This episode today is a conversation with Mitch King. The story behind this episode goes back to when COVID-19 wasn’t a thing, and when we could all travel safely and freely. And we even used to be able to make plans.
Listen to the episode here
Perhaps even more high-up than the name, Pete Gustin, is his voice. He is a voiceover actor by trade. He’s on advertisements, movie trailers, TV and radio programs all over the world. His voice is indeed a rare find, not only because of his impressive vocal range but also how well he’s able to convey emotions spot on.
Behind this enchanting voice is an inspiring backstory. Pete was diagnosed early with Macular Degeneration, which sounded like a death sentence for a child. Still, Pete had a tough determination to show the world that he can do many things despite his limitations. Life sure, became harder and harder as his vision gradually degenerated to the point of being considered as legally blind.
In this conversation, Pete relates his story of positive outlook and unwavering determination. It was not easy for him to get a job as his condition became a serious issue to prospective employers. At times, even the people he looked up to, would discourage him to the point where his determination started to dwindle. Thankfully, no one could stop him from doing what he loves and he shares how he stays amazing in his job despite the irony in his chosen profession.
Pete also speaks about his upcoming two novels and he lets us in on a little preview and background on them. Interestingly, Pete enjoys surfing, as well. On the weekends, he was out riding the waves and enjoying the California sun. His story is without a doubt, a story of defying even the impossible.
- 02:08 The Man Behind That Prominent Voice
- 09:20 The Voiceover Acting Profession
- 13:06 A Lesson for Voiceover Actors
- 17:26 The Secret Behind Voices
- 22:57 Creative Imaging
- 24:28 Pete’s Library of Sounds- Tirade Imaging
- 26:54 Catching Unseen Waves
- 34:40 Dealing with Other Surfers
- 37:54 Pete’s Upcoming Novels
Today, my guest is Michael Hamilton, who is the co-founder of Live Swell. He’s a surfer and is based in the Outer Banks USA. Michael has created a self-maintaining super host holiday rental business.
In this episode, we talked about Martin’s own journey- his sacrifices, risks, challenges, and rewards. Martin also shares with us valuable surfing techniques on: achieving balance, gaining speed especially on smaller waves, and combining manoeuvres.
Imi Barneaud: Hi everybody and welcome to The Oceanriders Podcast, conversations with creatives, entrepreneurs, thinkers and dreamers who also happen to be surfers. My podcast is all about busting the surface stereotype and discovering the exciting projects and jobs that are compatible with the surfers lifestyle. My name is Imi Barneaud and I am your host. I’m very excited today to introduce you to my guest. His name is Pete Gustin. You may not have heard his name too much, but you probably know his voice. Pete is in fact a voice-over actor. Now you can hear him on radio and TV stations all over the world’s on cartoons, adverts and even movie traders, but what’s even more amazing in Pete story is that he is legally blind. I was excited to find out more about his job and how he’s out daily shredding waves in Carlsbad, California. This is what I love about this podcast. You and I get to discover the incredible and inspiring stories of surface from around the world, each and every one of them contributing in their own way to the community. As a matter of fact, if you enjoy this podcast, you can rate it, review or subscribe to it on iTunes, or on your favorite podcast platform. Pete Gustin story is an incredible tale of abnegation, willpower, positivity, and never giving up on your dreams. So let’s find out more about Pete Gustin. Hi Pete, and welcome to The Oceanriders Podcast. How are you today?
Pete Gustin: Thanks for having me.
Imi Barneaud: It’s fantastic to talk to you. Maybe before we start, do you think you could introduce yourself to the listeners?
Pete Gustin: My name is Pete, Pete Gustin. I am relatively new to surfing. I actually just picked it up three years ago. I have a degenerative eyesight disorder. It’s generally called macular degeneration, but recently they’ve renamed it as Stargardt disease, and I’ve had it since I was born. The moment I was born, my eyesight started fading slowly at first, faster later on. And just about when I was 39 years old, I’d been living in Boston and a lot of my friends were getting ready to join their over 40 basketball leagues, or some of them are playing tennis on the weekends, and a lot of them were going out golfing, and my eyesight was just going, oh crap, I couldn’t do any of that anymore. I could barely even walk down the sidewalk without bumping into people anymore. And I decided to make a really big change in my life. I am a voice actor by trade. And you said yourself when we were talking off the air that you’d heard me, your kids had heard me. I think most people on planet earth have heard me at one point, or I do tend to take many jobs as many that come my way and that particular line of work, they prefer that I’m just in a booth by myself doing my thing. And so, I can work anywhere in the world that I want to. So before my 40th birthday I packed up my dog and my girlfriend, we sold our house in Braintree, Massachusetts where there really wasn’t much of a surfing scene because I really wanted to learn how to surf. I couldn’t see the tennis balls, and golf balls, and much of anything anymore, but I figured the oceans pretty huge. Waves are pretty big. Maybe I can learn how to surf. So I sold the house in Boston and moved out to San Diego, California. And as soon as I got myself settled, it took a few weeks to get my studio up and running. But as soon as I did, I walked down the street, bought an eight foot Catchsurf surfboard and plunked myself down in the water and forced myself to learn it.
Imi Barneaud: That’s fantastic. That’s a wonderful story. Maybe we could do is possibly rewind a bit because this whole sort of stories completely mind boggling because you are a voice-over and you are legally blind. Is that correct?
