Frank Chenault is a professional surfer and entrepreneur who guides Chenault Enterprises as head acquisition director. His current enterprise builds on skills he gained with the Quantum Group, where he served tower owners spanning the country and drove sustained growth. Frank Chenault’s passion for surfing extends to his teenage years, which he spent along the Central California coast. He taught himself to catch waves by paddling out each day after school and received his fair share of cuts and bruises. After a year, the hard work paid off, as he successfully caught a tube in Laguna Beach.
By his last year in high school, Mr. Chenault was among a local surf shop’s top team riders and began competing seriously. At age 20, he joined the Western Surfing Association and competed as an amateur, next to making the jump to the state championships of the United States Surfing Federation. Finishing in fourth place, he qualified for the nationals in Hawaii.
Today, Frank Chenault balances surfing and professional endeavors with a fulfilling family life that includes his daughter and her mother.
“I think he feels like he missed out on living the dream as a kid… So he’s now fifty years old and he’s trying to get back in the WSL.”
Getting older ain’t so bad.
You may pack on a few pounds, it may take a while to work out the kinks each morning, your younger sexual partners may come coupled with daddy issues- but there’s enough upside to balance out the down. Grab a little wisdom on your way to the grave, earn a little money, gain enough perspective that those crushing defeats that are part of life don’t feel quite so bad. Part of trying is failing, and failing ain’t the end.
Frank Brent Chenault was brought to my attention as the Florida Pro, a QS 1500, ran at Sebastian Inlet in mid-January. An email from Ashton hit my inbox saying something along the lines of, “There’s this random middle-aged dude surfing right now and the commentators are losing their shit over it. I gotta know more about this guy.”
Frank didn’t fare so well during the heat. It was small, blown out junk; the other competitors struggled to find opportunities for single maneuver fin blows, whitewater bonks, reverses. Not the conditions in which a grown man will fair well against youth.
Chenault’s presence grabbed my interest and some light internet stalking blew it up. Frank wasn’t some local who entered on a whim. He’s a guy in his early fifties who’s been surfing multiple QS events since the late Oughts. Chenault has a website, bigsurfrankchenault.com wherein he states, “Frank Chenault isn’t a man to be called an overachiever, it will rather be safe to say he is a man who has undoubtedly tried to make the best out of all that life has tossed his way. Frank Chenault is a professional surfer, entrepreneur, and a quantum physics researcher.”
Taken together it painted a picture of a delightful eccentric. A man who was unable to chase his dreams in youth and so decided to take a shot in his middle years. Many things that are out of reach, financially, for young men are, in fact, not so expensive once you’ve built a career and earned a little dough. I wanted to learn more about Frank and, after a bit of back and forth, was able to get him on the phone.
Frank Chenault speaks with a salesman’s cadence, delivered rapid-fire and with a confidence intended to project success without self-denigration. He comes across as self-assured, though he has a tendency to name drop, espousing the belief that, while his age is a barrier to competitive victory, his ability on board coupled with heat tactics could provide him an actual shot at success.
Chenault’s initial foray into competitive surfing began in the 80’s, when he placed fourth in the USSF State Championships, earning a spot on the national team. He followed it up with some Bud Tour events, before life got in the way. He had a daughter, needed to earn a living, and hung up his jersey. Chenault quit surfing for a period, moved to Arizona in order to be closer to his offspring, until he was able to return to the coast and return to the sport that he loves.
“One of the things that keeps me fired up and coming back is when I went up against Andy Irons. It was Halloween day, of 2009, at Sunset and there was a lot of controversy about that heat. The end result was Andy got second, I got third, Chris Foster got last, and this guy from Big Island won the heat. A lot of people came up to me and were like, ‘You won that heat. Holy shit.’
“It took them forever to announce the results and, you know, I’m not taking anything away from Andy, but I trained hard too and they gave it to Andy. It was politics. The only reason I bring this up, because god bless Andy, I loved the guy. But I knew I beat him in that heat.
