He was an elite athlete. Until age 16, Mr.
Garbutt was a competitive gymnast in South Africa, training 17
hours a week. After seeing him do cartwheels on the beach at age
four, his mom sent him off to burn some energy. He traveled around
the country for competitions, but international events were not an
option because apartheid-era South Africa was still isolated from
the rest of the world. Mr. Garbutt was 18 years old when Nelson
Mandela was released from prison.
He played trumpet at Nelson Mandela's presidential
inauguration. Mr. Garbutt has always been musical. "I
wanted to be a rock star," he said. While he may not have had the
chops for rock n' roll, he did end up playing trumpet in South
Africa's navy band during his compulsory year of military training.
Mr. Garbutt may not have ended up in a hair band, he does play
He used to make surfboards. Growing up in Cape
Town, a surf capital, Mr. Garbutt learned to love the sport. At age
16, while still in high school, he designed his own logo and
created a brand called Thunder Bay. He did a lot of silk-screening
at the time and used to make his own decals to shape boards for
himself and his friends.
He'd dive for lobster when money was tight.
When he and his college friends were strapped for cash at the end
of the month, they would put on their snorkeling gear and head for
the beach near Stellenbosch University's Cape Town campus in search
of dinner. "One time, I called my dad and let him know," he
recalled. "I said, 'Dad I need money. I'm hungry. All I'm eating is
lobster.'" Unsurprisingly, his father laughed and hung up.
He was almost eaten by a lion. When he was 24
years old and working at TBWA Hunt Lascaris, the agency had access
to a game reserve. He and his coworkers passed a lion while driving
one day and thought nothing of it when a few of them stopped to
answer nature's call an hour later. When the girls he was with
yelled "lion!" he was already about 50 yards from the car. "I saw
the lion stalking me and then running for me and I did the worst
thing -- I turned and ran." Though that launched a chase, his
companions' screaming seemed to scare the lioness off.
He found a bit of South Africa in France. Mr.
Garbutt spent 13 years working and living in France. There was
admittedly an initial culture shock. "I moved there not speaking a
word of French," he said. "I bought cassettes beforehand, because
that's what you used to do, then I got in a cab and no one
understood me." His first meeting took seven hours -- it seemed the
French were a little chattier than he was. Eventually he discovered
Basque Country, exploring Biarritz and Saint Sebastien and reveling
in their great surf culture, much like the one he grew up in.