Pete Gustin: That is a little confusing. How do you read copy for a living if you can’t read? Exactly. When I very, very first started to get into the profession, I was about 18 and I had some eyesight still, and I would always try to get to auditions early and I’d carry a magnifying glass with me, like I was a cartoon inspector with my magnifier glass trying to see things. But I was really just trying to blow up the copy so I could actually see it myself. And I’d get to the audition early, and I’d use my magnifier, and I’d memorize the copy, and then I’d go in there, and I’d, you know, wouldn’t hold the paper and I’d recite the copy back. And everyone’s like: “Oh, Holy moly. He took the time to learn it. That’s great.” And I’m like, yeah, well it didn’t really have a choice. So, okay. I do remember one particular interview. I didn’t want any questions. I didn’t like being different. I didn’t like standing out and I just wanted to be one of everybody else. So a lot of times I’d go in there and pretend to read the copy. I’d hold it up in front of me and make it look like I was looking at the copy. And I remember one particular audition very early on, I quote unquote doing air quotes here, read the copy and they slated into my headphones. I’m in one booth there and another one separated by glass, and that like: “Ah, that was great. But you know, you’re holding the copy upside down and backwards, right?” It’s like: “Oh yeah, okay, sorry about that.” But yeah, it’s, so when I was 18 I could, I could read a little bit and then into my 20’s, it got pretty bad. And then as I was about 30, I was working on a computer that was a, the technology had changed. You didn’t have to go into studios as much. You could work out of your home, thanks to internet speeds and technology like we have going on here. So I was using really big fonts, 45, 50, 70 point font. I mean, you know, getting up to the size of the writing on a stop sign as big as I could get it is what I needed. And eventually, I was starting to realize this might not be something I can physically do. I had been told very early on when I was 20 by a voice-over agent, a very, very prominent voice-over agent. He said, listen, you’re not going to be able to do this. No one’s going to want to hire someone that can’t read the copy. It’s, you know, this is not for you. And it was devastating when he told me that, I mean, this was a guy at the top of the profession. I wanted to be represented by him and his agency. And he’s like, no, it’s just not gonna work. And it took me 10 years of trying to prove him wrong. When I finally started to realize he might be right, but I didn’t want to accept that. I didn’t want to not be able to do the thing I’d spent at that point about a third of my life working on and always dreamed of doing. I didn’t want my crappy eyesight to ruin that dream for me.
Imi Barneaud: Yeah.
Pete Gustin: And I kept looking for ways to figure out how to do it. And it’s actually a funny little serendipitous story that the way I came up with my technique that I use now is, I was sitting in the back seat of a car with some friends and the way that phones talk to you now, you know how you can talk to your screen and it’ll give you information back even back in. So what would it have been? Maybe 2000 or right around there, I guess maybe 2001, I was in the back seat of the car and a text message came into my phone and I had the voice-over feature enabled. Even back then, it might’ve been a little later, I’d been about 2003 or four, but at any rate, the phone says to me, you know, the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the ninth inning, score four to three walk off home run. And it says that to me and as it’s saying it, I repeat it back to my friends. I repeat exactly what the text had just said to me. And it kind of occurred to me, maybe a couple of days later, not in the moment, but I was like, Hey, that was kind of like reading copy and instead of reading it, I was getting it auditorily and I’m like, my ears work just fine. So I started thinking maybe, maybe I can do it that way. So I did. I stuck an earbud in my left ear, and I got up to my microphone, and I started making all the copy that was coming into me play through a computer voice. And it was maddening at first listening to this little robot lady just taught, you know, you’re listening to sports radio 93.7 WEEI the Dennis and Callahan morning show is one of the things that I have to read, and to have this robot just droning on in your head was completely insanity causing. But I realized, you know, that’s the only way I’m going to be able to do this. I can not see, I need to learn how to do this. And it really did take me about two years of practicing that solid everyday. Working with that system until finally to this day. Now I’m reasonably well regarded as one of the fastest in the business in terms of getting the work done. Because copy comes in, I put it into Microsoft Word, I hit go on that little robot lady, and now I treat it just as input as you would look at the words on a screen and not be distracted by, you know, it’s aerial, it’s time as new Roman, it’s Cairo, or whatever fonts, it’s just a font. So to me the audio is just an input that I use to recite back the copy that’s been given to me.
Imi Barneaud: That’s incredible. And so how do you feel when you got your first paid voice-over contract?
Pete Gustin: For years, I mean years, people always asked me that. I want to get into voice-over, I want to do that. People tell me I’ve got a great voice for radio, and I’m like, this is not one of those, you don’t walk down to the voice-over store, sign up and they give you work. I mean, it takes forever. And for those first 10 years that I was practicing and working, I mean I was contacting anybody and everybody, you know, Fred’s locksmith in the middle of Boonville, Missouri, can I read your commercials? Can I do stuff for you? And I mean, you’re just begging to let people do it, let alone get paid. And I believe, I’d always been working in radio as a production director. So I was making the sounds, I was putting the pieces together, I was picking the music and stuff like that. But reading the copy, I couldn’t get paid to do it. I just wasn’t good enough and didn’t have the resume obviously. And finally, kind of, out of nowhere, I’d been doing some advertising, some marketing and trying to get people to hire me. And it was a little station up in St. Cloud, Minnesota, a rock station called Rockin’ 101, and the guy calls me out of the blue and says he wants to put me on contract. Now I was making, I think it was a whopping $150 a month maybe, but the fact that a radio station wanted to pay me to represent their brand, and I’ve never lost this to this day, when someone wants to give me money for my voice, my personality, my sound, my style to represent them, it means so much to me because it was such a hard fight, hard, long decade, long plus fight to be able to be in that position. It means every time I get a job is I want to do a little happy dance in my studio.
