“What possessed you?” asked University of Virginia rowing coach Kevin Sauer in 2016, toward the end of a long conversation about the details of the outboard motor we were developing.
There are reasons we built the outboard motor we did, but the more important question is why we’re on this mission in the first place. What drives us is the opportunity to change boating for the better, to get more people out on the water, appreciating it like never before.
I grew up fishing for bass and bluegill at Lower Otay Lake, in San Diego County, California, about four miles from the Mexican border. In the hot, dry climate, the lake was an oasis, where my dad and I would sometimes fish from shore, and sometimes take a rented rowboat or outboard boat and catch bluegill to take home. Later, a friend and I would catch crawdads at the local farm pond and take them with us, to sell as bait. The San Diego lakes had recently become renowned for record bass, but we never caught much. My most vivid memories of that time are of walking around the lake, looking into the water for fish, seeing dragonflies on cattails, and struggling with a rented outboard that wouldn’t start.
Fast forward to high school, where I discovered the sport of rowing. In a quaint New England town, the river was a window onto the changing colors of the leaves, the snow falling, rising and falling tides, and ice breaking on the first row of the spring. We felt the river through all our senses, escaping the classroom to strive for perfect harmony and rhythm, sometimes distracted by the rumble of the outboard on the coach’s launch.
My love of the water and boats is far from unique. Boating has been part of human history for at least 800,000 years, since before homo sapiens. About half the US population goes out in a boat every year. It’s part of our heritage, but it has been suffering in recent years. While participation is rising, boat ownership has been declining, and the age of the average boat buyer keeps going up. People want to go out on the water, but they don’t want to own today’s boats.
This is the problem we’re trying to solve. We want to connect more people to the water they love, by making it a better experience for those who own and operate boats, and for those who share the water with them. None of today’s technologies, even electric propulsion, makes boats quiet, powerful, environmentally friendly, and affordable; therefore, new technologies must be developed.
So this is our mission: to build the technology that enables a new era in boating that is more enjoyable, accessible, and environmentally friendly than ever before.