Jamie O’Brien lends a helping hand amidst the SUPsquatch chaos. photo: T.Grubb

How do you get inspired? Do you attend a conference? Listen to a speech? Go surfing? We say: do it all.

You get one shot at life, so why not make each and every opportunity exceptional? At Instrument, we believe in creating transcendent experiences for our users and so does Dann Petty of Epicurrence.

Dann’s desire is to share the active lifestyles that have inspired him with other creatives. This prompted the creation of Epicurrence, a “non-conference” where the open forum of ideas, stories, unfiltered emotions (and thus, confidentiality) are paramount. The backdrop — Oahu’s North Shore, a sacred stretch of coastline that serves as a mecca for surfing’s elite — was new territory for most of this year’s attendees.

A Northshore Oahu Sunrise Surprise. photo: T.Grubb

The paradisiacal location served as a thought-provoking setting as the real magic of the event unfolds: connections over morning coffee and general stoke for the day’s activities. These were connections between speakers, moderators, attendees, design leads, agency owners and even outdoor professionals — facilitated in unusual ways. One does not see typical conference badges at Epicurrence, and conversations do not begin with the ubiquitous, “What do you do?”

Yes, we had a daily itinerary and scheduled speakers. Sure, we talked about interfaces, user experiences and typography. But Epicurrence zigs where others zag — we spoke at length about struggles with morality, purpose, resilience, successful and failed relationships, the worst trends in our community, and the most promising aspects of our culture.

Thomas Campbell mused on inspiration and his creative process as he opened the Epicurrence event. He supported his love for analog by projecting unedited footage from his upcoming surf film on an outdoor screen as The Mattson 2 played a live soundtrack, their instruments set up in the sandy backyard, while the crashing waves at Pipeline played backup. There could hardly be a more fitting way to kickoff a gathering built on the guiding premise of inspiration: where does it come from, how does one get it; what does it look like for your peers, professional athletes, and artists?

Mark Healey closed our week in similar fashion — providing a very visceral account of his goal-driven and often death-defying life as a waterman. As a big wave surfer and North Shore native, Mark can hold his breath for 6 minutes, free dive to a depth of 100+ feet, and has successfully ridden an 80 foot wave, which really puts 8 rounds of client changes into perspective.

photo: Depactus

As cultural icons, reputable watermen and other speakers addressed the topic of inspiration, a few common threads began to surface — threads of conversation familiar to the Epicurrence, No.1 South Lake Tahoe attendees:

  1. Get Active: Create stronger bonds and open minds through mutual exertion. Before discourse or a speech, do something active. Create opportunities for teams to collaborate outside of the office in immersive and physically engaging environments.
  2. Get Close & Uncomfortable: Share space with strangers and enjoy the beautiful discomfort of forced proximity. Dann and Jason Murray convinced locals to give up their fully furnished homes for the week to provide our group with six contiguous houses along Off The Wall and Banzai Pipeline.
  3. Lend support: Whether you are a partner at a major agency, the lone female in a large tech department, or a big wave surfer trying to survive a multiple wave hold-down, we are all concerned about living better lives and are all fighting personal battles. Everyone at Epicurrence, every single attendee, experienced struggles with Imposter Syndrome and feelings of inadequacy. Don’t allow your peers & coworkers to fall prey to this destructive pattern. Lift them up.
  4. Be Open & Honest: It levels the playing field. The best way to build a bond with someone is to be real: failures, fuckups and all. An often repeated mantra at this year’s event was, “We’re in the safe nest, right?”, usually followed by an genuine admonition that might get someone in hot water in the wrong company.
Bek Stone from AirBNB takes on the blood thirsty denizens of the deep with a smile. photo: D.Villarreal, Red Bull

To quote Matt Spiel from Epicurrence No.1: “It’s easy for us to stick to the safe conversations. What colors, buttons, flow, tools, billing terms, etc, we use. And while that is the common ground many of us stand on, it’s healthy to remind ourselves that there is a vast world outside of the interfaces we work on”. We walked away with a shared understanding that our world does not begin and end in the Bay Area.

We know that as creators, we can’t fix all the problems in our community immediately, but the more we share candidly, the more we inspire change. Inspired change makes us better designers, better community members and healthier humans.

We deeply enjoyed ourselves at this event and are more present because of it. Thank you to all of our new friends and all the good karma on the islands towards our host: Dann Petty.

Live Aloha,

Robin Cornuelle, Strategist + Toby Grubb, Creative Director

Read more about Epicurrence:
“Dreaming Huge, Inspiration & Adventure” by Dann Petty
“Make Me Uncomfortable” by Jessica Collier
“Epicurrence” by Dan Mall
“Aloha Epicurrence No.2” by Andrew Verboncouer
“Design Details” Live Podcast with HaraldurThorleifsson and Dustin Senos
Epicurrence No.1” by Matt Spiel
More of a Family Reunion that a Conference” by Phil Coffman
“Embracing vulnerability can make us better designers” by InVision and Stephen Olmstead
Creating a Conference: The Launch of Epicurrence by Dann Petty