Imi Barneaud: Yeah. Because you really have a complete resilience and total obligation to actually get to your goal, which is just incredible. And listening to your demos and voice-overs, I’m so happy that you’ve actually got to that goal and that you’re progressing also into the, we save a field cause you start with commercials, but what’s the kind of crème de la crème of voice-over for voice-over actors?
Pete Gustin: Tippy top end of the business is movie trailers, and some people might know the name, most people will not. But you heard his voice far more than you’ll ever heard mine, a man by the name of Don LaFontaine.
Imi Barneaud: Aha.
Pete Gustin: And they talk about the in a world voice that was Don. He was reading every single movie trailer in the 80’s and 90’s, and he was doing all sorts television shows. I mean, he was the voice of the planet for a while. And when I was, I think 19, 21, I was very, very, very first getting started. I reached out to him, I called his agent, I gave him the quick little story: “Hey, I’m a blind kid trying to get the voice-overs.” And he was the busiest voice-over guy in the world making, you know, $7 million a year doing his business. And I never thought he’d call me. I left him message with his agent on a Monday and he called me from the back of his limousine on a Tuesday and he’s like: “I’m on my way home. And a day working at the studio and I heard about your story and what do you want to ask?” I was like, Holy crap, I wasn’t ready for this. I didn’t know what the heck to do. And he actually took the time with me and gave me lessons for quite some time, but his first lesson to me, I didn’t know what to ask because people were telling me at an early age and I bought it myself. You know, I’ve got a voice for radio, and this is something that’s taken me a long time to learn, is that, if you watch TV right now, especially TV, it’s a little less this way on radio. But when you watch TV, not everybody sounds like the big radio voice. I mean, listen to the commercials and even the imaging of a lot of the more fun stations when they’re telling, you know, up next on E entertainment, it’s not the big voice all the time. It’s people that know how to act. And Don was ahead of his time. Don LaFontaine was ahead of his time because he had the big huge radio voice. But the most important thing in the world is not just to recite these words that people give you. I mean, if that was the case, you’d just let the computer do it. There’s no emotion. If all you want to do to do is convey the text, a robot could do that. Don was the first one that put into my head that voice acting is acting. I mean, it’s right there in the title and it’s something I hadn’t even considered early on because I was just trying to sound like the big guys. So it’s very first lesson to me was, he told me to recite the pledge of allegiance such that I made myself cry because the words meant so much to me. And he was giving me this advice when I was, I was either 18 or 19, I think 19 and I’m pretty immature at the time, and I was listening to him and I knew logically that he was right what he was telling me. But I’ve got this dude in the back of a limo in L A telling me to make myself cry reciting the pledge of allegiance and I was kind of laughing. I was like, I’m sure, yeah, I’ll give that a whirl. But it did stick with me, and I had, from that early age made sure to try and convey as much emotion was the point of what he was telling me of every script, every piece of script I could find. And last year, I’ve finally been able to work in movie trailers, and you know, a handful of them, and I was invited to the Voice Arts Awards in Los Angeles at the Warner Brothers lot, my girlfriend and I, and my friend Tom, we went to the event and I sat in the way, way, way back cause I was just excited to be there. I had no idea what was going to happen. But turns out I won the award for Outstanding Movie Trailer Voice Over Of The Year, and far back and had to have my girlfriend walked me down the stairs, I go tumbling down the stairs. I didn’t have a speech ready but I did. I got up there and I told the little story of Don, and what he did for me, and what he meant, and for him to have coached me at 19 years old to do movie trailers. And then at 41, I guess I was at the time to win the award for Outstanding Movie Trailer Voice Over, I mean full circle. It was mind blowing.
Imi Barneaud: Amazing. Amazing. And so, what’s really, really interesting is, so you’ve got this robotic voice in the back of your head sort of talking to you and you actually repeat everything out almost in real time. But what’s incredible in what you do is that you’re able to act it out as you’re reading it. That’s something that it must have been so difficult to actually apprehend and to learn all that time.
Pete Gustin: There were a handful of times as an adult, I guess I should be more ashamed to admit it, but I would, I would cry. I mean, I cried when that guy told me I wouldn’t get on a voice over, I cried as my eyesight was fading. There was one particular day I remember I just couldn’t see the copy anymore, and I cried a handful of times during the process of listening to that stupid robot drive me crazy because it just seemed impossible. Like, I knew how important it was to emote, and the head, this voice just droning on in my head and it was so hard. But I started to realize, I studied at Austin University, I did a lot of neuropsychology classes and I learned about the elasticity, and plasticity, and adaptability of the human brain. And I just figured I needed to give my brain the repetitions. Just like surfing, you need to get out there and get on the wave and eventually you’ll get your pop up right. I just needed to get the reps with this stupid voice and eventually I let it get about four or five seconds. Now, probably about three or four seconds ahead of me. I hit go, let it get the three seconds and then I start talking. So I’m able to process very quickly what is going to come next, if that makes sense?
Imi Barneaud: Yeah.
Pete Gustin: I can hear the next sentence and I can tell this is a heartfelt one, a hard hitting one. This is where the impact is supposed to be, and it’s all happening very, very quickly. But because I do it so much and put so much time, I mean it’s literally just practice. I personally don’t think there’s anything special. It’s just that I was one of the people that wasn’t going to take no for an answer.
