Earth Missions Founder Tom Werney Surfing
The untamed corners of the globe meet man with infinite challenge and abundant inspiration. Tom Werney, founder of Earth Missions, is no stranger to this. From the whipping winds of a freshly powdered mountaintop to surf conducive swells, Werney utilizes weather information to organize strategically timed extreme sports trips spanning the world over. In anticipation of our joint voyage to Tahiti and Vancouver Island, we chatted with Werney about his personal earth mission, journaling, and more.
When did the idea for Earth Missions arise and what inspired it?
Earth Missions started with a group of High School friends. We started taking our annual ski trip based around snow conditions, instead of booking a location and hoping the powder was there in 8 months like we had always done. Once we made the change, we realized real quick that the value of letting mother nature determine your location was exponentially more rewarding! We started scoring and realized what the flaw in the existing adventure travel industry was. The most important element in determining a successful trip should be based on mother nature. If you’re going to fly somewhere, spend thousands of dollars, and take time off off work, you’d better get what you’re looking for when you arrive!
Why are action sports so close to your heart?
Action sports are very important in my life now! I grew up as a team sports athlete, but, unfortunately after 8 knee surgeries (6 ACL and 2 Meniscus) I was forced to hang up my cleats. I had grown up in the ocean and on the mountains, but when I stopped playing Lacrosse, action sports filled a huge void in my life that my old athletic career used to fill. Athletics always helped me disconnect from the everyday grind that can weigh on us all, whether I was sprinting down the field, or sliding down the face of a wave - I am not concerned with anything else in life, I allow myself to be totally absorbed in that moment. I love being trapped in a moment when nothing else matters except what’s directly in front of you.
Your current reality is a far cry from your previous life as a trader. How and why did you make this drastic transition?
My last career as an energy options trader on the floor of the NYMEX Exchange is indeed a far cry from my role in as a founder of Earth Missions hahaha. There are a few similarities, but naturally it’s a different animal. One aspect my old career as an Energy Options Trader afforded me was the ability to travel around conditions.
On the floor I traded for myself, so if I didn’t produce, then I didn’t earn. This model also meant there was no one to tell me I couldn’t fly to Colorado for a long weekend to get a storm that I was tracking. I was my own boss, and this boss allowed travel days based around solid surf and swell.
Can you recall a specific “aha” moment or deal breaker that helped you make the call?
I remember standing in line waiting for the lift line to open at K-22 in Squaw Valley. I had traveled there multiple times to ski, but all those trips were a bust due to lack luster snow conditions. However, this day was EPIC, it had snowed several feet the day and night prior, the storm had passed, the skies had opened up and it was an epic blue bird day in Tahoe.
My friend and I had just arrived less then 36 hours prior to catch the storm and we were two of the first people on the lift line that morning. The ski patrol ropes could barely hold everyone back, the froth level was MAXED out this morning. I remember the energy on the lift line that morning was so powerful, people were hooting and yelling, everyone in line was absolutely stoked to be there. I remember thinking to myself with my heart pounding in excitement, “This is why we do it, this feeling right here.” From there I knew the industry was broken because there was no one that put this “stoke” factor first, making it the foundation of our travel. We went on to have an epic long weekend in great snow conditions. We still identify that lift line as the the moment our ‘Strike Missions’ took a hold of us.
You’ve just announced two globe trotting trips with AllSwell and Tiny Atlas Quarterly. How did the partnership come about and what makes it the perfect fit?
Laura Rubin [founder of AllSwell] is a great friend and colleague of mine. Catching up one day, we were speaking about some of the new campaigns Earth Missions was behind, setting up retreats, workshops and travel for influencers and brands. This must have gotten her creative juices flowing, because she called me back and introduced me to Emily [founder of Tiny Atlas Quarterly]. From there we started tapping into potential ways to collaborate and build these amazing workshops.
This is a great fit for all 3 brands because each brings a specific area of expertise to the table which is making each workshop as a whole an amazing experience. We couldn’t be more stoked to be working with such great people and brands on this campaign, from our contacts at AllSwell and Tiny Atlas Quarterly, to our local fixers and photographers!
AllSwell Founder Laura Rubin, Earth Missions Founder Tom Werney, Tiny Atlas Quarterly Founder Emily Nathan
What do you see as the most fulfilling aspect of these trips? What are you personally looking forward to most?
I love being associated with stoked people! I thrive on positive energy. Putting people in the best trips of their lives and listening to their stories about travel makes me so excited because I can relate. I know why I surf, ski, ride, fish, etc. and at the end of the day, we do it all to get stoked! Whether someone is a professional or a novice, our experiences are all centered around providing pure enjoyment.
As enthusiast travelers we can literally travel for days to experience seconds of joy. That is very powerful when you think about it. I’m willing to spend days of my life traveling through thick and thin on a surf trip, knowing GREAT waves can only last a few seconds. How many other experiences in life can grab people that tight, where they are willing to pay such high dividends for such quick returns?
Tell us about your first major travel experience.
My first major travel experience was based off a volunteer program. I was a farm hand on a grass feed cattle ranch in Queensland, Australia. One of the first questions I was asked during the interview process was, “Are you any good on a horse?” Having never been on a horse before, I lied and said, “Yes.” In my head I was thinking, “How hard can it be?” I was a standout division one Athlete, I’ll be able to pick it up no problem. I was WRONG!
Well, I got accepted to the program, then day one comes and I go to mount my horse, Monsoon, and could barely get on. The owner of the Farm, Robert Curly, a strong minded, hard working, ball busting cowboy trots over to me on his horse, and goes, "Oye mate, thought you could ride? Haha. Oh well, at least you look good up there! But let’s see how you feel in 10 hours,” and rides away. Ten hours later I couldn’t walk.
The next 2 months I was working on a cattle ranch learning things I never thought I would learn or need to learn, making friends I never thought I would meet, participating in something so different I never thought I would experience which ultimately came down to a simple decision, “Should I go or not?” - I’m very glad I went!
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned through travel?
I know it sounds cliché, but traveling has really opened my eyes and mind to different walks of life and how each one is special in its own right. Visiting new places and experiencing new cultures, views on life, cuisine, friendships, all make me realize that there is so much out there in the world and we should all experience as much of this amazing planet as possible.
We’re so connected and overstimulated these days. What are some tips you have for disconnecting from urban life and better connecting with the natural world?
Personally, I find it very helpful to be able to disconnect and have sports in my life that require my full attention. This gives my brain the opportunity to stop overthinking and re-approach with a fresh mindset. I personally use the outdoors now as my playground and mother nature is an amazing architect! When I am faced with a hard situation, a tough project at work, a personal problem, anything throughout the everyday grind that can weigh on me, I like to get out into the wild and participate in something that takes my mind completely off the topic. Being able to disconnect, then re-engage with a fresh set of eyes make all the difference to me.
Putting pen to paper is pivotal to our creative process. How, if at all, has writing/journaling played a role in your life?
I have multiple filled travel journals from years of travel. Some are filled with hilarious stories, some stories are of personal triumph, others are sad stories, and even some that are “too crazy to believe” stories. I started keeping a travel journal because I wanted to be able to remember the little things that made these adventures what they were. So much happens when you travel that I find it impossible to remember all the details years down the road, but taking a few minutes each day to jot down the major points is crucial when reflecting on trips. I tend to travel very sport specifically, so I would take many different notes, from swell direction to the flies we used to catch fish. Things most of us could never remember years down the road, but were crucial to make that experience what it was.
Write and draw your way to clarity. Snag your Notebook No.3 here.