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In many ways, the world of business is a lot like the ocean — a constant in our lives, always there but always changing. Even the most established businesses are not immune to the changing world around them and to survive, they have to adjust to changing trends and influences, both large and small; much like a surfer having to adapt to changing tides and conditions on any given session. This business/surfing comparison might not be evident to non-surfers, but for those who paddle out on a regular basis, the similarities are quite clear.
Kerry Tustin, founder and owner of advertising/marketing firm Hybrid Studios, will tell you that her life-long obsession with the sport has instilled in her a kind of sixth sense about the nature of change in the world of marketing today and how to stay on top of it, and even to get ahead of the “wave.”
“When you’re sitting out there waiting on a wave, you’re assessing everything — how the waves are breaking; where they’re breaking; if it’s better to go left or right; which ones in the set are good; and which ones not to bother with. You’re constantly monitoring conditions to see how to react, and that’s before you even try to catch the wave. Once you make that decision and start to paddle in, timing is everything. It’s a balance of motion and energy and finding that point at the crest of the wave at just the perfect moment. If you don’t hit it, you’re left waiting for the next one.”
When asked if she thinks Hybrid’s success is due to this inherent ability to see what’s coming and quickly adjust to any situation, she answers emphatically, “Absolutely.” Obviously, riding a wave and developing a marketing scheme aren’t the same thing at all, but being able to look at things from, let’s say, a quantum perspective on the water has helped Tustin assess how to best promote a business.
“When I’m surfing, I want to have the best outcome I can from the session, no matter what the weather, the tides, or the ocean have to throw at me. At Hybrid, I’m trying to do the same thing for our clients: look at all the things going on and come up with the solution that will serve them best. The world of advertising and marketing is always changing, on both the global scale and the local scale. Finding that perfect combination is vital to getting a company’s message out, just like finding that perfect moment to catch a wave. It doesn’t seem like there would be a connection, but I can absolutely say that all that time spent in the water for me makes me a better professional at what I do out of the water.”
Tustin first caught the surfing bug as a youngster in New Jersey. She started on a foam board just before third grade and begged her mom and dad for a real board. Finally, they finally struck a deal with her in sixth grade: if Tustin made straight As, they would buy her a real surfboard. The determined middle schooler buckled down, got the grades…and got her board.
“It was my prize possession,” she says. “I took the best care of that board. I kept it in my room and I just remember being so stoked when I looked at it.” The obsession was cemented and Tustin rode as much as she could yet still be a good student.
After graduating Cum Laude from Syracuse University, earning her M.A. in Advertising and Design, Tustin ended up in St. Augustine as creative director and graphic designer for Talented Friends, Inc., then KAT Design. She struck out on her own in 2002 and never looked back. Now one of the most highly-regarded firms in St. Augustine, Hybrid Studios continues its wave of success because of Tustin’s ability to read the world of advertising and marketing as well as she can read the waves on any given session.
Over the years, Tustin added snowboarding to her surfing obsession, but if pressed to choose one or the other, she says, “I’d have to choose surfing. It would be hard, but surfing is my life. When I’m out there on the ocean, I’m in a state of bliss. Really, it’s nirvana.”