Imi Barneaud: Yeah, absolutely. And so did you have to take acting classes as well to actually sort of get that feeling? Because you also do voice-overs on not only traders but like cartoons, and video games, and you’ve got all sorts of different accents, and different pitches, and things like that. So how did you actually learn to develop that skill?
Pete Gustin: I started mostly in radio because I was working at the radio station, and I started working, getting most of my work in rock and sports radio because that is, for the most part it’s how you sound. I mean especially rock, you know, Rockin’ 101, the best rock all day every day. It’s just, you know, big, hard, heavy, and the acting that you’re doing there is just showing everybody how badass you are cause a bad ass kick ass rock. But when I decided that there was more to the world than just radio and I wanted to start doing television promos, and commercials, and everything else that’s out there in the world, including the movie trailers I did, I started working with a number of coaches and that was another time, I feel like I’m just a crier now that I think about it. But I remember one coach, one of the more, well world-known, this woman travels the world and does coaching, and she was basically telling me that I was a muscle car, a revving engine was her metaphor for me, and she’s like, you need to take it way down. And I kept thinking, she’s like giving me copy to read and I don’t remember specifically, but it was something heartfelt. It was, you know, one man, one woman, a love story, and I’m still like one man, one woman, a love story. Like, I’m still like crushing it and she’s getting really frustrated with me, and I’m trying my hardest to take it down because I’ve been working for years doing rock and sports radio and it was really hard, again for my brain to understand to take it back a notch. And she got, she was super nice, but I could tell that she was very frustrated that I wasn’t getting how to emote even better than I thought I was. And I’m like, God, if I can’t turn this off, how am I going to be able to progress in my career? And I got all upset about that. And again, just started working at, it’s sitting there in my studio all day, every day, working with copy and just trying to learn how to relate to people that are listening as opposed to just, you know, barking my voice at them. But I worked with a number of coaches for a number of years. One year in particular in my career, I spent more on coaching than I did earn doing voice-over because again, it was that important to me to get to the next level. I wanted to invest everything I could into doing it.
Imi Barneaud: Yeah, that’s amazing, that’s incredible. And for example, the only experience I have seen, because in France, all the films at dub, especially kids movies, and animation movies, and things like that. And so you see these famous French actors doing the voice-overs for the American actors, and they look as if they’re having so much fun. Is it really that fun to do a cartoon voice, or to do that animation voices?
Pete Gustin: I actually do work for KISS FM, but in the voice-over we call it Keys FM in the South of France.
Imi Barneaud: Really?
Pete Gustin: So the station there, it’s me, and you made me think of it, cause you said France, and you also said dubbed movies. It’s the guy that for much of his career did the voice-over dubs for Bruce Willis movies.
Imi Barneaud: Yes.
Pete Gustin: He and I work for Keys FM in the South of France. I don’t know how they found me, but I’ve been working with them for years. But to your question, yeah, animation, I mean 95% of my work is just promoted trailer radio commercial so there’s no animation put to it. But I’ve done a handful of things, and you know, they take your voice-over, and they take your little character, and they sync up the mouth, and then they have them jumping and moving, and doing whatever. And I think that’s the coolest thing. I think that’s so much fun. It’s like, Hey, look what they drew me as, the first time I was animated. I think I was only like 29 or 30, and they animated me as a newscaster with gray wingtips, gray hair. And it was like this stodgy looking news guy. And I was like: “I’m animated. That’s awesome.” I was like: “Wait, is that how they think? I sound like an old 40 something year old man with gray hair?” And I was like, wait a minute. But it was still cool. It was really fun. I’ve been animated as an older man, I’ve been cartoon villains, I’ve been a blob, once I was a blob. And I mean, sometimes you see the speck of what they’re going to draw you as. And sometimes, I honestly don’t have time to look at all that. I just need to get going into the session. I look at it afterwards, but it’s always fun. It’s like your, it’s like Halloween trick or treating yourself. You open up the door and you’d trick or treat. Oh, that’s what they made me look like, cool.
Imi Barneaud: And so behind the scenes, is it just you and your booth when you’re doing these voice-over, or do you actually have to go to the studio, or to the radio network, or whatever to do the recordings
Pete Gustin: Alone, I’ve always got my dog in here with me. His name is super dog and I’ve had him since he was 10 weeks. He’s a Doberman and he learned early on when I’m talking to no one in his mind that’s when it’s time to be quiet. So he’s always good, he’s always quiet. But yeah, these days, they almost don’t want you coming into their offices, it’s disruptive. I mean everybody’s job these days, everybody, not just my business is just go, go, go, busy, busy, busy, nonstop. And it’s the same thing with all these, these places that are creating imaging, or making television or radios. They just want to send out the copy and have it done. You know, if I was to walk every studio and say hi to everybody, and get situated in their studio, and get the levels and everything, I mean it would take an infinite amount more time than it does for me to just plunk down in my booth and send it back to them. That’s another reason why surfing is super important to me to get out on the weekends. Cause I do spend about 9 to 10 hours a day sitting in a soundproof box with just me and a dog. So, you know, try not to get crazy in my profession. It’s a bit of a trick. So it’s nice to get out and see the world on the weekends.
Imi Barneaud: So before we sort of transitioned to surfing, I was just wanting to know what’s that creative imaging is?
