Growing Up San Diego
I was born the year that Hobie Alter and Hoyle Schweitzer invented their revolutionary sailing toys and from a very early age the Hobie Cat and Windsurfer played a major part of my life.
When I was 6 months old, my mom and dad sailed with their friends, the Churchill's, to Catalina Island, I made the passage in a small hammock, so I was told.
My earliest recollection of anything sailing was the '74 Hobie 16 Nationals on Mission Bay. The Churchill's were racing and I was given a pennant to wear and was told that it would get me all the hot dogs I could eat. Who could forget that?
The competing youth group to Girl Scouts was Blue Birds. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't a Blue Bird but my mom, aunts and grandmother were. The local Blue Birds had a trailer of sabots and an instructor and at the age of 8 I was taking sailing lessons. We didn't belong to a yacht club, so my sailing experiences were limited but my dad sailed from time to time with those same family friends on their Hobie 16 and soon I was trapped out whenever they came to town.
Have a Hobie Day
By the age of twelve I was obsessed with Hobie Catting. I could tack the jib and trap out as fast as any crew which drew the attention of a few skippers who enlisted me to race with them. I traveled all around Southern California and went to many of the regattas. We won races and I got to hang my fare share of trophies on the wall.
Windsurfing Blew Me Away
In 1981 I went to Huntington Lake to race in the Hobie event and got to see windsurfing for the first time. Some of the Hobie skippers also windsurfed and after the days racing went out and windsurfed the same course. How did they do it? I wanted to learn and up at the lake that summer I attempted. Uphaul, fall, uphaul, fall. I was worn out but not enough to give up.
In 1983, the Churchill's daughter Carrie started college and lived with us for a semester, she brought her collection of windsurfers and let me and my friend use them whenever we wanted. I had the boards, my pal had the truck, Mission Bay was 15 minutes away and that summer we spent it on the water.
The second coolest place on the planet is the Mission Bay Sport Center. Located on beautiful Mission Bay, MBSC and the Sailing Center hosted the Myers Rum Windsurfing Championships and well over 100 windsurfers from all over came to race. I wasn't good enough to race but I was knowledgeable enough to drive a mark set boat. The summer of '83 was the funnest. I was a dock boy, rigging boats, breaking down boats, and having fun on more sailing equipment than I knew what to do with. I rode my bike to work most days, a 45 minute, mostly downhill sprint away. If I worked after dark, my mom would graciously drive down to pick me up.
The following summer I took a Windsurfing Instructor Course and was one of the youngest they ever hired. I taught all summer long at the Sailing Center and got better and better on the board.
In the spring of '85 I was working at the Sailing Center's annual Swap Meet. A couple came and was asking for small sails, they talked about a very windy place near the mountains of Palm Springs. The called it 'The Ponds'.
My dock boy friends and I were intrigued enough to pool our resources to buy and borrow wave sailing equipment and venture out to check it out. We were blown away, literally and figuratively.
The Ponds were amazing, guys and gals from all over were sailing there. 20-30-40 knot warm winds and only a two hour drive from SD.
We'd never windsurfed in that much wind before and our equipment was either too large or too small. My first run there had me broad reaching into the levy, catapulting up and over, I was shaken, but now discouraged. My pal came running, asked how I was doing and quickly grabbed 'our' gear and went out to try it himself.
We sailed The Ponds for a year until the local officials got wise and kicked us all out.
Los Barrilles here I come
While working at the Hobie Sport Center in '86 I watched, on a continuous loop, a video about the Baja High Wind Championships. Pros and non-pros competing on course racing boards in the beautiful waters of Southern Baja. Over and over the video played and as the days, weeks and months passed I knew that was where I wanted to be.
I wrote and called the owners and got an interview in San Francisco. I drove up in the late summer of '87 and was hired for that coming winter and by early November I was packing my windsurfing equipment and getting ready for five months in the sun.
My future fortunes were possible by the connections I made the first winter I spent in Baja. I met the Executive Director of the Windsurfing Association, the US importer of Mistral, the windsurfing pros who came to instruct and many other influentials of the sport.
My tour of duty lasted four years. Winters in Baja, summers in the Gorge, San Francisco and traveling around as the driver for the Myers Rum Windsurfing Tour and teaching for ABK
My first summer of the tour was spent in the Gorge teaching for Big Winds where I met my soon to be best friend Daron. Daron was a young aspiring sailmaker making sails in the barn of the Wind Ranch. Daron got a job with me in Baja during my second winter and while there he built windsurfing sails in his hotel room.
After my fourth winter in Baja I decided to be a sailmaker.
If you can get it to work, you can have it
The infamous words spoken by Rich Gleason of the Mission Bay Sport Center when he showed me the Singer 107 sewing machine that was given to him years before. I took Rich up on the offer and within minutes had it working. The handful of years hanging out alongside Daron while he made sails and the sewing instruction my mom and grandmother gave me as a teen were coming to use.
I took the Singer home to my mom's house, built a table in her garage and called Daron for advice. It wasn't long until I was up and running building windsurfing sails. It was 1991.
