Distinguished Alumnus: Professional Surfer and Local Business Owner Tony Silvagni
“Comfortable and efficient” are the words that professional surfer Tony Silvagni uses to describe Cape Fear Community College. “I felt very at home there. I had a lot of fun classes, and I was in and out of class easily.” Silvagni says. “The downtown experience was wonderful. I rode my skateboard to class and all over downtown between classes.”
Tony and his family moved to Kure Beach, NC from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in 1993. He adapted to the coastal lifestyle easily, and began to realize a love for the outdoors and for staying active. “I have to stay busy,” he says. “Even now I can’t sit still.”
As a child, Tony spent many afternoons on the beach and quickly learned to surf. At eight, he frequently entered local body-board contests, and by age sixteen, he was surfing professionally. Soon, he was entering surfing competitions in exotic destinations such as Hawaii, Brazil, France, Australia, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka and Japan.
Although he competed professionally as a shortboarder, Tony says he prefers the “grace, style, finesse and flow” of the longboard over the aggressive aerial maneuvers of shortboarding.
This choice suited him well. By 2008, Tony was ranked second overall on the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) North American Longboard ratings. In 2011, he became the ASP North America Longboard Champion, the Japan Pro Longboard Champion, sixth in the ASP World Longboard Tour, and the first-ever longboarder from North Carolina to become a gold medalist in the International Surfing Association (ISA) World Longboard competition, where he represented the USA Surf Team in the “Olympics of surfing.”
All his success is even more extraordinary given the fact that while Tony was winning surfing competitions he was also attending CFCC and earning transfer credits in CFCC’s associates of arts program with a 3.6 grade point average. In 2012, he graduated from UNCW with a bachelor of science in business marketing.
Tony says his instructors at CFCC were very supportive and understanding of his competition schedule. “The instructors really reached out to help me. I also spent a lot of time in the Learning Lab and the staff there was very helpful.” He says that CFCC helped him learn to manage his time. “Preparing for homework, getting a task done…that’s how you learn to become successful.”
While he still competes internationally – most recently he finished in fifth place on the World Longboard Tour – Tony has also parlayed his education in business marketing into a successful local business. The Tony Silvagni Surf School opened in March, 2008 in Carolina Beach and offers private surf lessons, group surf lessons, surf camps, stand-up paddleboarding tours, advanced surf coaching, kayak tours and rentals of surfboards, paddleboards, skimboards, bodyboards, kayaks, beach chairs and umbrellas. This summer, he will be expanding his business by debuting a tiki hut location at 100 Hamlet Avenue at Carolina Beach and offering lessons at Access 33 at Wrightsville Beach near the Blockade Runner Hotel Both locations will offer surfing and paddleboard equipment rental as well as sign-ups for surf lessons and camps.
Although Tony’s surfing competitions have taken him around the globe, he says he loves surfing at home in Carolina Beach and operating his surf school there. “We have a great surfing environment here. There are prominent sand bars that allow for more breaking waves and are conducive for learning to surf at all skill levels. In Carolina Beach we have a very family-friendly atmosphere, great restaurants and community activities such as the weekly fireworks during the summer. It’s a great place to own a business.”
Tony’s advice for CFCC graduates is simple: “Work toward goals in life that interest you. When you wake up every day to go to work you want to enjoy your job.”