“I think I do this for love. I started with nothing to lose, nothing to win I guess,” says Marcos Pereira, between laughs.
“I found myself. I really love what I do.”
And he truly does. Marcos, originally from São Paulo, Brazil, is the creator of Nicaragua’s first surf shop, Get Up Stand Up Surf (GSUP). His journey from surfing the world’s waves to becoming a fair trade, environmentally-conscious businessman is nothing short of entrancing.
“I started surfing when I was about 19. It was funny, because when I started, I couldn’t catch a wave. I got one my first day which gave me this push to enjoy surfing, but it took almost 3 months.” But listening to Marcos, you feel determination in his voice. “Every weekend I was at the beach. It didn’t matter if it was extremely cold, too warm, or if there were no waves. I would try to find them. I was hooked.”
This lifestyle continued for an entire year. “I was about 20, in my last year of university. I was an assistant manager at a bank. It was a really good business, but I felt like it wasn’t for me. I remember when I was at the bank, the only thing I would talk about was surfing. The feeling of being in the ocean, being on the sand. The beach and the beauty is amazing, and the actual sport is so addicting. Everything else comes with it; the nature, the exercise, the fun, the friends you make, the new attitude, the new lifestyle.”
So, he quit quit his job, and took a chance. “My idea was that if I left my job, I needed to do something good. I needed to invest myself. I wanted to go to Australia to surf and learn English. I spent all my money, paid for an English course, bought a ticket, and went.”
“In Australia, I read The Alchemist. That was my first book in English. It caught my attention, because the message of the book is so amazing. It says ‘always follow the omens.’ That got me, because I always did. So I started this; ‘follow the omens, if you feel it, do it.’”
His newfound philosophy changed him. After a year and a half in Australia, Marcos listened to omens that took him to Bali, Israel, and eventually to new regions of his home country. “I moved down to the beach in Brazil, and became a surf instructor. I was always broke, but I was working in a way that I was always learning something, experiencing something.”
Marcos still found himself searching for more. “I was talking to a friend of mine, a traveler I knew, and he was in Nicaragua. I saw his photos, they were amazing. He was telling me that it’s always sunny, there were always waves. I thought, ‘wow, I should try Nicaragua,’ and after that moment, I started feeling that this should be it. Then everything started falling in place for me to go.”
Initially landing in Costa Rica, Marcos hopped on a bus and was in Nicaragua the next day. He loved it. He started working in hostels in León, and quickly moved to Poneloya beach to work as a surf instructor once again. With only 400 dollars to his name, Marcos invested 100 for his schools first surfboard. Soon after, it was time to print his uniform, the first ever GSUP shirt.
When he went to print, he was told he needed to make a minimum of 20 shirts. “After I made these 20 shirts, I sold them in a week or two. I ordered 20 more, everyone loved the name, then 40 more. It was just growing so quickly. After 5 months, I had 12 boards and 500 shirts in stock.”
But taking these risks, albeit thrilling, was scary. “There was fear in every move. I was always on the line, always on the edge, but I always felt I had signs telling me what to do.” His intuition has yet to steer him wrong.
And as quickly as it began, GSUP continued to develop. Marcos opened his first shop in León, and an on-site factory where all apparel is now designed and created. What started with just Marcos and one tailor, soon grew into a full production team.
Managing a team of Nicaraguan locals offered new knowledge as well. “I noticed that salaries were low. I thought, ‘let’s make it better.’ Slowly, I began understanding that I could create ways to give them raises, to make it fair. Fair trade and career plans became stronger. I wanted to set goals for everyone. I think this is part of sustainability; it’s not just the environment, but the people as well.”
GSUP employees benefit from regular raises and bonuses, support with school, and English classes. “We’re contributing to improve our clients and employees lives, which generates better products. For me, it’s something that makes a lot of sense. Personally, professionally, they’re happy. And the results are amazing.”
Rest assured, the environment is carefully considered and cared for by Marcos and his team. The store is free of plastic bags, and employees are even given Tupperware to transport their meals. “Everyone becomes more conscious this way. I understood that to reach new goals, we had to be sustainable. We had to be eco-friendly. There are different ways to be sustainable; for our new board shorts, I found a company that uses eco-dye for colors that uses less chemicals, and the fabric comes from recycled bottles. We’re just starting. It’s not easy to be 100% sustainable, but we do our best to minimize our footprint and do our part on a daily basis.”
“Fair trade is the future, recycling is the future. If we don’t do that, we’re going to go in a negative direction. There’s always a way to improve life, and I think it’s important to find love in what you do. Your life is going to be better, and be happy. That’s the mission. Grow gradually, make sure everyone is having a good time, and make the best products.”
Walking along the beaches of Nicaragua, it’s clear that everyone really is having a good time. From the GSUP family of employees, to the many surfers catching waves in their colorful swimwear, the mission behind the brand comes to life. Friends hit the beach, toast their Toñas, share a laugh, and watch sunsets together, tropical and cozy in their cover ups and t-shirts.
“We enjoy the ride. It’s been amazing to accomplish all this. At the end of the day, if you think that I had 100 dollars to start, to be where we are right now, it’s pretty insane. You don’t need to conquer the world. We’re small, and we’re trying to make a small difference. That’s the goal, be conscious, and do something good. This is living the dream, I guess!”