We had the good fortune of connecting with Alex West and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Alex, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I was born in South Africa and lived in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho to American Expatriates. My father, a Vietnam Veteran was working for the World Water Project, with the mission of bringing clean water to one billion impoverished people. My mother was a schoolteacher, teaching at a local Lesotho elementary school. During the workweek, I was looked after by a nanny who was a member of the Zulu tribe. My language development as a child was problematic. During the evenings and weekends, my parents spoke English. During the week, Sofia spoke to me in Zulu along with all of the child tv programming being in Afrikaans. When I was five, my family moved in-between living in Cairo, Egypt, and Edinboro, Pennsylvania. In Cairo, I went to an international school that was attended by embassy kids from around the world. Being exposed to the different cultures at such a young age in an international setting would greatly benefit me years later as a Navy SEAL and non-profit founder by looking past any societal bias and accepting a persona “as is.” After, Cairo, my family moved to Overland Park, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, Kansas. Transitioning into mid-west American culture having spent the majority of my life in Africa was awkward. I was often bullied and got in many fights due to being, “White African” because “White people don’t come from Africa.” It would take years before I was ok with being different. It would also be the foundation of valuing the creativity of “being different” which is where One More Wave thrives. Wanting to prove something to myself, I joined the Navy while still in high school to be a Navy SEAL. Over my twenty-year career in SEAL Teams, I conducted 15 combat deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and undisclosed African countries. It was after my second helicopter crash in combat that I found myself at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NiCOE), a Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic at Bethesda, Maryland Naval Hospital. It was here, that I was exposed to Art Therapy. Essentially, using art as a therapeutic means to heal trauma. This is where I got the idea and sensed the power for the custom artwork on One more Wave surfboards. As mentioned, prior, my father was a Vietnam veteran. He struggled with PTSD from the war all of his adult life. Even during his struggles, he was always involved in veterans’ groups such as Veterans of Foreign Wars and Vietnam Veterans of America. The older I got, the more he would introduce me to his Vietnam veteran network of friends from the VA. Due to the way America treated our veterans after returning from Vietnam, his inner circle of friends were always leery of outsiders. I was, however, soon accepted due to being a combat veteran. I will never forget the pain in their eyes when they talked about how they were treated after hellacious tours of duty. America’s abandonment of the Vietnam veterans is often the fuel that I needed to keep going in the beginning days of One More Wave. One strength of the SEAL teams is the emphasis on creativity and flexibility. This emphasis on creativity is what drove many initiatives at One More Wave. Without creativity and ingenuity, we would not be able to build customized surfboards for our veterans with physical disabilities such as amputations, severe burns, and neurological issues. For example, a board made for a veteran missing his leg below the knee who uses his prosthetic to surf in large Hawaiian waves breaking over a rock reef is considerably different than of a veteran who is restricted to surfing prone due to Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) aka “Lou Gehrig’s disease who surfs waist high waves in South Carolina. Solving each of these problems with creativity, experience and innovation are what separates One More Wave apart from any surfing non-profit in the world. One final aspect of my upbringing and how it applies to One More Wave is that we have always accepted all veterans, from all branches of service and backgrounds. This can include a highly decorated Marine to a Soldier who was kicked out of the Army with an Other Than Honorable Discharge for insubordination. For the latter, in my opinion, these veterans are often the most at risk due to being kept from VA treatment along with many veteran non-profits excluding them from their demographic. Often these veterans have acquired mental illness while on duty often due to combat tours or military sexual trauma which led to substance abuse which intern led to disciplinary actions and eventual removal from the military. With that being said, we welcome all veterans into our Surfing Tribe.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Personal -20 years in the SEAL Teams. 15 combat deployments (1998-2018) -2 years in business training Law Enforcement SWAT Teams (2018-2020) -5.5 years at One More Wave (2015-Present) -Currently, a graduate student at Pepperdine University studying Clinical Psychology with the goal of being a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). My goal is to impact veterans and One More Wave as a psychotherapist. What sets One More Wave apart from other surfing non-profits is that we specialize in customized surfing solutions. By doing so, we can actually augment ongoing surfing non-profits by providing their veterans with surfing equipment, a role that is not done by any other competitor. On the production side of One More Wave, one aspect I am proud of is, we always pay a skilled position what they are worth. Meaning, while we will/have taken pro-bono work, we always look to establish ourselves as a business partner rather than another non-profit looking to get a hand out at every turn. Some examples of skilled positions are surfboard shapers, glasses, graphic design, and marketing. I believe that if you can establish a strong business partnership with a business by always paying on time every time, that those businesses will always make you a higher priority and give you world-class results. They will also appreciate the fact that you appreciate them as a business and not just a “handout factory, something many nonprofits fail to recognize. If you tend to always want a handout, you are more included to be moved to the back of the line.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
For Mexican food, I would recommend Old Town. While everyone has their favorite Mexican restaurants around the city, I love the atmosphere, food and drinks. When in season, I would recommend going to watch a Padres game at Petco Park. Not only did our Padres make it to the playoffs this year, Petco Park, simply put is incredible! It allows for you to grab a local San Diego craft beer along with not having to wait in a long line for a Hodad’s burger. Sunset Cliffs at sunset. One must stop, for almost any visitor is to take the time to observe a sunset at Sunset Cliffs. It’s never a letdown. Camp one night at Camp Pendleton’s San Onofre Beach. While most San Diegans may not be able to get onto Camp Pendleton, a nice alternative is to visit San Onofre State Beach which is just South of Camp Pendleton’s San Onofre Beach. Simply put, the beach is timeless, pristine and can produce some great surf.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have several people and organizations that have helped One More Wave. To give the shoutout context, One More Wave started as a grassroots organization. Meaning, we didn’t have any money to speak of and raised our first money selling t-shirts out of the back of my pickup truck. To begin, The Downtown San Diego Rotary club back in 2015 gave One More Wave its first large donation, which intern led to us creating our first two surfboards. When I still think of the moment the Rotary Club presented us with the check, I still get goosebumps. Secondly, I would like to thank Mike Savacool and Steve Secviar from the San Diego marketing and branding company Less and More (lessandmore.com). Mike and Steve resonated with what we were doing at an early stage in our development. This led to Less and More donating a full digital suite, including logo design, website creation, and many digital assets. Another significant contribution to One More Wave early on was award-winning San Diego photographers Tim Mantioni (mantoani.com) and Chris Park (chrispark.com). Tim and Chris agreed to create One More Wave’s original biography video from an initial introduction from Less and More. It should be noted that Tim and Chris are some of the most sought after photographers in the country. With that said, having them create our film pro-bono during their busy schedule was beyond humbling. Also of note, Tim, at the time, devoted himself to our film while he battled the last stages of his battle with cancer, passing away in 2016. I am still in-aw of his talents and often think of him pushing through physical pain while shooting our video. The man’s heart was enormous and in my opinion, is one of San Diego’s legends. Lastly, I would like to thank One More Wave’s Surf Tribe personally. I have always needed you more than you have ever needed from me.

Website: www.onemorewave.com
Instagram: 1mwave, alex west_coast
Linkedin: One More Wave, alex-west
Twitter: 1mwave
Facebook: 1mwave
Youtube: 1mwave

Image Credits
Dan Cnossen, Carter Hess, Rob Garnett, Alex West, Dana Cummings, Mark Thornton and Chris Small

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutSocal is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.