Tony Silvagni’s surfing accomplishments would lead you to believe he was born close to the ocean. He wasn’t. Tony’s father moved the family from Williamsport, Pennsylvania to Kure Beach in 1993, because of the boom in construction. That put the Atlantic Ocean in Tony’s backyard for the first time, providing the opportunity for his newfound love of surfing to grow.
“My brother (Andrew) was a phenomenal surfer, still is,” Tony remembers about the earliest days of learning the sport. “We were surfing with some friends from Kure Beach. Corey Mullen, he really got me into the sport, so I can always give him credit for that. I remember standing up (on the board), hooting and hollering, just so happy to be able to get up to my feet (for the first time). It’s a thrill for anybody that’s learning to surf, to stand up on their first wave. It’s just the best feeling ever.”
Tony started competing in Eastern Surfing Association events at the age of seven. He remembers the trips taken with his parents and older friends to events along the east coast, long drives through the night to make the event and then to return to school the following Monday. In the podcast, Tony talks about driving himself to be as good as his older brother, who was later slowed by Lyme Disease.
As Tony grew older and more confident in his surfing skills, he started winning events. Tony was 14 years old when he won awards in five divisions at the 2000 Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship held in Carolina Beach, one of the top accomplishments in his career. In 2007, he won the 43rd Ron Jon Easter Surfing Festival in Cocoa Beach, Florida, taking home the $3,500 first prize. Tony calls winning a gold medal at the 2011 ISA World Games in Panama the biggest achievement of his career.
The successful surfer became a business owner in 2008, opening the Tony Silvagni Surf School in Carolina Beach. “I really enjoy being in the water and teaching people how to surf and showing them the sport,” he says. “It’s so exciting to see them ride their first wave. A lot of people visit Carolina Beach, and they come back year after year. You get to see a lot of kids and adults of all ages come learn to surf and say ‘hello’.”
2017 was not an easy one for the business. A controversy put Tony in the spotlight as an itinerant merchant, and whether he would be forced to change his business and hook up to the town’s infrastructure. He talked about the controversy and the fallout during the interview.
“This has been the toughest year of my life,” he says regarding the requirements. “It was a real struggle trying to get a permit approved. There was a lot of family and friends supporting me. I feel that I’m just trying to be a positive asset to Carolina Beach and run a business ethically and professionally.”
Tony finished 2017 ranked 9th in the World Surf League’s Longboard Tour. He’s qualified for the tour for the past eight years, and he’s set his sights high for the upcoming 2018 season.
“My goal is always to try to win a world title,” he says. “That’s my biggest dream. I feel I have the capability to do it. But I just have to perform well at the events, stay healthy and try and catch the best waves.”
Keep up with Tony’s performance and news about his surf school at www.surfschoolnc.com.
You can listen to the entire interview with Tony Silvagni on the free “1on1 with Jon Evans” podcast:
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