Away From It All

All right folks, back to your desks. Party’s over. The trudge to the holidays begins anew. Hopefully you found time to do something you love this summer. Adweek spoke to six who did, and one can’t help but wonder: Does anyone in this industry ever sit still?

Arty Tan claims to have the worst surfer’s tan ever, with lines on his neck, arms and legs forming the outline of a short-sleeve wet suit. The former creative director at Ground Zero in Marina del Rey, Calif., left the agency in May to freelance, freeing him up to surf six days a week this summer—and work at surf camps in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and San Diego for six weeks. “I haven’t missed a lot of swells, I’ll put it that way,” says Tan, who lives in Manhattan Beach, Calif.

Tan did work on some projects for Colby & Partners in Santa Monica, Calif., and for personal clients, but he says it often felt like he was on an extended spring break. “I think my friends tend to romanticize what I did and are extremely envious,” he says. “But at the same time, I don’t think what I did was terribly exceptional.”

Just as modest about his water-sports passion—barefoot waterskiing—is Aaron Custer, art director at Bernstein-Rein in Kansas City, Mo. “When you can look down and see your feet riding on water, it’s a lot of fun,” he says. Skimming across the water at 40 mph—the typical skiing speed is 25 mph—has been Custer’s hobby for five years. He meets friends on a lake near his home at 6 a.m., when the water is smooth and perfect for skiing sans skis. “It gets you revved up for the day,” Custer says. “I get to work and I’m all pumped and ready to go.”

Jean McLaren knows that rush. The president of Marc USA’s Chicago office finds it by equestrian show jumping. This summer she participated in five competitions with her horse, Boundless, a name cribbed from an AT&T campaign Marc launched in 2000. McLaren, who grew up riding horses and once planned to train for the Olympics, didn’t win any of the events, but she’s fine with that. “My goals are about challenging myself and testing what my horse and I can do,” she says. “When you use your mental concentration and conquer the course, it’s such an incredible thrill that really keeps with me for a long time.”

Elephants aren’t great jumpers, but they do lug tourists up steep mountains in Cambodia to see 900-year-old temples, and that’s what account supervisor Michelle Williamson of Deutsch in New York did in June. “It feels like riding a horse, but it’s very slow moving and very high up,” she says. Williamson toured Cambodia and Thailand with a friend over three weeks. “I came back with a fresh perspective on life in general, and it was pretty spiritual as well,” she says. “I’m already planning to go back next year.”

Shelby Woods, chairman of Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods in Little Rock, Ark., didn’t cross the ocean but did log plenty of mileage on his annual Harley-Davidson ride with his wife and 10 friends. In July, they rode 3,340 miles around the East Coast and into Canada over two weeks. Woods began to ride a Harley only eight years ago, when he was 53, and he convinced some college buddies to join him. “It’s just a way to clear your head, and you’re able to enjoy all your senses,” he says. “Seeing the country outside is different than seeing it through a windshield.”

Account director Alan Brown of New York’s DeVito/Verdi loves motorcycles, too, but he prefers to see things at a quicker clip. That became a problem in early July as he rode along the winding cliffs of Italy’s Amalfi Coast at 50 mph. He lost control of his rented Ducati bike and fell hard on his right side into a hedge—a lucky break, given that the left side of the road dropped off 200 feet into the Mediterranean.

After getting his broken bike parts—and his wits—together, Brown checked out his cuts and bruises before heading to a bar to calm his nerves. He was back on the road after a trip to a repair shop, where the mechanics solved some of the bike’s cosmetic problems with crazy glue, because they didn’t have all the parts. Brown’s brush with death reminded him of his fragility—to some degree, at least. He says, “My journey back to Rome was a conservative 120 mph.”