In September of 1991 I was eager to learn more and so I applied and got a job working for North Sails One Design in San Diego. It couldn't of been a better time. The America's Cup on the new IACC boats was going on in the background, the One Design loft was building sails for the upcoming 1992 Olympics, One Design had just purchased Fisher Sails and that entire design library was being converted from hand-cut to plotter.
When NSOD owner Vince Brun was away sailing, either on Dennis Conner's boat or at one of the Star events, the ladies that did all of the sewing invited me to watch and learn and later sew. The quality of my sewing grew exponentially as I was being mentored by the pros in the loft.
Nine months passed and the summer of '92 was about to begin and I knew I didn't want to be trapped indoors. I told North I wanted to leave and on my way out the door Vince shook my hand and said, "You can come back anytime, JUST DON"T BE MY COMPETITION".
During that time the Stars and Stripes Catamaran of the '88 cup was in town and one of my windsurfing buddies was the skipper. They needed someone to sew some deck and line bags and before I knew it I was a member of the crew.
Could it get any better?
Santa Clara Point Sails was born
Well that name lasted only a few days and soon it was shrunken down to Point Sails.
My growing knowledge of sailmaking started getting noticed around Mission Bay and soon the rental fleets were lining up to have me build them new sails and do their repairs. It was great, I needed money to build the windsurfing sails I wanted to design. By 1994 the majority of windsurfing sails on the waves off San Diego's coast where built by me. I had a local clientele standing in line for whatever was coming off my table next.
Long Days Ahead
By late 1994 another round of the Americas Cup was back in San Diego and I was hired by Pact '95 Young America to be a staff sailmaker. My long time friend Tom was working there and he helped me get the job.
The hours were long and our work day started the moment the sailors got off the water. The sail designers were also the sail trimmers and every night the sails would come into the loft and we were directed to follow their disassembly orders and await their return from dinner. When they arrived back, they pulled out their notebooks, lofted out a few new curves and left us to re-assemble those very large sails.
We would work into the night, finishing in the wee hours of the morning and many times just in time for the crew to take the sails out to the boats for more testing. It was fun work while it lasted and luckily I had another prospect on the horizon.
Have another Hobie Day
My friend Matt who was previously the manager at the Hobie Sport Center was now one of the managers at Hobie Cat. He called me up one day to help out with a design issue they had with a jib. Easy cheesy and soon they called me up for more. By the spring of '95 they made me an offer I couldn't refuse and soon I was waking up at 4:30 in the morning to drive the 50 minutes north to be at work running their sail loft by 6am. Luckily it was only four days a week which gave me time to continue building windsurfing sails on a limited basis.
I worked at Hobie Cat for three years, transforming their loft from hand-cut production to a digital environment. Skills I learned a few years before while at North.
My time at Hobie was fun but by the time I had all of the sails digitized, a loft transformed and a back order list well in check it was time to move on. My future was not to be a baby sitter, I knew there was more.
I applied and received an SBA small business loan for $50k. I purchased a plotter, a few sewing machines and leased a commercial space near Mission Bay. Point Sails was official, it was 1999.
I left Hobie Cat on good terms and soon was building them some specialized sails, boat covers, harnesses and different do-dads for their catalog meanwhile building sails for the local rental fleets and fine tuning my design skills on a limited number of PHRF racing boats.
In 2001 Hobie asked me to design the sails for their new boat, The Hobie Getaway. In 2003 I became the sailmaker for International Marine and their line of sails for the West Wight Potter. It was at that point when our sails began to leave our loft in boxes, under our brand Point Sails, that the sailing blogosphere starting to take notice.
Creating a Whirlwind
In 2006 I wanted to re-define my sailmaking so I designed and developed a specialized brand exclusively for beach cats. I knew that yacht sailors and beach catters were different; they spoke a different language, sailed out of different locations and wore different clothes sailing.
After a few attempts of defining my new brand I came up with Whirlwind Sails.
Soon all I was building were sails for Hobie Cats, Prindles and Nacras. The new trend was for squarehead mainsails and fast reaching spinnakers. Most of my customers also windsurfed so it was easy for them to connect with me and my sails.
It didn't take long for the cat sailing community to catch on to Whirlwind. I was building sails and shipping them all over the world. In the beginning I built most of them myself but soon the orders exceeded my ability to produce and I set out to find an offshore builder.
After an internet search I came across China Sail Factory and their US manager Scott Steele. Scott? I knew Scott !! He was one of the pros on the Myers Rum Windsuring Tour 17 years earlier.
We reconnected, he flew out to visit and soon I was importing some of my sails from them.
When the economy tanked and Scott was left without a job he got hired on in the same capacity with Hyde Sails of the UK. Scott asked if I wanted to come along and work with him and after a weekend of thinking it over I said YES.
The Chicken Ranch
As the orders started to slow down from the Great Recession I was left to make a tough decision, try to keep it all afloat or bite the bullet and find a house where I could do everything I wanted to do. I moved the family to the outskirts of San Diego where it was less expensive, where space was more abundant and where we could raise our kids. We found a house at the bottom of a canyon, with a half acre of land and ten acres open space around us with hawks, bunnies and coyotes.
The second order of business was to raise chickens. I built a coup, visited the feed store and brought home a dozen baby chicks.
To Infinity...and beyond
My goal is to continue being the 'Best In Class' at what I do.