Pete Gustin: I’ve been trying to explain this to my poor parents for two decades. It’s an industry term. It refers to the stuff that you hear, it’s mostly a radio term. The stuff that you hear that isn’t selling you anything. So when you’re listening to a, whats the more popular genre, I guess like top 40 or country music, you’re listening to that on the radio, you hear the music as the music, the DJs, the DJ, the commercials are the commercials, and the imaging is the stuff in between. You know, we play more nonstop hits than anyone else, you know, join us this weekend for a big party down at Owl’s, you know, stuff like that. They call that imaging because you’re creating an image of brand of the radio station. And within the industry, they say that the voice and the imaging is a subliminal means of telling people what kind of a radio station that they’re listening to. If you’re listening to a top 40 station and your voice is a guy, you know, all the hits all weekend, nonstop music, you know, it’s excites. So you subliminally think this is a fun radio station. And then if you’re listening to a country station that’s geared towards older people, it’s you know, all the best throwbacks your favorite country on country 104, when you think of that station, you think older laid back country guy. It’s what you’re supposed to think and feel about the radio station. And they can based that through the voice and the way that those pieces are made, and all that together is called the imaging.
Imi Barneaud: Excellent. And so, you’ve also started a company called TIRADE imaging? Is that correct?
Pete Gustin: For years was working with imaging work parts, which again are the noises, and sounds, and zaps, and music that you hear underneath all the voice-over and spend a lot of time. I mean you really do. People don’t think about this. You hear a little piece on the radio that goes by in five, six, seven seconds, and you know, they’re promoting the next big song, the next big artist, whatever it is in the voice-over. And there’s all these noises going on in the background. I mean people spend, they say for every 32nd promo it can take about an hour to make. And about a five or ten second promo, you can spend 10, 15, 20 minutes on it. People craft these things. You don’t just open up some program and have it magically sound that way. And it does take a lot of time. And as my days were getting busier and busier, and more jam packed, I’m like, I don’t have time to go looking through other people’s imaging libraries, trying to find the exact right sound. So what do they call it? Short term pain, long term gain. I spent a bunch of time for a number of years creating my own library so that when I go to create my own pieces, I know exactly where they are, or how they’re going to work, and you know, cause I made them.
Imi Barneaud: That’s fantastic. That’s really good. And so do you sell these library, or these databases of images, or do you keep them just for yourself?
Pete Gustin: I sell them and I also offer them, because no one’s done this before, no voice-over actor has ever created his own full library. I mean, there might be, I shouldn’t say no one, but mine’s a little more expensive than anyone else’s. And so, I basically created just for me to speed up my day, but then I decided it would be neat, you know, people in marketing might appreciate this. I thought it would be a neat add on. I always am able to market myself, you know, sign me as your voice to your station and get free access to the TIRADE imaging library. So I do have a handful of stations, a decent amount actually that will pay just to have the library. But it’s a big selling point for me to be able to offer the library along with my voice, kind of a two for one package.
Imi Barneaud: Yeah. Excellent. I guess after having spent hours, and hours, and hours on end in your booth, surfing is where you go to let off steam. So before this college reunion you decided to, you want to learn to surf. Was there somebody in particular that of encouraged you to, about surfing more than, I don’t know, ice skating, or windsurfing, or whatever. What actually, who or what inspired you to actually go surfing in the first time? For the first time.
Pete Gustin: Person really, I’d grown up as a sailor. I’ve been a competitive sailor, and again, I had better eyesight, and so when I was younger I could get out there on the water, and kind of see/feel my way around, feel the way that the water was moving in the way that the wind was blowing. And I sailed for a long time, did a lot of national competitions, won a lot of awards, and kinda, my eyesight got worse and worse, and I wasn’t able to do that anymore. But I loved being in the water. I just, I have loved the water. I used to ride jet skis when I was younger. I was a competitive swimmer right up through college, and just so many hours in a boat sailing. When I started making the plans and decisions that I wanted to get out of Boston and go to the West Coast to open up my life a little bit more and be able to do some more things. I didn’t know a single person in my entire life ever that surf, I didn’t know anybody. But I knew, growing up in Boston, growing up in the Northeast, you think Southern California, surfers. It’s something everybody in the Northeast thinks about ,and I just figured I’m decent in the water. I’ve always got a good feel for it. I want to get back in, and there’s no balls that I need to hit, and no opponents that I need to see per se, so I’m going to try that. It was really, just all in my own head. I didn’t have an inspiration for it.
Imi Barneaud: That’s amazing. And so, what did you feel when you caught your first wave? Do you remember?
