10 Questions for head of Surfing Madonna Oceans Project


Robert Nichols is chairman of the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project. A native Southern California, lifelong surfer and waterman, the ocean has always been his “second home,” he said.

Before starting the nonprofit Surfing Madonna Oceans Project, he served in the U.S. Navy, then worked as a financial planner and options strategist for UBS. He has also been business development manager for Bio Hydration Research Labs, and a contract commercial pilot in Central America, South America and Indonesia. He represented the United States in the 2011 ITU Triathlon World Championships, finishing 213th in the world. “Not great, but I had a world ranking,” he said.

He has “a passion for educating our youth on ocean conservation, marine mammal safety and rescue, protecting our local coastline, brightening the lives of children with special needs through surfing and helping fellow veterans work through PTSD.”

As for the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project, he said his goal is to expand the nonprofit, “building it into an organization that can consistently create and fund projects that will have a rewarding and positive impact in people’s lives.”

What brought you to Encinitas?

After finishing my commitment in the U.S. Navy, I moved to Encinitas to take up a job with UBS. I immediately fell in love with the surf breaks, beaches, locals and food.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in Encinitas?

When you think about it, we’re pretty blessed to live where we do. I don’t really have any complaints or objections. But if I could get a wish from snapping my fingers, I’d wish for more local ocean and marine habit education programs for all ages.

Who or what inspires you?

A challenge with a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel inspires me. I love watching the light get brighter as I get closer to accomplishing the challenge I set out for.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, who (living or deceased) would you invite?

Hmmm, that’s a tough one. Well, I guess it would be best to have a good balance of conversation on all spectrums. I’d also like some questions answered at the same time, so I’d have to throw in a couple of politicians. I’d invite Jacques Cousteau, Robert Redford, Jim Gaffigan, Ronald Reagan, Boris Yeltsin, Oprah Winfrey and Anderson Cooper.

What are your favorite movies?

“Clear and Present Danger,” “The Manchurian Candidate,” “Crash,” “Excalibur,” “The English Patient” and “Along Came Polly” (my girlfriend just told me that “Along Came Polly” is a chick flick).

What is your most prized possession?

How do you answer this without sounding a bit materialistic? I can’t pick a person either because no one possesses a person. I guess when it comes right down to it, it would be my house. I’ve worked hard to purchase this house and I don’t ever plan on losing it.

What do you do for fun?

I love swimming, surfing, running, free diving and anything that involves the ocean and adrenaline.

What is it that you most dislike?

People who don’t try and give up too easily. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we just start to put one foot in front of the other and move towards our goal. So what if you fail? At least you tried. Keep trying and you might just succeed. A buddy of mine used to say, “You’ll never know until you go.”

What would be your dream vacation?

I lived off and on in Colombia and Indonesia when I was flying and had a chance to see some amazing stretches of uninhabited coastline from above. I’d love to go back and visit those places before they become resorts.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

“Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.”