“But the thing is, that’s what keeps me coming back. What happened that day is probably the biggest driving force that keeps me coming back and doing events all over the planet—to make sure I qualify for Sunset. So you can call it making up for whatever, but that’s pretty much my story in a nutshell.”
But, in the end, it doesn’t matter. We all tell ourselves stories in order to live, it’s true. And often those stories grow larger with each telling.
In his pursuit for competitive dominance, Chenault has turned to surf coach, Mike Lamm, for guidance. Lamm has worked with luminaries such as Tim and Nathaniel Curran, Lakey Peterson, Tia Blanco, and Nick Rosa. Lamm’s outlook isn’t quite as rosy as the one espoused by Chenault. But he thinks Frank has a chance to taste some success, though not on the level Frank hopes.
“Being really clear, I don’t think Frank’s dream, currently, is to win a WSL contest. He’s kind of a guy who did the amateur ranks in his twenties and then business took him away from his, let’s just say his middle life, when he felt that he really should have been training and surfing. I think he feels like he missed out on living the dream as a kid. Being on the world tour and what have you. So he’s now fifty years old and he’s trying to get back in the WSL.”
“His dream is, of course, pie-in-the-sky, to win a WSL event,” Lamm continued. “But what he’s communicated to me is that his dream to win a heat, or make a heat. To put together a really good heat against this level of competition. And after twenty-five, or thirty years of the sport advancing, he’s got to really play the game. What we’re working on is teaching him tactics. How to really organize and set up a really good surfing round. So he’s got really good tactical play. Then the next thing is his delivery on a wave. Once you catch that wave, what you’re going to deliver and throwback to a judge.
“I can’t guarantee that he’s ever going to win a WSL event. I can’t guarantee that. But what I can guarantee is that he’s going to understand his tactics beautifully, and we’re going to work on his technique. He’ll start to organize a much better round, I’m looking to reduce mistakes, so he’s not taking off on bad waves. Understanding how to play the game well.
“If he really makes beautiful tactics, really opens up and hits his level, is it an impossibility to make a heat? It’s not impossible. But, you know, I’m kind of a realist. If you’re going to Florida and it’s one foot and junky, the kids are just so fast and they’re flipping new school tricks and you just kinda go, ‘That’s not in your wheelhouse, braddah.’
“But if he gets in, you know, four or five foot surf and he really hits his level, I’m not going to tell him that his dream of making a heat here and there on the WSL is impossible.”
Is Chenault going to dial in his approach and take the ‘QS by storm? Probably not. He might make a heat or two, count it a victory, and move on with his life. But that’s the case with the vast majority of surfers. Each year the ‘QS is awash in names chasing a dream they’ll never catch. Chenault may be no different, but he’s also no worse. If anything, he stands to come out ahead of the young men destined to fail. He’s built a life and now gets to chase his dreams without worry of what comes next.
“I’m not going away, because I’m here to make a fucking statement. Those fucking judges are going to give me the goddamn scores and I’m gonna advance. I’m not here to win a title… I mean, let me rephrase that. Yes, I’m here to win a title [laughs], I would love that. I could win an event, if conditions are right and I’m able to put it together all the way through to the final. But what’s most important to me is making it through a couple fucking heats. And I’m not going away, because the fire is still there.”
To some, surfing is seen as a hobby, a favorite pastime, while to some professional surfer it is seen as a source or means to make a living but to a man like Frank Chenault, it is all of that and so many more. For a man who grew up close to the water, the waves of the ocean mean so much more to him. To Frank Chenault, surfing is a way of life.
Frank Chenault got enthralled by the ocean’s waves and beauty in his teen days. Each day after school, Frank made it an obligation to teach himself how to catch waves by paddling out each day after school and surfing just sort of grew on him. It was therefore not surprising that after Frank finished high school, he went off to pursue a career in surfing.
Frank’s career as a professional surfer kick-started when he joined the Western Surfing Association(WSA) around the age of 20. Upon joining WSA, he was privileged to compete as an amateur. This opportunity helped to show Frank’s uncanny aptness for the sport. His wonderful performance as an amateur further worn him a chance to compete at the state championships of the United States Surfing Federation.
