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Where summer is always in "session"

Denise Garcia with a surfboard

When Ryan McGill wants to clear his mind, he’ll mount his surf­board and ride some waves.

Over the past 20 years, McGill, DMSB’04, has surfed many of the world’s most pic­turesque beaches, looking for the per­fect breaks and swells. One of his favorite surfing spots is Lagundri Beach on Nias Island in Indonesia, where, he says, “the waves are so flaw­less, so mechanical.”

There is no other feeling in the world that can com­pare to surfing,” says McGill, who grew up playing tennis, soccer, and bas­ket­ball, but ulti­mately found his ath­letic calling in the deep blue. “When I’m out on the ocean, I’m totally relaxed.”

His most fre­quent des­ti­na­tion is Jen­ness Beach in Rye, New Hamp­shire, where he co-​​founded the Summer Ses­sions Surf Shop in 2002 with his younger brother Tyler. The family-​​owned and oper­ated shop boasts an impres­sive selec­tion of boards, wet­suits, and gear, and offers surf lessons to kids and adults.

Since the shop’s incep­tion some 12 years ago, McGill esti­mates that he and his staff have helped more than 1,000 stu­dents find the joy in surfing. One of those stu­dents is Denise Garcia, the Sadeleer Research Fac­ulty Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Polit­ical Sci­ence and Inter­na­tional Affairs at North­eastern University.

Garcia started surfing in the spring of 2013, when her sister signed her up for a lesson at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Aus­tralia, the inter­na­tional mecca for surfing, swim­ming, and sun­bathing. A few months later, her friend intro­duced her to Summer Ses­sions, where she is cur­rently taking up to four lessons per week.

Surfing makes me feel like I’m flying,” says Garcia, who finds her new favorite sport to be relaxing, even reju­ve­nating.  “It’s very calming and has helped me focus on the mounting aca­d­emic oblig­a­tions I have all over the world.”

For her, Jen­ness Beach is the per­fect training ground for the fledg­ling surfer and McGill is the quin­tes­sen­tial entre­pre­neur, a cre­ative, yet customer-​​centric busi­nessman. McGill, for his part, says he honed his busi­ness acumen at North­eastern, where he studied finance and learned the ins and outs of the sales pitch.

In 2003, he was working on co-​​op as a broker’s assis­tant at A.G. Edwards, a finan­cial ser­vices holding com­pany that was later acquired by Wells Fargo Advisers. His daily duties included making up to 300 cold calls per day, a respon­si­bility that has played no small part in preparing him for his job at the shop. “If I could handle making hun­dreds of cold calls every day,” he says, “I could handle selling surf­boards to excited kids.”

Today, Summer Ses­sions is one of the largest surf shop in New Hampshire’s Sea­coast Region, and the McGills have con­tinued to build their brand and expand their entre­pre­neurial reach. After years of plan­ning, Ryan and Tyler have ven­tured into the restau­rant busi­ness, opening up The Juicebox, a high-​​end juice, smoothie, and coffee bar in North Hampton.

I’m lucky to work with my brother,” says McGill, whose typ­ical 12-​​hour days at the shop tend to fly by when he’s having fun with Tyler, his employees, and their cus­tomers. “We have our normal, broth­erly quar­rels, but within five min­utes one of us is saying, ‘Hey, want to go surf?’”

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