In our June 2013 issue, we profiled Will Tant, who is arguably one of the most universally liked and well-respected pros in our East Coast surf community. He was raised in a sleepy little North Florida town called Flagler Beach by a loving, close-knit, religious family and went on to become a professional surfer, an international model for Nautica, a TV host, an Ivy League student at Columbia University in New York City, and a humanitarian, among other things. But Will's life has been far from carefree. His older brother Tommy, his best friend in the world, died suddenly and unexpectedly from an aortic aneurysm 15 years ago at the age of 24, leaving Will in a very dark place. But, out of all that hurt sprung the Tommy Tant Memorial Surf Classic: a yearly event organized each Fall by the people of Flagler Beach that's dedicated to celebrating Tommy, giving back to the community, and spreading awareness of Familial Aortic Aneurysm, the condition related to Marfan Syndrome that claimed Tommy's life. Will and his mother later found out that they each had aneurysms, and Will had to give up professional surfing for a while. But now, Will and his mother have each had life-saving open heart surgery and are recovering fully to reclaim their futures.
In all, Will has lived one hell of a story, filled with love, courage, and resilience. We never would have even been able to come close to doing it justice if he and his friends and family hadn't been willing to pour their hearts out to us like they did. We're incredibly grateful that they trusted us, and we hope that they are all satisfied with the final result they saw in the mag. Will is so loved that his family and friends had an overwhelming abundance of amazing things to say about him. We couldn't even fit it all in print. So we found a place for it in this online extension of "A Thousand Words: The Will Tant Profile." Be sure to grab a copy of the mag or check out our online viewer to read the full story.
On Will As A Person:
“Someone handed me a promo DVD for Will, and I remember distinctly after watching it, thinking that if we ever got into the position where we could sponsor anybody, that would be the guy I’d like to sponsor. He’s got a very polished style in the water, and he surfs with a maturity that’s really pleasant to watch. He’s very exciting and dynamic, and his form is very classic and beautiful. When you’re good-looking, humble, and talented, that’s hard to beat. And through lots of different situations in work and travel, he was always pleasant to be around. I can’t see anyone not wanting to associate with a guy like Will.” –Aaron Chang, renowned surf photographer, friend, and Will's former sponsor
“Will has always struck my by nature as a very real and kind person. He’s quiet, so if he ever says something, it’s going to be after thinking about it. It’s usually not shot from the hip. And he’s one of the deepest guys I know. He’s the sort of guy who you can have a three-hour conversation with about stuff that you would rarely talk about with another human.” –Matt Beacham, friend and fellow East Coast pro
“To show you how well organized Will is, he scheduled his surgery for the week of spring break so he would only miss about a week or so of actual class time. He had no intention of withdrawing from the semester and is now back and thriving. Will is an extraordinary human being who is committed to making a difference in people’s lives. He adds something very special to the intellectual discourse in the Columbia undergraduate classroom and to the life of the Columbia undergraduate community.” –Peter Awn, Dean of the Columbia University School of General Studies
On The Tommy Tant Memorial Surf Classic:
“It may sound corny, but I’d say the vibe is something along the lines of love or heart or community. It just draws such a cool crowd. It’s something special. It’s something that people look forward to and plan their vacation days around so that they can come into town for it.” –Jesse Heilman, friend and fellow North Florida pro
“After everything that happened with Tommy, the Tants could have sealed themselves off in the house and been recluses. But instead, they turned that pain into healing, and the Tommy Tant Memorial Surf Classic has become the biggest day of the year in Flagler.” –Matt Katsolis, friend, videographer, and Flagler Beach native
On Will’s operation:
“The morning of the surgery was when I lost it. I kept my composure until then, but when you watch your best friend face his own mortality, there is nothing to do except let the emotion overwhelm you.” –Matt Katsolis, friend, videographer, and Flagler Beach native