Even though it was his first time as a competitor in the United States Surfing Federation’s state championships, Frank Chenault with his knack for the sport and a good amount of resilience, was able to earn a fourth-place ranking which further qualified him for the National Competition in Hawaii, making him one of the very few who has been known to qualify for the National Competition in their 20s.
This success could be said to be some sort of turnaround for Frank as he had to relocate to Hawaii, where he competed in a number of Hawaiian Surfing Federation events before moving back to the West Coast when he got married. Wanting to give all his best to his marriage, he took a break from surfing professionally until 2003 when he made his comeback into the world of professional surfing.
Since relaunching his professional career in 2003, he has participated in several Association of Surfing Professionals events, including a competition on the Atlantic coast of France.
For a boy who grew up so close to the water and fell in love with the water at a tender age, a boy who could patiently teach himself how to catch waves for a whole year, it isn’t really surprising to see such a boy grow up to become a man who is devoted to making a successful career out of what he loves. Frank Chenault grew up in the coast sides of West California and had his high school education at Carmel High school.
Frank always walked through the ocean when returning from school everyday and it was during one of such walks, that Frank fell irrevocably in love with the Ocean and the coast. His love for the ocean made him forsake baseball and golf (His hobbies before he discovered surfing).
Everyday after school, Frank would Paddle out into the waves on a board trying to catch a wave, he took a beating from the ocean almost every day for over a year. Instead of this to deter him, it rather further strengthened his resolution to catch waves. He stubbornly continued until he finally caught his first real wave. This determination carried him into a professional surfing career, during which he qualified for national events.
He didn’t stop at this, he further learnt how to ride tubes at Salt Creek in Laguna Beach, California, His resilience and determination coupled with his tender age caught the attention of the local surf team around Laguna Beach and he was brought him under their wing.
No sooner had he joined them, he started participating in Western Surfing Association amateur events, qualified for the United States Surfing Federation state championships and even the National Competition. All this happened in his early 20s, after which Frank Chenault took a hiatus from competitive surfing to delve into business and sustain his marriage until 2003 when he came back into the professional world of surfing.
Despite years of inactive professional surfing career, it is evident in his easy and successful comeback that he was never far away from the sport he grew up loving. Alongside reviving his Professional surfing career, Frank’s deep love for the ocean can be seen in his dedication to a voluntary organization who are concerned about oceans and water bodies.
Frank Chenault right from a tender age was able to understand that if one wants to succeed as a skillful surfer, then one shouldn’t see Surfing as a game or sport but should be taken as a habit, a way of life. He’s of the belief that Surfing has to be ingrained in one’s DNA if one is to be successful at it.
Frank Chenault didn’t just stumble on the sport, he discovered the sport in the early years of his life along Laguna Beach. Frank Chenault draws on nearly a lifetime of experience riding the waves. He fell in love with the ocean and the coast when he first moved to Big Sur, California, with his family when he was a boy. Already a baseball player and golfer, Frank Chenault taught himself to surf and began competing at the amateur level around the age of 20.
His years of acquiring skills, showmanship and intense training paid off paved Wat for him immediately. He competed as an amateur in the WSA, qualified for the United States Surfing Federation state championships where finished fourth place, which won him a ticket to the National Competition in Hawaii. This established him fully as a professional surfer.
Frank Chenault took a short break from professional Surfing and resumed back as a professional Surfer in 2003. Since his comeback, he has participated successfully in several Association of Surfing Professionals events, including a competition on the Atlantic coast of France.
In between the Year 2011 and 2018, Frank has competed in a total of 25 professional surfing event. So far in the year 2018, he has competed in four events: Sunset Open where he finished in 105th place; RonJon Quiksilver Pro, finished at the 49th place; Jack’s Surfboards Pro, 113th place and ShoeCity Pro, finishing at 73rd place .