[OP-ED] Yvon Chouinard is the founder of Patagonia. He’s also my ‘dirtbag’ friend.

Photo of Yvon Chouinard via Patagonia Press Release

By Tom Brokaw | New York Times

Mr. Brokaw spent more than a half century as a journalist at NBC News, including 22 years as the anchor of the “NBC Nightly News,” and is a longtime friend of Yvon Chouinard.

Yvon Chouinard still possesses, in the proud parlance of the climbing community, the “dirtbag” sensibility. In the 1960s, he lived to climb and made do selling handmade climbing gear so he could devote himself to the mountains.

Even today, at the age of 83, when he visits my wife and me in our New York City apartment, he’s likely to spread out his sleeping bag on our sofa when he retires for the night.

I know Yvon best as a rock climber, fly fisherman, family man and visionary. With a genius for invention and design, this self-taught blacksmith founded Patagonia, the outdoor clothing retailer, and turned it into a global brand. He had lots of help. The Patagonia staff brought in sophisticated merchandising techniques and new styles to go with old favorites.

For decades, Patagonia gave away 1 percent of its sales to environmental causes. Last week, Yvon announced that he, along with his wife and children, had given away the company, valued at $3 billion, to a trust and a nonprofit group. Now the company’s profits of some $100 million a year will be used to fight climate change and safeguard some of the planet’s dwindling wild places.

He explained his decision in an open letter: “If we have any hope of a thriving planet — much less a thriving business — 50 years from now, it is going to take all of us doing what we can with the resources we have.”

Yvon Chouinard has been my friend for 40 years. He has risked my life on many occasions on rambling adventures at the ends of the earth. “Just do what I tell you,” he would assure me. And believe me, I did.


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September 2022