Gary Linden, legendary surfer and Firefox fan
On the Internet, you are never alone, and because of that, at Mozilla we know that we cannot work alone to create a better Internet. We believe in and rely on our community – from our volunteers, to our staff, to our users, and even to the parents of our staff (who also happen to be some of our powerful users). For Father’s Day, Natalie Linden of Mozilla sat down with her father, big wave surfing legend and surfboard maker, Gary Tilleul to talk about the ocean, the internet and where humanity is heading from here.
We should probably start by telling people who we are. I’m Natalie Linden, director of the Mozilla Marketing Creative Studio.
And I am Gary Linden. I am your father. This is probably my best achievement.
I make surfboards, organize surf events and surf. I am semi-retired. Kind of.
I think you don’t give yourself enough credit. When I tell people I’m Gary Linden’s daughter, they always say “Gary Linden ?! It’s a legend !
You know, if you’ve been involved in something your whole life and you do a reasonably good job, you will get old and then you will be the oldest. So of course you will be the legend!
One of the things you’re the oldest to do is paddle really, really big waves.
Yes, I am a big wave surfer, it is my passion. I wasn’t afraid of the ocean or big waves, and that set me apart from most other surfers. So I was admitted to a fairly exclusive club. And that was pretty cool. Then I started the Big Wave World Tour so that young surfers could have a career path to become a big wave surfer. Surfing big waves requires more time and resources: you have to have the means to move around, the boards are more expensive. We didn’t see the kids really able to ride the big waves so we didn’t see what could be done during the peak years of athletic performance. I’m quite proud of this tour.
One of the questions I was going to ask you is why you are doing what you are doing, and I think you are starting to answer it. The way you’ve always described it to me is that from the first time you rode a wave on a surfboard, you knew that was what you wanted to do, and you steered your whole life. around to be able to surf as much as possible.
Yes. Before I even surfed my dad took me to the ocean and taught me to play in waves, currents and body surfing. His freedom was unlike anything else. I had asthma and hay fever, and when I was in the ocean, I didn’t feel any of that. Whereas on earth, pollen and drought made life on earth a bit miserable. Like a fish out of water in many ways. It was always rewarding for me to go to the ocean. It goes beyond just feeling good. It is also a state of mind.
So you also started making surfboards.
I started making surfboards because surfing entered a period of transition – we all had longboards and then in the 70s some Australians started experimenting with boards that were one foot shorter. There was no one in San Diego making them, so I took a blank and fashioned a board. And then I started making them for my friends, and it just put me on a path. But I always made surfboards so that I could have the boards I needed to surf. If anyone else wanted one, that was fine, but I wasn’t doing it for them. I was doing it for myself. Because surfing – not making surfboards – was my main focus.
How has the internet changed what you do?
First of all, the internet has made it incredibly easy to find out where the best waves of the day are. There is cameras all more than the world now and you get surf reports. You don’t have to drive to the beach, you can live inland and plan ahead. And this year with the pandemic, the live surfing competition has been all but closed. So a friend and I created a virtual surfing world tour called Surf Web Series, where we could take video clips of surfers who had been out the year before, take a little video of their best waves, and then we would put them up in the sleeves like a regular event and judge them and bring them to a final like a surfing competition. It was great fun because it filled in the gaps of a lot of kids who surf professionally but they couldn’t give anything back to their sponsors during the pandemic because they weren’t competing, they didn’t have the means to to publicize, they had no way to advance their careers. It gave them the opportunity to further their careers and keep the world’s interest in surfing. It opened up another avenue for the sport.
One of the things I really admire about you, Daddy, is that you never stop having ideas. You’ve set that intention to surf for your life, and you keep finding new ways to do it. You are 71 years old and you keep growing, you are always changing, you are always looking to use the latest tools and the latest culture to do what you set out to do. It inspires me every day. It also helps that I see him up close, as we share an office!
Well, you inspire me too, because of your energy and motivation. I don’t think you’re ever gonna stop either, because you’re inspired, you’re motivated. That’s what surfing was for me: it allowed me to concentrate 100%. I love it so much, and it’s so good for me, that I don’t snowboard, skate, play soccer, or ride a bike. I don’t want to hurt myself doing something else. I don’t drink or go out at night. I just focus on being in the best shape possible so I can surf. And I will do it for as long as I can. And when I can no longer stand, I will be on a stomach plank. And when I can’t do that, I’ll jump in the waves. I really don’t care. I just love that quirky feeling of going out into the ocean with my dad and feeling clean and involved with the land. My connection with the land is the ocean.
Speaking of staying in shape, how has your relationship with the internet changed since the pandemic?
You know the answer to this, since we share a yoga room in our office. I started yoga about three years ago now because I wanted to be in better shape for surfing. I didn’t want to go at first because everyone was so young and as a beginner it was intimidating. I couldn’t really keep up and felt uncomfortable. But I found a geriatric yoga class, and it was really fun. I was doing better. Then with the pandemic, they started a zoom course. And now it’s even better. Because for the elderly, it is still very intimidating. Now we can focus on the teacher and not feel embarrassed. It’s pretty awesome. Now you can also do your work on the Internet – all meetings and the like. I mean, sometimes I wish the internet wasn’t around because you have to focus a lot more to stay grounded in the earth. Otherwise, you are just in this cloud. And it’s a really all-consuming place. I don’t think we’re really made for this. So this is another area where you need to find your balance. But you have to find your balance in everything anyway. Even the pigeon poses!
Is there something about technology that blows your mind?
Yes, it never stops. It’s like watching science fiction happen in real life. It goes so fast. I am fortunate to be born before television, so I have seen a lot of things change. It’s so fast. If you go back in history and think about evolution, it’s taken us so long not to be covered in hair and to be able to speak, and now we’re talking about having fleas in our bodies to help us heal. , and intelligence. If you dwell on it, it’s really overwhelming for someone my age. It can be scary. But there is a lot of positive in there, so you have to stay on that side.
Speaking of positivity, what are your favorite fun things to do online?
I like Facebook and Instagram because i can have some kind of contact with people all over the world. I have friends all over my traveling life, and when I post something, the commenter might be someone I haven’t spoken to in 50 years! I like to continue Surf line to see the surf report. And I love to write and receive emails. Because before it was such a lag! I used to write letters to my friends, and it took a month between receptions. And you would change that month. But with email, you can keep the conversation going without interruption.
What do you hope for in the way that technology can change or improve the future? What do you want [your grandson] Nimo to be able to do?
I wish my grandson could use the internet to feed and shelter the world. I don’t know how it will work, but you can already see… GoFundMe has helped the lives of many of my friends who are my age or older, and just haven’t tidied anything up. Everyone’s putting a hundred bucks into it, and all of a sudden the guy has at least a chance to go to the hospice. This is the kind of thing that I hope we can do, that communication will help us realize that it is not just one person or one country against another. This is our world, and we must all live together. Hopefully we’ll get to the point where we see it’s a global economy, a global outcome. That we should live like humans and not like Americans, Chinese or Russians. I just think I can communicate and see that we are all the same, we all have the same needs. Food, shelter, company. If you get it all, you really don’t need anything else.
This is exactly why I work at Mozilla: I believe that our collective future will be decided on the Internet. So we have to make sure that it is a place that can generate a positive outcome.
That’s right. And that’s the scary part we saw in the last election. All the garbage that was online! So many lies! We didn’t know what was true and what wasn’t, and we had to decide for ourselves. We had to create our own filters. We had to choose the truth we wanted, the one that reflects the future of the world we want.
You are my hero, dad. Happy Father’s Day.
Natalie Linden and her father,