The Office of Student Life’s Leadership Development Center hosted a leadership conference in Corwin Pavilion on last night titled “Connect. Create. Change.,” featuring renowned surfing champion Shaun Tomson as the keynote speaker.
The conference was open to both students and community members, and featured various workshops aimed at students of all ages and majors. Tomson, a former world champion surfer, actor, lecturer and environmentalist, delivered a speech on the power of hope and determination in achieving one’s dreams.
Danielle Quinones-Ortega, the student program coordinator for the Office of Student Life, said OSL decided to resuscitate this annual conference after its four-year hiatus, having found enough funds to bring back the conference, which is in its fourteenth year. She said the conference offered workshops in a variety of fields in order to be inclusive of students with a wide range of strengths and interests.
“Since leadership is so broad, we even have some workshops on hip hop and how that correlates to leadership,” Quinones-Ortega said.
Miles Ashlock, associate director of the Office of Student Life, said the goal of the conference was to both inspire students to seek out leadership roles and to aid students already in those positions.
“The idea is really to convene students who are interested in leadership development, but also those who have leadership roles on campus,” Ashlock said.
Ashlock added that there are many active students at UCSB, citing the over 450 campus organizations, in addition to sports teams, Associated Students and the Graduate Student Association.
Quinones-Ortega said OSL chose to invite Tomson as they felt he would provide a voice that students would be able to relate to.
“We thought he would be a great speaker to impact our students. He’s not necessarily new to Santa Barbara, but definitely came here for the surf,” Quinones-Ortega said.
In his speech, Tomson described his time competing around the world as a professional surfer and how he then transitioned into publishing books and giving talks.
“I published a book a number of years ago called Surfer’s Code, which was twelve simple lessons for riding through life,” Tomson said. “It was sort of an explanation of what surfing can teach you about life.”
He said the book sparked a change in the direction of his life, as he developed a new sense of willpower that led him to speaking to and inspiring others.
“I started talking at schools and universities and very large corporations — some of the biggest corporations in the world — about these simple lessons about what surfing can teach you about courage, honor, integrity, commitment, passion, discipline, determination,” Tomson said.
The inspiration behind his latest book, The Code: The Power of “I Will”, came after a schoolgirl at Anacapa Elementary School used his workshop to develop her own personal code, saying “I will always be myself.”
“It’s kind of like an anthem for youth as I see it, with all of the problems that young people are facing with peer pressure and people wanting them into situations they don’t want to be in,” Tomson said.
However, he said the new book also focuses on the concept of hope and idea of making positive choices, which he said is crucial to living a fulfilling life.
“A million people in the United States die each year from bad choices. It’s the single biggest killer in this country,” Tomson said. “I lost my beautiful fifteen year old boy to a bad choice, so this is my mission to empower positive choice amongst young people, amongst the biggest corporations in the world.”