Monday, November 22, 2010

The Early Days

I met Dave Hilts back in the late 90s through a mutual friend who was learning to surf. Dave helped him fix up an old Bing and did a great restoration job. We started going surfing together and both helped our mutual friend with the ins and out of the soup. Eventually, Dave and I became surfing pals and started going to the beach whether our friend was with us or not.

I remember Dave being very resourceful. He was always building gadgets for his truck to store surf gear and boards. I was impressed, but have never been one for having everything completely organized.

Anyway, one day in the early 2000s, Dave came up with an idea for a paddling aid that would help him with lower back pain. I didn’t pay much attention, but just kind of nodded and said “cool.”

I remember going over to his house and seeing him working in his garage with some cut-up inner tubes, hoses and valves. He had this mad scientist look on his face and looked sort of dangerous holding a glue gun. I just rolled my eyes and said “cool.”

He worked hard on the thing for more than a year, and would give me little reports about his progress. “Cool …” Then one-day I actually listened to what he was saying. Evidently, he had actually designed a proto type and had his friends at a wetsuit company build a couple.

Soon after, he was at my house and telling me how great this thing worked. He said his long-time friend Jay used it and loved it. He wanted me to try it. As I remember, I was sort slacking off going to the beach and was losing it shape wise. So I said okay, I’ll give it a try.

We went down to Little Jetty in Oceanside, and I put the thing on. He showed me how to blow it up and gave me some basic instructions. I’ll never forget that first paddle out. I jumped in the current along the jetty and stroked out. My first thought was man I’m driving a cabin cruiser.

I’ve always loved boats, and often equated paddling a surfboard to navigating a vessel. When I was a kid I thought about being on a Destroyer in heavy seas, or a PT Boat on the attack. Just a little childhood fantasy, but I still sometimes think that way. So there I was paddling out and the first thing that comes to mind is “I on a cabin cruiser!

It was so comfortable, and it really did help me paddle. I was amazed. No, I was really amazed. Not only did he come up with a great idea, but he actually followed it through, and the thing worked!
I was an immediate convert.

Dave and PaddleAir have come a long way since that day, and I for one am really proud of what he has accomplished with the product. It was no easy task, but one well worth the journey for him. So Dave, to you I say … ”Cool.”

 -- posted by Herb Torrens

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