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Where summer is always in ‘session’

When Ryan McGill wants to clear his mind, he’ll mount his surfboard and ride some waves.

“There is no other feeling in the world that can compare to surfing,” says McGill, DMSB’04, who grew up playing tennis, soccer, and basketball, but ultimately found his athletic calling in the deep blue. “When I’m out on the ocean, I’m totally relaxed.”

Over the past 20 years, he has surfed many of the world’s most picturesque beaches, looking for the perfect breaks and swells. One of his favorite surfing spots is Lagundri Beach on Nias Island in Indonesia, where, he says, “the waves are so flawless, so mechanical.”

His most frequent destination is Jenness Beach in Rye, New Hampshire, where he co-founded the Summer Sessions Surf Shop in 2002 with his younger brother Tyler. The family-owned and operated shop boasts an impressive selection of boards, wetsuits, and gear, and offers surf lessons to kids and adults.

Since the shop’s inception some 12 years ago, McGill estimates that he and his staff have helped more than 1,000 students find the joy in surfing. One of those students is Denise Garcia, the Sadeleer Research Faculty Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at Northeastern University.

Ryan McGill hangs out on the beach with one of the shop's student surfers.

Ryan McGill hangs out on the beach with one of the shop’s student surfers.

Garcia started surfing in the spring of 2013, when her sister signed her up for a lesson at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, the international mecca for surfing, swimming, and sunbathing. A few months later, her friend introduced her to Summer Sessions, where she is currently taking up to four lessons per week.

“Surfing makes me feel like I’m flying,” says Garcia, who finds her new favorite sport to be relaxing, even rejuvenating.  “It’s very calming and has helped me focus on the mounting academic obligations I have all over the world.”

For her, Jenness Beach is the perfect training ground for the fledgling surfer and McGill is the quintessential entrepreneur, a creative, yet customer-centric businessman. McGill, for his part, says he honed his business acumen at Northeastern, where he studied finance and learned the ins and outs of the sales pitch.

In 2003, he was working on co-op as a broker’s assistant at A.G. Edwards, a financial services holding company that was later acquired by Wells Fargo Advisers. His daily duties included making up to 300 cold calls per day, a responsibility that has played no small part in preparing him for his job at the shop. “If I could handle making hundreds of cold calls every day,” he says, “I could handle selling surfboards to excited kids.”

Today, Summer Sessions is one of the largest surf shop in New Hampshire’s Seacoast Region, and the McGills have continued to build their brand and expand their entrepreneurial reach. After years of planning, Ryan and Tyler have ventured into the restaurant business, opening up The Juicebox, a high-end juice, smoothie, and coffee bar in North Hampton.

“I’m lucky to work with my brother,” says McGill, whose typical 12-hour days at the shop tend to fly by when he’s having fun with Tyler, his employees, and their customers. “We have our normal, brotherly quarrels, but within five minutes one of us is saying, ‘Hey, want to go surf?’”