Inside/Outside: Questions for Patagonia’s Chip “Chipper Bro” Bell
Editor’s note: Craig Holloway continues his excellent interview series today with some questions for Patagonia’s receptionist and gatekeeper, Chip Bell. He is the first person you’re likely to meet when visiting the Patagonia campus in Ventura, California. Chip’s warm hospitality and easy smile make you feel right at home. Craig chose to interview Chip for his integrity, company knowledge and devotion to family and friends.
Craig – Are you a Southern California native?
Chip – Yes, I was born in Hollywood and raised in Santa Barbara.
Craig – How did you come to work at Patagonia?
Chip – I had just finished a ten-year tour with the Pro Frisbee® Freestyle circuit and was looking for a job. I heard that Patagonia was hiring, so I applied and they hired me. I was super stoked to find out that the company provided benefits because I was newly married with a baby on the way.
[Above, pictured from left to right – Bud Light Pro Frisbee® Disc team members, Crazy John Brooks, Chipper Bro Bell and Danny Sullivan (with leg warmers), acknowledge the crowd before the start of the 1987 U.S. Open Championship. La Mirada, California. Photo: Scott Starr Collection]
Craig – You are an 11-time World Frisbee Freestyle Champion. How did you get involved in the sport?
Chip – Frisbee Freestyle was considered a cool, alternative sport in the late ‘70s. I started playing with friends in Santa Barbara, which was the mecca for Freestyle enthusiasts. Eventually my passion became a livelihood and I traveled all over the world with my team. We were world champions for over ten years. This is my thirty-third year as a pro.
[Pictured from left to right – Team Sunkist members, Joey Hudoklin and JJ Mon watch Chip Bell perform an under the leg with pointy toe trick at the 1983 OP Pro Surf Championship. Huntington Beach, California. Photo: Scott Starr Collection]
Craig – You have worked at Patagonia’s front desk for many years, answering the phone and greeting everyone with your great personality. When guests visit Patagonia what are the most important things you want them to know about the company?
Chip – I tell everyone who visits that we are authentic and that it’s a great place to work.
[It’s 5 p.m. and the switchboard is closed. Photo: Craig Holloway]
Craig – What are your earliest memories of surfing?
Chip – I was eleven and lived with my family near the beach in Goleta. My older friend, Mark would ask me to go check the waves for him. I’d bike three miles to the beach, check the surf, and ride back to give him a report. If the waves were good I’d go back and surf. I finally got a clue and thought – Why am I riding back to tell Mark it’s good? I stayed at the beach and it made me a better surfer.
Craig – You teach kids and adults how to surf through your business Surfclass.com. What do students tell you after they have experienced their first surf lesson?
Chip – Students come up to me afterward and say how stoked they feel and what a great time they had. As a teacher my best moments are watching a student stand up on their board for the first time.
[Parked for the next swell and good times. Photo: Craig Holloway]
[Stickered with aloha. Photo: Craig Holloway]
Craig –When you’re in the water are there instances where you become the student and the student becomes the teacher?
Chip – Yes, all the time. Especially when we teach kids with special needs. They are my favorite teachers.
Craig – What environmental groups does Surfclass.com support?
Chip – We support 1% for the Planet and also non-profit, action-oriented environmental groups, working to keep our oceans and rivers clean.
Craig – When you’re giving tours of the Patagonia campus what do you want visitors to remember about their experience?
Chip – I hope folks remember Patagonia’s Mission Statement. Maybe our statement will get them thinking about how they can lighten their footprint on the environment. It’s also a bonus if guests can remember any of Patagonia’s Core Values. My favorites are Not Bound by Convention and Integrity.
[Patagonia’s Mission Statement hangs above the café doorway at its Ventura campus. Photo: Craig Holloway]
Craig – What do you think Patagonia will be like as a company in 50 years?
Chip – The best surf company in the world.
Craig – You’re a terrific husband and a devoted father. What have your wife and kids taught you over the years?
Chip – My wife continues to teach these amazing core values she has instilled in our family. She is a wonderful friend and partner. My kids continue to teach me that love rules!
[Chip takes a break between lessons at Solimar Beach. Ventura, California. Photo: Michelle Stevens]
Today also happens to be a milestone birthday for Bro. Please join us in wishing Chipper a big happy birthday!