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 training, journey and way of life on the Nice Lakes and past. Marina Byezhanova interviewed Antonio about his entrepreneurial journey and contribute this publish.
When Antonio Lennert left Brazil at 20 years previous, he was in the hunt for a neighborhood. Upon arrival in California, he met his associate in each enterprise and in life, Lucas Murnaghan, and the 2 constructed a brand new house in Canada.
The transfer to Toronto meant that alternatives for browsing, his favorite pastime, appeared few and much between.
“Canada just isn’t recognized to be a browsing hotspot,” stated Lennert. “In my thoughts, I had principally stated goodbye to browsing solely.”
After pursuing a level in graphic design from Ontario Faculty of Artwork & Design, Lennert launched and scaled a profitable artistic 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 like the design world,” stated Lennert. “However constructing an company was a posh, always-on sort of enterprise. Earlier than I knew it, I used to be utterly 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,” stated Lennert. “Browsing not solely helped to heal me, however it 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 associate, 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 may be superb browsing available within the Nice Lakes in Ontario!
He noticed the beginnings of how their ardour may very well be utilized for a higher goal.
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 using these waves for many years; they’d little curiosity in catering to newcomers.
“My model of the Canadian dream concerned capitalizing on the inclusivity of Canadian life,” stated 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 chance to increase and form this neighborhood into one pushed by inclusivity, training, 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 convey 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 in search of journey on the Nice Lakes and past.
Whereas Lennert’s life associate, Lucas Murnaghan, remained a silent associate for the primary few years, Murnaghan grew to become significantly invested in day-to-day actions in 2019 after falling in poor health, forcing him to take go away from his place as an orthopedic surgeon at Toronto’s SickKids Hospital. Lennert continued to develop the enterprise with Murnaghan’s assist.
In the present day, the group is making main waves in recent water. Surf the Greats has collaborated with a veritable tsunami of leaders within the sports activities trade: Patagonia, Rip Curl and Crimson Bull, in addition to artists of all identities and backgrounds.
“The entire goal of this firm has been to teach and create areas for the neighborhood to return collectively and stay this way of life,” 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 grow to be the Nice Lakes’ premier surf authority has since advanced into Canada’s surf model.
“By way of quite a lot of work constructing this neighborhood and showcasing our waves, we gained worldwide respect within the browsing world,” Lennert stated.
The success, very like the rolling waves, continued for Lennert and firm. A documentary, Fresh Water, chronicled his journey.
Lennert’s outstanding story of overcoming prejudice, discrimination and limitations was the showstopper. Whereas the movie’s authentic 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 retailers and platforms throughout the globe.
To at the present time, on occasion, Lennert wakes as much as a random message in his inbox from strangers thanking him for each his work and his voice for inclusivity. Other than amassing a cascade of collective curiosity within the sport, Lennert’s journey pulled on the heartstrings of athletes, entrepreneurs, mother and father, kids, and anybody who discovered themselves in the hunt for 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 associate documented eternally that method. It’s so particular.”
Sadly, Lennert misplaced Lucas Murnaghan to most cancers in 2021. It was a tragic occasion that continues to ripple by means of 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 house who knew Lennert from their neighborhood. With out understanding what to anticipate, he was thrust into the EO world—and it helped encourage him to remain heading in the right direction along with his enterprise objectives, his goals, and his goal. “I want I had recognized about EO years earlier than,” stated Lennert. “It’s been instrumental for me in such a short while.”
He’s seen some challenges, to make certain—however there may be loads to stay up for 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 powerful assist neighborhood,” Lennert stated. “Not solely in my chapter, however anyplace I’m going. It’s the perfect factor that’s occurred to me in the previous couple of years.”
Marina Byezhanova, is an energetic member-leader inside EO and a member of EO Canada Bridge chapter, is an entrepreneur, global 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 non-public branding company for entrepreneurs. Photograph of Antonio Lennert browsing the Greats by Sam Moffatt.
For extra insights and inspiration from at the moment’s main entrepreneurs, take a look at EO on Inc. and extra articles from the EO blog.