Joe Surf: Taking a jump into small business

May 11, 2011|By Joe Haakenson

Dean Quinn was living the dream.

He had turned pro, was living in Hawaii and surfing the North Shore every day. He was about to turn 20, so he went back home to Huntington Beach to celebrate his birthday with his buddies, when it happened.

Quinn and six of his friends decided to go for an afternoon hike up Saddleback Mountain in Cleveland National Forest. They reached the peak but it was starting to get dark, so the fellas started running down the trail.


The trail, though, was long and winding, so one of Quinn's friends suggested a shortcut, getting off the trail and going down a steep embankment.

Bad idea.

The friend slipped in the loose gravel and got wedged next to a rock, so Quinn went to help.

"I'm sliding on my butt, and the gravel gives way, I started tumbling, and I went right off the cliff," Quinn recalled. "It was like 1,500 feet straight down, but I was lucky because there was a ledge sticking out about 200 feet down, and I landed on it. It felt like I broke every bone in my body."

As it was, Quinn broke both legs and one of his arms. He said one of his ankles was turned completely around so that his foot pointed backward. And he had "gnarly" cuts and gashes all over his body.

It took hours for rescue teams to eventually find and get to Quinn, giving him plenty of time to reflect on his life. But unlike so many who use a brush with death to make big changes in their lives, Quinn simply wasn't going to allow it to change anything.

Quinn, now 52, is the owner, operator — bossman — of O'Quinn, a premium surf lifestyle brand based in Huntington Beach and whose apparel can be found locally in stores like Jacks and Tilly's, and at No shortcut here — it has been the path Quinn began when he and his family first moved from "the 'hood" (Torrance) to Huntington Beach when he was in the second grade.

It took a year of rehab after the hiking accident, but he was able to resume his professional surfing career, which continued for another two years when Quinn, then 22, began to think ahead.

"I was always into clothes," said Quinn, a graduate of Marina High. "My dad used to make fun of me because I would change clothes three times before going to school. I knew at an early age clothing was something that was going to happen for me."

And so it began.

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