Pete Gustin: My girlfriend has a picture of it. Well, she has a picture of me standing on a board, I necessarily say that I caught that way. I just went and looked at my credit card report to see when the heck I bought my first surfboard. I couldn’t remember. I ended up buying it on September 18th, 2016, is when I bought my first board. And then we have a picture on September 22nd, and it might’ve been this time I went out and I’m standing on this eight foot big yellow cat surfboard as it’s literally, like, I wouldn’t do it now. I know now, it’s a short break, but I didn’t have such a big giant board, I probably would’ve snapped it in half. But I’m standing up on the thing, I’m like 15 feet away from the shore and the board’s pointing straight down, and I’m doing this almost like walk like an Egyptian pose, if you know what I mean? I’ve got like a front hand up and the back hand pointing backwards, but I was up and she captured that on a camera and it’s actually, she turned it into a Christmas ornament, we hang it up on the tree every year. That was my first moment up on a wave. Again, I didn’t know anything about surfing. My schedule has always been so hectic. Like there’s a lot of times I’m in the water and I just have to go. I’m wearing the Apple watch and I have to run back to the studio. And so, I almost didn’t want to bother any coaches because I was afraid that I’d get out there for 20 minutes and then I have to go run back into the studio. So, I 100% taught myself. And I mean, that in the most literal sense that you could possibly imagine because I can’t even other people surf. I don’t know what they’re doing. I don’t know where they are, I don’t see how they’re operating. I literally just went out there as if I was the first person that ever did this sport and kind of learned it from scratch by myself. And I spent, Oh my God, over a year, probably 14 months, I would walk out with my board. I’d like to go at a lower tide and I’d walk out as far as I could go until I couldn’t really stand anymore. I was doing it all standing and then a wave would come, and I’d chuck it, and then I’d hop on it, and take two paddles, and you know, I was catching the whitewash and I’d ride it in, and I kinda thought that was surfing, I was having a great time. Like it was fun, I learned how to get up and pop up real quickly and ride the whitewash. And eventually my girlfriend, who had apparently been being nice for a year, she’s like, you know, the real surfers are way out there, right? I’m like, what do you mean way out, where? Like, I had no idea. And so she kind of pointed to where everybody else was and encouraged me to go out further. And I think it was, it was probably that 14 month mark, I’d moved down to a 6’4″ catch surf foam board. And at the 14 month period, it was November, I had this annuity, I think it was November 12th, 2017, I was paddling my brains out and I popped up. And the wave wasn’t big, it was probably two feet, three feet, something like that. And I popped up and crunched down in the back of the board, and I rode down the face of the wave, and you know, quickly out ran the wave, cause I didn’t know to go left or right, I was just going straight. But I had that sensation of actually getting into a wave the right way. And again it was something, I’d never seen anyone else do it. So to me it was all new, like, just an all new experience. I’m like, this is amazing. And I was, I was so hooked. It was so much fun.
Imi Barneaud: And so, how do you actually sort of tune into the movement of waves? What senses do you use to actually sort of know when the waves coming, or how to be positioned in the right place, and things like that?
Pete Gustin: So these days it’s been over, I guess just over three years of me being in the water, and the people that I’m riding with in the lineup that I get to talk to that aren’t, you know, mad at me for being the blind guy in their way. Most people are shocked with, like, I can’t believe you’ve only been doing this for three years because I do feel like I have a really good sense. For a long time I’m out there and I get right in the pocket a lot, like a lot, and I’m like, I feel like I’m just the luckiest guy in the world. I’ve told that to other surfers. I’m like, I don’t know, I feel like I’m just lucky. And a lot of guys like, no, that’s, you do it all the time, that’s not luck. I subscribe it to luck because I don’t necessarily be like I’m actively doing anything. I don’t know how to explain it. So I go out there and now I ride two boards, I ride a little 5’5″ Baked Potato from FireWire, or I ride a 6’2″ Pod Mod from channel Island. And instead of sitting up as high as I can on the board and trying to look out at the waves, I crouched down real low. Like I sit pretty low in the water, and I keep my nose pointed up so that I can turn whichever direction I kind of sense that the waves are coming. I do have enough vision. I wear a surf bucket hat and what I do is got a big brim on it. And so I put the brim real low on the horizon so that I’m blocking out as much of the sky as I can. I leave basically a sliver of sky. So I see dark, dark is the ocean, light is that sliver of sky, and when the sliver disappears that a bump. So I’ve got that visual cue for, that’s probably a wave, but then the way I sit in the water real low, it’s a hard sensation to describe. And I bet you a lot of, I’d say most surfers probably experience it but maybe just don’t pay as much attention to it as I do. It’s a bit of a sucking sensation pulling you away, and then it kind of shifts the energy of the oceans coming back towards the shore, and I really, really tune into that.
Imi Barneaud: Right.
Pete Gustin: And that’s when I know to start paddling. I do get a later jump on the wave than most people. And again this is something I didn’t know cause I’m not watching other people. But for that 14 month to 24 months, about 10 months of me learning to ride real waves. My girlfriend is like, you make life so hard on yourself out there. Because I get on waves so late that I’m just dropping. It’s like dropping into a skateboard rant for me like last minute just straight down and I still don’t really know if I come into shore and people like those are some pretty crazy drop ins you’re doing buddy. And I’m like is it? Or I don’t know. Is that just the way you’re supposed to do it? They just get a little bit of a late burst. I don’t see the wave, I know a lot of people, if I’m out in a crowd, I hear everybody start paddling one way or another, and I’m like, what are they paddling for? Everybody else can see the wave coming from so far away. And I just kind of get that last minute like, Oh crap, here it is. And I spin around and I start, when I was swimming I was a sprinter, which I think helps me out. So I just, I just get in there and just start paddling to shores as fast and as hard as I can at the last minute.
Imi Barneaud: Oh, that’s brilliant. And what kind of feedback do you get from the other surfers in the water?
