There aren't many money managers who get stoked about ripping a point break like Sam Ballam, partner at Cooke & Bieler. In fact, there probably aren't many who know what that means. But Mr. Ballam, unlike most 50-year-olds in the industry, surfs with the passion of a grommet (young surfer).
"In many ways I have more in common with a long-haired teenage surfer than a middle-aged portfolio manager," said Mr. Ballam, who has surfed since he was 14. He surfs whenever and where ever he gets the chance, whether that means getting up at 4: 30 a.m. to surf at the nearby New Jersey shore, or grabbing a few hours on a business trip near a coast. "Surfing is a funny thing," said Mr. Ballam. "It's not for everybody, but for those that it's for, you just can't get it out of your blood."
His passion for surfing even helped shape his career. After he got his MBA at Northwestern University, he eschewed Wall Street for Waikiki Beach, where he lived, worked and surfed for five years before moving back to Philadelphia.
For his 50th birthday, his wife gave him the ultimate gift, an all-expenses-paid surfing safari to Costa Rica. A week of surfing in a world-class setting would have been enough, but Mr. Ballam and a surfing buddy got an added treat. At their hotel in Tamarind they ran into a couple of surfing greats: Robert August, co-star of the classic 1966 surfing film "The Endless Summer," and Robert "Wingnut" Weaver, star of the 1994 sequel, "The Endless Summer II".
Mr. Ballam happened to be an acquaintance of the two men, who were in Costa Rica doing a photo shoot. When they said they had two spots open on their all-day photo shoot at world-famous surf break, Ollie's Point, Mr. Ballam jumped at the chance: "It was like shooting hoops with Michael Jordan."
Not only is he an avid surfer, but he also is an avid collector of surfing memorabilia. He has one of the largest collections of surf-related books in the world, with more than 300 titles. Hanging over his head in his Philadelphia office is a handcrafted wooden surfboard designed by one of the foremost surfboard makers in the world.