Blog | Radical Dreams



Radical Dreams



My next interview is with Neil Pearlberg, a journalist/surfer/paddle board instructor/radio show host in Santa Cruz, California. I met Neil through John Mel, owner of Freeline Design Surf Shop. After the senseless shootings of two deputies in Santa Cruz, Neil and I sat down to discuss the violence in Santa Cruz, the drug culture in the surf community, and how my novel Out of Breath highlighted some of these issues. Neil wrote an article about this in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, weaving in my passion to reach others through Out of Breath (thank you, Neil!).

At the time, Neil’s column at the Sentinel, Perfect Write, was wrapping up. He’d been writing an upbeat column with a feel-good platform about Santa Cruz, the UC Santa Cruz, tourism, waves, skateboarding, and surfing. He didn’t shy away from difficult subjects, though, highlighting the drug culture that pervades the surfing community, and how individuals such as pro-surfer, Anthony Ruffo, sought to redeem himself and impact his peers and youth in the surf community after his incarceration and subsequent release.

A former commercial real estate agent turned journalist, Neil had a vision of hosting a radio show at local radio station, KCSO, an independently owned station that has been operating since 1947.
“People in Santa Cruz are born with a skateboard in one hand and a surfboard in the other. There are a plethora of topics due to the inventive nature of people in town, from crafting wooden surfboards to professional surfers,” Neil shared, wanting to showcase people he interviewed over his history with the Sentinel. He pitched the idea of his radio show to KSCO, and in March of 2013, his dream was realized, giving birth to a weekly Tuesday night slot from 7-8 p.m. titled Off The Lip Radio.

Thank you, Neil, for joining me on my blog. Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I’m from Brighton, England. I visited California in 1980, drawn to the beach and nice weather, and never went back. Before writing and radio, I did commercial real estate and coached high school surfing and soccer teams. I kept a blog about surfing, but felt that it was incredible that in a surf town, there was little written in our local paper, The Sentinel, about surfing. I met with the people at the Sentinel about this, and they offered me a column that I thought would run for a few months. Instead, it lasted for five years. I have hundreds of hours of interviews, and thank the Sentinel for the opportunity to meet and become friends with amazing people such as, Doug Haut, Johnny Rice, the Mel family, Jim Phillips, designer of Santa Cruz “Red Dot” logo and his infamous Screaming Hand, Shawn Thomson, world champion in surfing, originally from South Africa who wrote the movie Busting Down the Door, and Genie O’Mally, of Clear Mind and Healthy Planet who believes that Santa Cruz has worst methamphetamine culture in her travels all over world.

How do you feel life has shifted for you since the inception of Off The Lip Radio?
My life feels less complicated, and my quality of life is higher. I’ve found a way to earn income while enjoying myself and pursuing my passion. I love the exhilaration of face-to-face interviews that get you closer and next to the person. While we strive to keep it light on the show, and there’s lots of laughter on the set, I can ask hard questions to mayor Hilary Bryant such as, “Why did I find a needle on the beach?” I’ve covered everything from meth to Mavericks.

Neil with co-host Terry Campion and Santa Cruz Mayor Hilary Bryant

Neil with co-host Terry Campion and Santa Cruz Mayor Hilary Bryant

You mentioned in our time together the amount of laughter on the set…want to share?
We have sponsors that support the show, such as Chill Out Café on 41st Avenue, and my co-host, Terry Campion, and I arrange all the advertisements for our sponsors. We do the show live, so whatever we’re doing goes on the air. These have been so great, and this has unleashed a lot of creativity in me as I set these ads to music. But, there’ve been moments where we can’t contain our laughter as we make blunders, and reach for the silence button to regain our composure. {My note: I imagine it’s a lot like trying to not laugh in church, and the harder you try, the more you want to laugh!}

You’re also well known around the Santa Cruz area for your paddle boarding and yoga classes on paddleboards.
Yeah. I have a stand up paddleboard program (H2OYOGA) at Simpkins swim center so that people can be relaxed, warm, and not have to worry about safety issues that arise in the ocean. It’s a way to enjoy the California dream of living outdoors in the surf and being in shape.

Neil, your life sounds blissful, and you are truly living the California dream! I enjoyed our time together.
You can catch Neil’s show “Off the Lip Radio Show” every Tuesday night on KCSO radio from 7-8 pm, or listen online at or listen to the Podcast on the Off the Lip Radio Show Facebook Page.


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