Written by Melissa Snowden
As the sun peaks above the ocean’s horizon, it’s common to spot local pro surfer Tony Silvagni checking conditions at the various surf breaks. A long-time Pleasure Island resident, Silvagni has gained international recognition, helping Team USA win the overall gold medal in the ISA World Longboard Surfing Championship held in China back in January.
It’s one of the many accomplishments Silvagni has achieved during his twenty-five-year surfing career. His achievements were recently recognized by locals and a parade was thrown at Carolina Beach, where he was presented a key to the city.
Silvagni with his identifiable, unruly sun-bleached surfer hair and infectious smile, has an inimitable surf style and carries off difficult tricks with finesse and grace. He is so smooth as he walks the board from the tail to the nose and hangs ten, it is difficult to believe that he didn’t grow up near the ocean. He and his family moved to Kure Beach from Williamsport, Pennsylvania in 1993. They fell in love with the ocean and all that Pleasure Island had to offer and spent many memorable family vacations on the island before making Kure Beach their home.
When he was five-years-old, Silvagni’s dad pushed him into a wave on a bodyboard – he stood up, rode the wave for as long as he could and was hooked. That feeling he felt riding a wave for the first time, fueled his passion and turned it into a successful surfing career. His source of inspiration along the way was older brother Andrew Silvagni, a respected longboarder on the island who competed coast to coast, before having to step down due to Lyme disease.
Perfecting his craft and honing his skills, Silvagni began competitive surfing when he was just seven-years-old. With the full support of family behind him, he began competing up and down the east coast with the ESA (Eastern Surf Association) and the NSSA (National Scholastic Surfing Association). His mother, Barb Silvagni, dedicated most of her life to her sons’ surfing pursuits and spent countless hours traveling, taking surf photos and cheering her sons on to become world-class surfers.
At the age of sixteen, taking home a cash prize for the first time in a surfing contest, Silvagni realized that he could make a living doing what he loved most. He poured his heart and soul into surfing and traversed some of the world’s best surf breaks over several years, including Japan, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Italy, France, Australia, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Taiwan, China, Papua New Guinea and the Maldives. But of all the places he’s traveled, the surf culture of Japan and California are his favorite. “The people are so nice over in Japan,” said Silvagni. “The food is excellent, and the people are some of the most accommodating surfers in the world.” His favorite surf break, however, is in Puerto Rico and his top local surf spot is at the Hamlet Avenue access at Carolina Beach.
Longboard surfing has been gaining popularity since the early nineties, with board shapers going back to the drawing board and launching nostalgic, classic boards. A typical longboard has a single fin, a rounded nose and measures 9 to 12 feet long, providing surfers with an effortless glide and the ability to perform more daring tricks – like nose-riding, tip-riding, cross stepping, helicopters, trimming, turning and tube riding.
The surfing pro didn’t spend all of his waking moments in the ocean. Along the way, he also managed to earn a Business Marketing degree in 2012 at the Cameron School of Business, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. His education provided the foundation and motivation for several entrepreneurial pursuits which have evolved over the years. In 2008 he launched Tony Silvagni Surf School and Beach Rentals. The business has grown into a thriving venture on Pleasure Island, with a team of top-notch instructors. The school offers surf camps both private and group, surf and paddleboard lessons and kayak tours. The beach rental segment of the business offers free delivery and pick-up of all beach related gear.
Tony Silvagni is a name that is known worldwide in the surfing arena, yet, he has remained humble and serves as a role model, particularly in his own community. In 2011 he raised $13,000 by hosting a surf contest as a fundraiser to purchase lifesaving boards for the Carolina Beach and Kure Beach lifeguards. Just recently, he partnered with the Make-a-Wish foundation and helped raise $12,200 as a “celebrity bartender” at the “Wishes at Waterman’s” event at Waterman’s Brewing Company to help grant wishes to critically ill children.
When asked about his future goals, Silvagni responds, “My future goals are to grow my business, Tony Silvagni Surf school & Beach Rentals and I would love to win a world title on the WSL World Longboard Championships. This has been one of my goals for a long time.” With his unstoppable drive and energy, there is no doubt that he will continue riding the wave of success.
Tony Silvagni is sponsored by:
Hot Wax Surf Shop
Coastwalk Real Estate
Hang Ten Grill
Casa Caribe Vacation Rentals.