MarkLives is running five extracts from Joe Public United founding partner Pepe Marais‘s first book, “Growing Greatness — A Journey Towards Personal and Business Mastery”, over the next few weeks. Here’s the third, “Nothing creates change more than an idea.”

Growing Greatness book coverby Pepe Marais (@pepemarais) It was January 1998 and I was down in Cape Town with Noel Cottrell. He had just introduced me to a young account manager from The Jupiter Drawing Room in Cape Town, a prospective business partner for our soon-to-be-created advertising agency.

We had not even agreed on a name for our business, and already I was looking into the eyes of a surfer dude across a little round table at a drinking hole called Bardelli in the Longkloof Studios. Could this be my future partner? Surfer dude shoved his hand towards me, “Howzit, I’m Gareth.”’ We shook hands and, within moments of initial chit-chat, I learned that Gareth was actually a very good surfer who was well-connected to some of the big names in Cape Town surfing. I was not sure if I wanted to ruin our new friendship so soon but, as it had become a habit by then for me to step into situations, I shared that I too loved the sea with all my heart and that we had something incredible in common. I surfed too, albeit while sitting on my arse as a paddle skier.

A smirk appeared on Gareth’s face as he almost spat out his beer in laughter. “What! You’re a ‘boatman’?” To this day, there remains an inbred hatred of paddle skiers among most surfers. My confession reminded Gareth of an ‘idiot boatman’ (the surfing slang for paddle skier) who had surfed into the harbour wall at Thermopylae a few years earlier. With some sick sense of humour, Gareth continued to tell me how this ‘idiot boatman’ wiped out on a massive wave and washed into the dolosse. He then shared how he told his friend Greg Bertish, who was in the water with him, that someone should help the poor bugger because the ‘boatman’ was surely going to drown. In his amazing story, Gareth continued to tell me how he proceeded to swim into the impact zone where the waves were pelting the ‘boatman’ into the dolosse and how he found the dude unconscious, trapped under the water. His incredible life-saving story reached a climactic ending: he pulled the unconscious ‘idiot’ out, risking his own life, and somehow managed to find a circle of red rubber pipes onto which he dragged the halfdead ‘boatman’. He explained that the guy’s face was lacerated and covered with blood and that he pushed him to calmer, deeper water, away from the breaking waves and then swam out with his own last ounce of strength to call the NSRI and an ambulance.

I was looking at Gareth in disbelief. He must have thought that I did not believe a word he was saying when, in truth, I was hanging on every word in awe. An act of God was staring me in the face. In front of me, almost three years later to the day, sat the person who had saved my life in April 1995.

When I told him so, we were not only both dumbfounded, but we instinctively knew that something far greater was at play and that we were destined to start our agency, OUR agency, together. It was a done deal. A boatman and a surfer would be partners in the stormy ocean called advertising. It was the last little push we would need to take the jump into the ice-cold abyss.

See also


Pepe Marais August 2018Pepe Marais (@pepemarais), founding partner of Joe Public United, officially launched his first book, “Growing Greatness — A Journey Towards Personal and Business Mastery”, on 27 August 2018 in Cape Town and on 29 August in Johannesburg. Filled with scribbles from the mind of an adman, the book inspires innovation, creativity and showcases the entrepreneurial spirit. Through his growing awareness of what purpose means in both business and personal terms, Pepe points the way to growing your own greatness. Published by Tracey McDonald Publishers, “Growing Greatness” is available in print and electronic format from leading bookstores.

“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.

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