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An Awesome Australian: Grant Cunningham

As we head in Spring at SBACo, guides will start to journey back to Santa Barbara for the Summer work. During the off season several of them have traveled to Baja, Costa Rica, even Thailand – looking for good surf and adventure. But one guy has stayed behind all Winter to take care of guests, prepare for the season ahead and enjoy Santa Barbara’s slow time – our Australian Grant Cunningham. If you have had the privilege to journey with Grant through Santa Ynez or kayak the Channel Islands guided by his smile, you already know what an incredibly special person he is. Grant has worked trips in New Zealand and Australia; he has kayaked in Ecuador and river-surfed on 4 continents. And if that isn’t enough, he rescued orphaned mountain lions in Bolivia (seriously). We feel pretty lucky that Grant followed his equally amazing wife to Santa Barbara; we sure hope they stay. Here is a little more information about Grant and what he is up to now.

How did you find your way to Santa Barbara and SBACo?

I met my lovely wife, Alisa, who is a native of Santa Barbara. We met in New Zealand, lived there for a few years, traveled a lot together, settled in Australia for a while and eventually made our way to beautiful Santa Barbara. We moved here two years ago and brought our Border Collie with us. I miss our friends and family in Australia but, of all the places in the U.S, I think I am pretty lucky to have ended up In Santa Barbara; this place is pretty special.

Do you remember guiding your first trip with SBACo?

I think so. The legendary Carlos showed me the ropes on a Harbor kayaking trip. I remember thinking that it was funny that a Chilean and an Australian were guiding a group of Americans. It was a lot of fun and Carlos’ taught me a lot. I was impressed with how much knowledge he had of the local area and marine wildlife and it inspired me to start learning as much as I could. I remember my second trip too: a surf lesson with Amy. Besides teaching an awesome surf lesson, Amy also introduced me to chocolate covered pretzels.

Somehow you are always calm under pressure, I have yet to see you crack. Were you just born that way? What’s your secret?

I think I have had some pretty high pressure jobs in the past, so that has probably helped.  I have also been lucky to have had some pretty inspirational coworkers and bosses who have taught me a lot about working with people in difficult or dangerous situations.

I know you like to craft wooden surf boards. How did that hobby come about? Do you sell them?

I have always been interested in environmental issues and alternative materials and just started messing around in my garage. In Australia I had access to a great supply of sustainable, strong and light wood (Paulownia) and made a lot of different boards there. I’ve only made one wooden board since moving here and I still use it a lot. Recently I’ve been making wooden hand planes for body surfing for myself and friends and having a blast with those.

You’re the only member of the crew from abroad and you have traveled extensively. What’s your greatest travel adventure yet?

Lots of great memories. Fostering orphaned pumas in Bolivia, traveling overland into Tibet and swinging in a hammock for a week on a cargo boat through remote parts of the Amazon are some of my favorite adventures.

Any travel plans in the near future?

This year I’m looking forward to exploring more of California and the U.S and hopefully heading back to Australia to visit my family and friends and surf some warm water waves again!

Thanks for sharing Grant. We are glad to have you as part of the team!

Top photo taken by Erin Feinblatt

 

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