17 Great Yvon Chouinard Quotes

Yvon Chouinard is probably most qualified to be called the patron saint of dirtbags, having been one of the originals himself in Yosemite during the 1960s, at one point eating cat food to get through a season on very little money. Then he started Chouinard Equipment, and then Patagonia, and found himself becoming a CEO, author (Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman, 2005), and movie star (180 South, 2010). Some might even think of him as a philosopher because of his eminent ability to produce pithy quotes on a very regular basis, in his books, in movies, or during interviews.

Here are 17 of our favorites from YC:

1. “Taking a trip for six months, you get in the rhythm of it. It feels like you can go on forever doing that. Climbing Everest is the ultimate and the opposite of that. Because you get these high-powered plastic surgeons and CEOs, and you know, they pay $80,000 and have Sherpas put the ladders in place and 8,000 feet of fixed ropes and you get to the camp and you don’t even have to lay out your sleeping bag. It’s already laid out with a chocolate mint on the top. The whole purpose of planning something like Everest is to effect some sort of spiritual and physical gain and if you compromise the process, you’re an asshole when you start out and you’re an asshole when you get back.” – 180° South

2. “Going back to a simpler life based on living by sufficiency rather than excess is not a step backward.”The Next Hundred Years

3. “The hardest thing in the world is to simplify your life. It’s so easy to make it complex. What’s important is leading an examined life.” – 180° South

4. “To do good, you actually have to do something.”American Express commercial

5. “You have a whole life in the outdoors, you realize you have a sense of responsibility to protect these wild places.” – 180° South

6. “The climbs that I did in Yosemite took 10 days, hanging from hammocks and putting in hundreds of pitons. Now, high school guys in their gym shorts do them, and they’re back before noon. Then they have lunch and go and climb the north face of Half Dome. That’s the way sport should go.”Interview, Mountain Magazine

7. “My friends who live in mountain towns end up not climbing anymore. It gets too familiar. Whereas if you visit the mountains, then you’re all excited.” – Interview, Mountain Magazine

8. “You learn that how you got there was what’s important. Not what you accomplished.” – 180° South

9. “If you want to understand the entrepreneur, study the juvenile delinquent. The delinquent is saying with his actions, ‘This sucks. I’m going to do my own thing.” – Let My People Go Surfing

10. “The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong – that’s when adventure starts.” – 180° South

11. “I met a lot of young people who asked me what books to read or films to watch. I think that is a good way to start, but theres no substitute for just going there.” – 180° South

12. “The more you know, the less you need.” – Let My People Go Surfing

13. “So, it’s kind of like the quest for the holy grail. Well, you know, who gives a shit what the holy grail is. It’s the quest is what’s important.” – 180° South

14. “Evil doesn’t have to be an overt act; it can be merely the absence of good. If you have the ability, the resources, and the opportunity to do good and you do nothing, that can be evil.” – Let My People Go Surfing

15. “You perfect a sport when you can do all of these things with less stuff. The most impressive ascent of Everest was by the Swedish guy who bicycled from Stockholm to Kathmandu and then soloed Everest and bicycled back to Stockholm. That is cool, as opposed to this huge multinational guided thing with computers and internet cafes at the base of Everest.”Interview, The Watershed

16. “The reason why we won’t face up to our problems with the environment is that we are the problem. It’s not the corporations out there, it’s not the governments, it’s us. We’re the ones telling the corporations to make more stuff, and make it as cheap and as disposable as possible. We’re not citizens anymore. We’re consumers. That’s what we’re called. It’s just like being an alcoholic and being in denial that you’re an alcoholic. We’re in denial that each and every one of us is the problem. And until we face up to that, nothing’s going to happen. So, there’s a movement for simplifying your life: purchase less stuff, own a few things that are very high quality that last a long time, and that are multifunctional.”Interview, The Usual Montauk

17. “Only on the fringes of an ecosystem, those outer rings, do evolution and adaptation occur at a furious pace; the inner center o the system is where the entrenched, non-adapting species die off, doomed to failure by maintaining the status quo. Businesses go through the same cycles.” – Let My People Go Surfing


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180° South: Conquerers of the Useless


Photo by Tom Frost



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