Pete Gustin: It’s a total mixed bag and I wish it wasn’t, I can’t change the world and I can’t change the way people act. But God, I wish, another thing coming from Boston, and I’m sorry I’m starting on the negative side, but it’s something that’s always in the back of my mind while I’m surfing is the people that are going to be pissed that I’m not necessarily seeing them and obeying the rules, and I’m not an idiot, and I’m not a rude person. I mean, the last thing I want to do is, I mean literally the last thing I want to do, I’m more concerned when I go out there about getting in someone’s way than I am about catching my own waves. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s time and I take great, great, great efforts to be, you know, the northernmost end of the lineup, or the southernmost end the lineup and stay where I am. But there’s always, not always, most of the time there’s always one guy that’s like, Hey, A hole. And I’m like, you know, I wear a shirt, it says blind surfer on, it’s a black shirt with white writing. And I’m really trying to advertise to people that I’m not to be in the way. And I mean just, you know, like I get it cause I have learned enough. I’m not dropping in on people if I can help it. It’s mostly, like, when I’m paddling out, I can’t see where the people in the lineup are, I have no idea. They’re all the way to far away from me. And so I’m just paddling, paddling, paddling, and then all of a sudden I hear some guy screaming at me. I’m like, dude, you know, I’m sorry. And that might be a small minority of people, but I feel like there’s always one. It does kind of bum me out. It makes me be nervous. I’m not going to stop cause I love it too much and it’s too important for my own mental wellbeing to get out of this booth and to go surfing. No one’s going to make me stop. I’d say 80% of the people completely ignore me. Don’t bother talking. It’s just not that chatty here in Southern, California.
Imi Barneaud: Yeah.
Pete Gustin: I think 5% of the people are jerks. So it is a small number, but it’s something that I’m very aware of. And then I guess the other 15% of people are really nice and they’ll tell me, they’re like, it’s so inspiring to watch you. Just last weekend, I had a guy paddle out from shore, not even sure if he was there to surf, but he just came out. He’s like: “You’re awesome. I can’t even believe that you can’t see.” And I’d catch a wave and I’d paddle out, and he was waiting there for me. He’s like: “Tell me more about how you’re doing this.” And it made my day. I don’t need that at all. I’d prefer to be left alone and do my own thing. But those people, the nice ones that are excited to be out there with me, I’ve had people like, it’s an honor to share waves with you, man. And you know, I don’t, I’m just, I am nothing special at all. I’m just another guy trying to make my way out there. But when people go out of their way to be nice, or to say that they’re inspired, or having fun just being with me, or watching me, that makes my day every time.
Imi Barneaud: That’s gorgeous. Yeah, that’s really, really nice. And so what’s really amazing is that the fact that you don’t make it necessarily obvious, like, if you’ve been trying to keep people from actually seeing that you can’t see property, or you’re legally blind in everything you’ve done. And that’s a really inspiring part of your story is that you’ve tried to sort of blend in as much as possible and not impose anything on anybody, and actually sort of really, you’re crushing it, and it’s such an inspiring story. It’s just amazing. And I was just wondering what the next challenge you’ve going to put upon yourself that you want to overcome in the next few months or years.
Pete Gustin: Interestingly enough, a number of years ago, 2003 or four, I wrote a novel, and it was just to see if I could, and I’ve looked back at it over time and it was okay, it was all right. I put 86,000 words together in a row and I feel like I wrote a book. I kind of learned the skill of long-winded writing per se. Over these past few years, I’ve become a big, big, big fan of audio books.
Imi Barneaud: Of course.
Pete Gustin: I listen constantly when I’m working out, or cleaning, or having lunch. I mean, I always have an audio book and I’m a big fan, and I love listening to the voice actors that perform the stories. And I feel like I’ve always been a pretty decent writer, but I thought about it until recently. I’m like, you know what? I want to sit down and do another one. And at the start of that summer, I wrote a novel. It ended up being 96,000 words. It’s called Wish, it is ready to go. I just had it fully edited and proof, the artwork is ready for the paperback. And we’re just waiting on a couple more things. And the early feedback I’ve gotten, I’ve contacted some well known authors and people in the business, and I get this business because I’ve been through, I did voice-overs, you know, I was a beginner at voice-overs, and I stank at it for a long time and I got perspective and creativity. I knew how to evaluate it. So I’m getting a lot of really good feedback on this book, but I’m keeping it very, very in check. I think it’s still a possibility that I put it out there and people like, good effort. It’s tough, I’ve heard bands talk about this, I heard the Beastie Boys doing an interview when they were all alive, talking about when they hood out, check your head and they went to perform at Lollapalooza. They didn’t know what they were going to get booed off the stage. People were going to be psyched. And I think it’s that way for a lot of creative folks. Like I’m really, really excited about this book, and everybody in my life and people that I’ve contacted in the business are also, like, you’ve got something here. But that’s not necessarily for that small minority of people to say, that’s for the masses. So I’m really excited for that to come out. I’m so excited, in fact that, at the end of the summer I wrote another novel. So I’m going to be releasing two novels in the next two months.
Imi Barneaud: That’s amazing. That’s thrilling news. That’s incredible. And so what’s the theme of the first novel that you wrote?
Pete Gustin: Into reading, reading, I got into listening to audio books. I still talk like a sighted person. Did you see that? No I didn’t. I started listening to The Lord of the Rings books, and that genre kinda took me down the rabbit hole. It’s called fantasy, you know, creating a world that isn’t real and I really, really enjoy that. So this first, I’m actually going to call this one that’s coming out called Wish, my first novel. The first one was a first effort. This is a first novel, but it’s written from the perspective of an 18 year old girl. I was really trying to make it a challenge for myself. I want to see how hard it can be. So I wrote from the perspective on 18 year old girl, her father was a police officer, and he was shot and killed by a criminal. That was just a total lowlife, a scumbag, low man on the totem pole. Even his own criminal associates made fun of them and they were rough. So her dad was killed and she was paralyzed. And the fantasy aspect comes into play 18 months later, something I call the big flash covers the world. And it’s literally a big flash of light, and everyone’s WISH. The thing that they wish most for in the world comes true. And it was really fun exercise to explore what would happen to humanity if everyone’s real true wish came through. So the two main characters that are followed throughout the book is the guy that shot seemed to you the main character, and he’s so sick of being treated like crap by everybody in his gang. He wanted to be a very, very powerful evil bad man. And Cindy wanted revenge on him from the moment you meet her in the book, and she’s in her wheelchair, and she’s just pissed. She’s an angry, angry 18 year old girl and she wants revenge. So the book comes down basically to the old adage, they say, what is it? The unstoppable force versus the immovable object, her wishes avenge and his wishes to basically dominate the world. So the two of them kind of go at it and it was a really, really, it was for me, it was a fantasy story and people could look at it as a, you know, cartoonish kind of stuff. But for me it was a real fun exploration of people and humanity..
