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Media Relations Associate - Rip Curl

July 1, 2004


Interview with PJ Connell

Pick up a Happy Magazine ( to see the Industrial Profile in print.


Popular opinion is you need to have a hook-up through a friend to get a job in this industry, and there is no other way. PJ Connell proves that belief is not always true. It’s the standard college, internship before graduation, and then get hired by the company you interned for combination. It goes down in every mainstream industry, and it goes down in this industry. Check out how PJ made it happen - through college. Do you need it for this industry? Maybe, maybe not. Read on and find out...


How much time have you had in the saddle since finishing college?

Pretty much one year as of today. I graduated in May 2003.


Where did you go, and what was your major?

San Diego State University, B.A. in Communication, emphasis: Public Relations. Minor in Adult Beverage intake.


How did you get involved in work within the industry? Internship during college? Friends?

Pretty much what happened is I started surfing on the college team at SDSU. Going into my Junior year, the Team Captain graduated and handed the position over to me. I noticed that we had a pretty good team and it was a huge school, so I thought we’d go for some sponsorship. Plus, we were all poor as hell and could use a clean shirt every once in awhile.


I put together a package to promote the team and sent it out to the major surf companies. Rip Curl ended up sponsoring the team. We set up a program through the Outside Sales Rep, Dave “Taxman” Taxer, to order Rip Curl gear at a great discount through South Coast surf shop in San Diego. I have to give props to the Taxman & Bird at South Coast, because I couldn’t have made it happen without you.


Was your proposal a result of going to school?

Definitely. A communication major covers a large variety of skills, from Advertising to Marketing to General Communication (Writing). You learn how to put together a proposal, present it, and follow it up to make something happen. It turns out when I finally started going to class on a regular basis it all paid off.


Would you say the package you put together opened the door?

Yes, pretty much. I’m psyched on it because it also allowed me to build the Rip Curl brand on a campus of 36,000 students and leave a legacy for future captains.


Do you think future people who are team captains at your school, or a similar school, can do the same thing?

I don’t really like to preach, but it’s true… If you want something really bad, you can get it. Nothing’s impossible. All you have to do is put your mind to it, and put down a beer every now and again. Let me put it this way: Every time you accomplish something, it gives you another reason to fill a pool up with jell-o, call your favorite lady friends, and throw a very entertaining wrestling match.


Did your work with the surf team and Rip Curl have anything to do with where you are now?

Yeah. I asked the rep Dave Taxer if there were any openings at Rip Curl for internships. I was at the stage of my college education where I needed an internship. Sure enough, they did and Taxman helped me hook it up. 


Initially it was the Accessories Department. But the guy I worked under was never around, so I walked down to the Marketing department to ask if they needed any help. It worked out because they did need help, and that is way more in the field that I was interested in. I ended up doing a three-day a week regular thing in the Marketing department.


I did my time for the internship. Be prepared to be a bitch for the majority of your internship. Bend over? No Problem! And then Marketing Director offered me a part-time job three days a week. At the time, I had a semester left and I was on the payroll. It was good work and you learn a lot, but you’re pretty much a bitch. If anything sucks or it’s hard labor, you know you’re going to do it. You just have to take the good with the bad.


When my last semester ended, a new Marketing Director had come on. So I explained the situation. I wanted to travel to Indo, Mainland, the whole bit, but started right away because the offer was there and I didn’t want to pass it up. Turns out I started traveling with the company a few months after I started. I went to New York, all up and down the East Coast and Hawaii.


Overall, you were the surf team captain and shaped your own future? What you landed at Rip Curl was completely your own doing?



Were you hooked up at all before the SDSU surf team?

I never had really been that kind of guy to jump on sponsorships. But I did get deals through shops. Growing up in Ventura County the scene was pretty low-profile, so surfing with your buddies is more important than NSSAs and all that. The boys up at Revolution definitely took care of me, and all my friends. Thanks again Jesse, John, & Plost.


Let’s get into today. What’s your title/position with Rip Curl?

Media Relations. The “marketing bitch” tattoo on my forehead is starting to wear-off.


What is a basic day at the office?

My job is spread pretty thin. When I first came on, the Marketing Director gave me goals to accomplish and you kind of develop your own job. It was PR but has narrowed into Media relations.


You deal with all kinds of media, including core surf publications, mainstream publications (Maxim, sport, music), motion picture companies (MGM), TV projects, and also writing press releases for various Rip Curl events, product releases, and so on. I also post all stories & press releases for the news page of the Rip Curl site. If Rip Curl’s got something going, it’s my job to create awareness.

In the Rip Curl Marketing Dept., it’s a full powerhouse: Makos, Sharpy, Pod, BH, Ted, Warbs, John Lee, and Carrie – We get the job done!


Do you get to travel?

It takes me to grand opening parties and all over the place. Anything that Rip Curl is involved with you’ll see me there.


You recently returned from a business trip to Hawaii. How was that?

I worked really hard on getting a nice tan and meeting a lot of new people. And somewhere in between there I wrote a couple of press releases and managed to catch a few waves.  It was the Rip Curl – China Uemera Wahine Classic on Waikiki. 


What’s goin’ on next?

I’ll be going on the gromsearch tour. That goes up and down the East & West Coast, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.


Is that your whole summer?

Yeah, pretty much. 


Then what?

Tradeshows. At the shows I meet with a lot of the mainstream and industry media. I show them around the booth and have a few cocktails. 


How about the office, any love for the office – behind the desk?

I’ll be in the office for about a month, and then we’ll be going to the Pipe Masters. It’s cool because it’s such a huge event. I do most of the PR for Rip Curl USA, but this will give me an opportunity to work with Rip Curl PR people from our other headquarters around the world.


I haven’t had many opportunities to work on huge events like Pipe. I plan taking in as much in as possible from the big-wigs here at the Curl. Learn as much as possible while being on site, you know, so I can tell my boss “Hey Mikey - I soaked up Pipe like a sppppponge!”


So what’s the big challenge?

The biggest challenge is when you send out information to the media and every other brand is sending information to the same people - just getting the word our there and creating a buzz. You also have to establish relationships with the media and maintain them. You always are thinking of story angles and getting them out ASAP.


Thinking back on some of the major points you shared with us, what’s the most rewarding aspect of what you do?

I’m a sucker. Rewarding is going home to my lady. Whether it’s a good day or a bad one, she always makes me happy. Plus, she gives a mean back rub. Thanks, Juls!


What makes you want to throw in the towel to go work for a major PR firm?

Does this major PR Firm take you on Mentawaii Boat trips? Do their employees go for surfs at lunch? I’m guessing they probably don’t, so it’ll probably never happen.


Is there anything you can tell the readers about working or succeeding in the industry (a piece of advice)?

If you get stressed out, go for a surf. It always feels good.


What about school?

Go to school. Get an internship. Skip class and go surf every once in a while.


Closing comments?

If you will it, dude… It’s no dream.