Meet GoPro's thrill-seeking founder Nick Woodman

Snapshot of GoPro's Nick Woodman
Snapshot of GoPro's Nick Woodman

Nick Woodman is described as a "mad billionaire," a thrill seeker who drinks Red Bull, eats McDonald's and howls his way down ski slopes.

But Woodman, who is the founder of action camera maker GoPro, also is an entrepreneur, now running one of the most popular consumer electronics companies on the planet.

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What was it like to grow up with Woodman?

I graduated from Menlo School in California with him in 1993. Recently, I asked old friends what they remember about Woodman, and what they think explains his success.

Nicholas 'Nick' Woodman, founder and chief executive officer of GoPro.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

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Our classmate Chris Clark talks about Woodman's focus and passion. In the summer between our junior and senior years, Woodman persuaded Clark to routinely get up at 5 a.m. to go surfing before heading off to their summer jobs.

Even back then, Clark says, Woodman was passionate about technology, trying to capture their surf sessions with cheap, waterproof cameras.

After college, Clark and Woodman lived together in a house in Moss Beach, California. It was there, Clark says, where Woodman put together the first prototype of what would become the GoPro camera.

Jon Fogarty, another Menlo School grad, remembers watching Woodman spend hours painstakingly putting together a model glider, which crashed on its first flight. Woodman was unfazed and went right back to work building another model.

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The lesson, Fogarty says, is that Woodman was never frightened by the threat of failure.

Now it's these same qualities — passion, determination and innovation — that GoPro investors have to believe Woodman will bring to his role as CEO.

— By CNBC's Josh Lipton