HE REPLIED. a story about meeting Casey Neistat.

  • By Devan Swanepoel


Who is Casey Neistat?

Casey Owen Neistat is a well-known American YouTube personality with over 11 million YouTube subscribers. With over 1000 videos made, Casey is known as a filmmaker, vlogger and creative content creator. Casey’s videos are unique because of his daring, fun, inspirational and real-life, honest way of storytelling. Casey is also co-founder of the multimedia company Beme, which was later acquired by CNN in 2018. In 2019 he founded 368, a creative space for creators to collaborate and inspire.


 It was October 2013, I was working at a design studio with Patrick when a friend suggested that I check out some random guy’s YouTube Channel called ‘Casey Neistat’.

Apparently he saw one of Casey’s videos and thought I would find it interesting.

I Googled ‘Casey Neistat’ and one of the first videos I watched was the video Casey did for Nike, ’Make It Count’.

I remember being so inspired that I forced everyone in the office to huddle behind my screen where we stayed glued for the majority of the morning, completely captured by Casey’s storytelling and content.

I hadn't seen such fresh, out-of-the-box, bold and inspiring content in a long time, so I wanted to let the creator know I was super impressed. 

So, on the 1st of October 2013, I did what any other person would’ve done: I emailed Casey directly. This is the exact email:


“Hey Casey

We are a creative design studio based in the heart of Cape Town, South Africa.We really like your work.

We find your media, art and designs very creatively thought-out and we also like the raw honesty that you portray.

It’s very inspiring.

All the best, 



To be honest, I didn’t think much of the email; in fact, I still remember saying something like, “I’ll eat my hat if this guy replies… haha”.

Then, later that same day…  

“Hey I like your work too. I'm in Cape Town often, we should connect…”


Casey Neistat replied to my email. Luckily, I wasn’t wearing a hat that day ;-)


We emailed back and forth for about two months. From the 20th of December 2013 until the 4th of January 2014, Casey was staying in sunny Cape Town where he would marry his beautiful, long-term South African girlfriend, Candice Pool. (See here how Casey surprised Candice at her home in Camps Bay.)

Despite being busy with wedding arrangements, Casey still found time to join me for a hike up Lion’s Head on the 21st of December 2013.

He said he would meet me at the V&A Waterfront Aquarium at 11:30 am sharp on Saturday Morning.

It was a perfect summer’s day in Cape Town, and I will never forget sitting in my car waiting to pick up Casey himself, and wondering whether this whole thing was a prank or a Catfish-vibe. I mean, who spontaneously meets up with a stranger who lives across the planet and commits to spending more than two hours climbing a mountain with them?

Between all these thoughts, Casey appeared out of the crowd. He looked just like he does in all his videos, wearing his signature sunglasses, a grey T-shirt, black running shorts, trainers and 9K gold braces.


Me: "Mr Neistat!”

Casey: “Mr Dévan?”

Me: “Lion’s Head?!”

Casey: “Yep”

Me: “Let’s Go!”


The trip to Lion’s Head was pretty long although in theory it’s a short ride. My mind was racing with thoughts like: What should I talk about? What should I say? How’s my driving? All I managed to get out was something along the lines of: “Blah Blah, so you’re getting married?!”

By the time we got to Lion’s Head, I was calmer and about to spend at least two hours with Casey, time I could use to literally ask him anything!

We started at the base: Where he grew up, his childhood, and then things got more in depth the higher we climbed.I picked his brain about the advertising industry, his outlook on life, his boldness, how he picks himself up, creative block and his kid, Owen.

Needless to say, my time climbing a mountain with Casey was nothing short of an inspirational encounter and an absolutely unforgettable experience.

Casey oozed with possibility, and negative-talk didn’t seem to exist in his vocabulary.

I must’ve learned about a hundred life-lessons and quotes that day, one being:

“It's better to ask forgiveness than permission”

After the climb I dropped him off, thanked him for his time, and left.



Driving back home, I struggled to convince myself that this was actually real life and that what just happened actually occurred. I could’ve easily labelled that day as one of my most unforgettable, but shortly after I got home, Casey had invited me to a one-on-one sparring match the next morning at 9:30 am. We spar-bonded after that for another few days until Casey’s wedding and honeymoon.

Time went by and Casey and I kept in contact. In March of 2014 Casey came back to Cape Town to be a guest speaker at the Design Indaba. During this trip, we got to hang out again at an Eminem concert at Cape Town Stadium and at the exclusive VIP, behind-the-scenes Design Indaba after party (thanks, Casey).

In 2014, Casey had his second child, Francine, and shortly after her birth we lost contact.

Ok great dude, you got to meet Casey, whoohoo! Why am I telling you all of this? The fact is, I now know Casey Neistat personally, and he knows me.
This whole experience had me thinking: If I hadn’t sent Casey that email, would I have ever had the opportunity to meet him in person?

Looking back at this event, I can now see what an impact it had on me personally. Something happened after that meeting, personal questions were answered and thoughts were confirmed which ultimately resulted in me leaving my job at the time, selling all I had and doing the Camino de Santiago in Spain on a 4-month self discovery adventure.

I believe that in some way that meeting with Casey helped make me a bit more brave, a bit more adventurous which lead to myself and Patrick pursuing the start of WEEF and BRANDED.

I couldn't see it then, but It was all beautiful puzzle pieces coming together and all it took from my side, was one email.

I literally had nothing to lose, maybe my email would get lost in the crowd of others, maybe he wouldn’t read it, or maybe he would. In my case, he did read it and he did reply and the rest is worth writing this story about it.  I believe our lives are filled with similar opportunities just like this one, but you have to fearlessly take the first step to activate your fate.

What email are you afraid of sending? What phone call are you afraid of making? What company are you afraid of starting? Let me reassure you, sometimes the outcome is way better than you could’ve ever imagined.

Go ahead, take that leap of faith. I did, and I have this story and photo-proof ;-)

- D


Need some inspiration?

Here are some of my favourite Casey videos:



500K to 4 MILLION in 18 MONTHS

Navy Seal Commander explains why wake up at 4am



 Image sources (YouTube/ Facebook/GQ/yt3.ggpht)


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