. I think the biggest thing that I’m willing to do and what I want to inspire people to do is to take that risk and go be bad at something. Of course you’re going to suck the first time. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Everybody sucks their first time. There are learning curves along the way, but that’s the point, you learn them and hopefully, you learn them fast. Or some people may never learn them. But getting out there, that’s the first step. You never regret it. I really try to embrace that. I’m not always going to be good at what I do, but I’m going to try and I hope other people do the same.
Taking that risk to be bad at something, to fail at something and learn something new, that’s really important.
What is it about the outdoors that positively affects your mental health?
When I was in Australia quarantining for Down to Earth for 15 days, I was tracking each day, trying to keep a note of how I was doing mentally. And I remember in the beginning I just wanted to get outside. I was looking at the river and I wanted to jump in as soon as I could. I just couldn’t wait to get out there. And then two weeks go by and I remember having this feeling that it was safe in here and it was scary out there. There are cars honking and there are a lot of things that I can’t control. And that was a really scary thought: that I had become used to my small apartment and this was okay with me. I think as a species we love comfort and we’ll take it when we have it. I think that was a big moment for me where I decided I want my normal, my comfort, to be outdoors so that I don’t get used to this, life behind a computer screen inside a small house.
Do you have a favorite travel story?
I don’t know if it’s a favorite travel story, but it meant a lot to me. My brother and I went to Nepal and we never really shared a lot about that trip, but it was at a time in our lives that we both really needed it. We were out there for three weeks just trekking through the mountains. It was the most backpacking I’ve ever done and I think that made me fall in love with nature even more. I learned that the mountains I grew up with are called hills over there. I’d see a mountain and I’d say, “oh it’s huge” and they’d say. “no, look, it’s over there.” And I’d look up and be like, “oh my God!” And that kind of broadened my horizons of what was out there in the world.
I think one of the best parts about traveling is being able to learn because every culture is so different. I think that’s where all of our growth is as humans. If you never leave the city that you’re born in, you’re going to have that same gossip of that little town, the same points of view and then you go to a different country and you’ll realize that what they value as important isn’t what your culture does.
Do you have any other advice?
Something I’ve been talking about the last few days is that all the best memories that you have and all the dreams you envision, even if it’s about your dream home in Florida, you’re not thinking about inside your house. You’re thinking about being by the pool with your friends or on the beach. All the best moments in our life are outside so it’s time to step out and make more of those.
Taking that risk to be bad at something, to fail at something and learn something new, that’s really important. We’re never too old to learn something. And the passion for sustainability comes from the fact that when you’re living that way and enjoying nature, you don’t want it to be spoiled. I think it’s hard to separate the two.
What’s next for you?
Probably more travel. My goal is to sell a series for sure. I’ve been producing adventure content on and off with my brother, but my ultimate goal is to sell a show that’s based on adventure, travel, and sustainability. Those are my core and what I want to bring to the world. That’s the goal. To spread that awareness and inspire people to get outdoors.