Imi Barneaud: Absolutely.
Pete Gustin: It was an awesome experience for me to write that one.
Imi Barneaud: Oh, you must let me know when it’s out so that we can talk about it on social media and everything, and let the listeners to find out more and get the audio book.
Pete Gustin: I told my mom, I wrote the book, and I was like: “Yeah, we’re casting for a people to read it right now.” She’s like: “Why don’t you do it?” And I’m like: “Because I’m not an 18 year old girl. I need a woman to read this book.” But the next book I wrote intentionally, I’ve never narrated anything that long before. I’m considered promo trailer voice, and you know, I speak in 10 to 32nd bursts normally. So narrating a 12 hour audiobook, this new book is slightly shorter, approximately 96,000 words. This one’s about 86,000, so it’s still going to be 11 hours of talking. But I wrote this new character in the new book kind of based on my own sarcastic, like how would I react? I couldn’t do that with Cindy cause I’m not an 18 year old girl who’s been shot, that’s not me. I was always asking what would Cindy do in this situation? Whereas this new book I’m asking, what would I do? So I wrote a lot of myself into this character, and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to narrate it myself.
Imi Barneaud: Oh excellent. Excellent. Well definitely sort of put it in, add it to the show notes once it’s available. Pete, this has been an amazing conversation and I guess we sort of arriving to the end of this wonderful chat. I just wanted, if you could answer, we’ll finish some sentences for me. They are very basic, but sometimes some great answers come out from my guests. Are you up for that?
Pete Gustin: You know, reading what’s on the page and in front of me, and having things written out for me, but I can try.
Imi Barneaud: Okay. The first sentence is I love.
Pete Gustin: Girlfriend.
Imi Barneaud: I miss.
Pete Gustin: My parents. They’re on the other side of the country. I moved away from them and I haven’t seen them in awhile.
Imi Barneaud: I wish.
Pete Gustin: Wish everybody could be nicer in the lineup.
Imi Barneaud: And I want.
Pete Gustin: I want to be better at surfing.I want to continue to go out there and get better every day.
Imi Barneaud: That’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. So, just maybe we could review how we can get a hold of you. Are you on social media? Or got a website, or something that we can actually sit to check out your work and find out more?
Pete Gustin: Anybody can remember my name, they’ll be able to find me. Cause my name is Pete Gustin, G-U-S-T-I-N. So you can go to petegustin.com. The Facebook is facebook.com/petegustin, and the Twitter is twitter.com/petegustin. So all the other Pete Gustin’s out there in the world are very upset with me because I have the market cornered on my name.
Imi Barneaud: That’s fantastic. Anyway, we’ve done it. How do you feel?
Pete Gustin: I’m sad because I’m enjoying talking to you. I wish we could talk forever. I’m gonna change my answer.
Imi Barneaud: Oh that’s so sweet. It’s been a real thrill to talk to you and actually listened to your voice, which is so soothing and also really exciting and you’ve got so many different personas out there in terms of the voices it’s just incredible. And I wish you all the best with your new books, and with your career doing the voice-overs for all these famous TV channels, and trailers, and all sorts of things like that. Thank you ever so much, Pete, for being my guest today. See you soon. Wow, that was an amazing conversation. What an inspiring guy, if you’re out on the water around Carlsbad California, look out for Pete with his blind surf lycra and his long rim tat. I’m sure he’d be thrilled if you paddled up and said hi. You can hear his voice daily on Fox news, disclaimer alert. This is a job, so don’t go out thinking that he has the same political, personal political views as his employer. And you can find photos of him on the weekly article I publish medium.com links to it’s are in the show notes. If Pete’s books are anything like his wonderful personality, I sincerely encourage you to get hold of them as soon as they come out. In any case, I’ll be updating the show notes with links to them once they come out. If you want to get hold of Pete and find out more about his incredible story, head over to his website, www.petegustin.com, and his Facebook page at Pete Gustin. The show notes of the episode with links and references are right here on your phone or on theoceanriderspodcast.com, and on medium.com. I’m currently updating my website so very soon you’ll be able to find everything in the same place. Photos of my guests, links, shownotes, and even episode transcripts. The Oceanriders Podcast is a passion project but it also needs your support and you can help me in many ways. Number one, rate, review, and subscribe to the podcast on your app. The more stars and reviews, the better ranking I get on iTunes. Number two, join the conversation. Tell your friends, your family, fellow surfers, and you can also give me a follow on Facebook at The Oceanriders Podcast, on Instagram at The Oceanriders Podcast, or on Twitter at IMI Podcast. And number three, you can join me for a chat or even sponsor my podcast. Just send me an email to email@example.com. I’d really love to hear from you. That’s housekeeping out of the way, and thank you ever so much, Pete, for being my guest and thank you for listening. Until next week, take care, have fun and enjoy the waves. Ciao.
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