We had the good fortune of connecting with Kevin Thornton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kevin, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Sailing to me is all about connecting with nature, exploring the surrounding waters and flirting with the endless freedom that ocean sailing has to offer. And although going for a sail can be incredibly immersive, relaxing and energizing, boat ownership comes with a lot of financial and time commitments. Renting a boat is a nice alternative to ownership, but you are solely responsible for everything and everyone on board once leaving the dock and it can be quite expensive for each outing (hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the boat size). These factors alone keep many people who may be interested in sailing on the beach longingly watching the sailboats tack back and forth along the coast.
It is with these constraints in mind that we started L.A. Sailing to provide regular, affordable access to sailing in a fun and engaging community. Our sailing club fills a gap in the market place allowing folks to enjoy all the benefits of sailing in Southern California without the financial and time commitments required for ownership. And for the past seven years we have cultivated a really fun community for people to learn the ropes, build their sailing resumes or just enjoy the therapeutic benefits of time spent on the ocean.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
L.A. Sailing is truly a unique offering when it comes to sailing in Los Angeles. Instead of pouring thousands of dollars into owning your own boat or peeling off a couple hundred bucks every time you want to get on the water, our members can enjoy all that sailing in Los Angeles has to offer for a simplified monthly fee. Our members have the option of sailing twice per month for $100 or can join up to six sails per month for $200. We handle all of the maintenance, scheduling, cleaning, etc and they can just show up for the fun part.
Our intent is to make sure each of our member’s are meeting their sailing goals, so we like to ask them when signing up to explain what they’d like to get out of their membership so we can maximize their time spent with us. For some that means they’d like to learn all the intricacies of sailing and maybe even own their own boat someday, for others it may be that they are looking for a new, fun hobby with like minded individuals or it could be that someone is just looking for a way to reconnect with nature and enjoy some ocean therapy away from the hustle and bustle of L.A.’s city life.
Whatever your sailing goals are, we’d like to think L.A. Sailing can help you reach them. We have a really supportive community in the club, so new members can engage with the more seasoned folks to share stories and help diversify the training they receive on board. We’ve learned over the years that the community we cultivate is the most crucial aspect to our success. Our members come from all different walks of life with ages ranging from their early 20’s to mid 70’s, but everyone in the club shares a passion for the ocean and are more than happy to get involved and help raise up the new crew members so everyone can have a good time on the water.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well since we love the water our itinerary may be a little biased towards life west of the 405. We are definitely starting off surfing in the morning and depending on your level of experience we can either paddle out at one of the beginner spots in north part of the bay or jump into the fray of El Porto or one of the breaks further south. Another great activity is the coastal bike path that runs from Pacific Palisades to Torrance. It’s over 20 miles long and offers everything from people watching on the Venice Boardwalk to cruising the laid back beaches of the South Bay. Obviously we’ll be taking you out for a sail, so if we are departing from Marina del Rey we’re getting food for the trip at either Taqueria Chihuahua or Mendocino Farms and if departing from Redondo we are getting subs from Mickey’s Deli in Hermosa Beach. Beers and burgers at Hinano Cafe in Venice await us after a sail in MDR, and if in King Harbor a nice stroll along the Redondo Beach Pier for seafood with a view is the move.
Now if you are here for a week and up for a three day adventure, we’re setting sail for Catalina Island. Most folks head to the only “city” on the island in Avalon, which is great for a lot of tourist activities (I’m a big fan of the mini golf course), but that’s not where we are headed. Our boat will be traveling to the backside of the island to grab a mooring in Cat Harbor. This anchorage is nestled in nicely at Two Harbors, providing ample protection from the wind and waves, allowing for a much more comfortable night’s sleep. There are countless hikes where you can enjoy breathtaking views and look for buffalo, eagles and the elusive Catalina Island Fox. Town is a 15 minute walk from the dinghy dock where you can grab some food and a couple beverages while enjoying live music most nights of the week during the summer. This is also where you can rent bikes, kayaks, SCUBA or snorkel gear to further your adventure. If your an avid “frolfer” or looking to try something new, I’d recommend checking out the disc golf course that is woven into the valley surrounding Cat Harbor. You can rent discs from the store or bring your own. The sail to and from the island is anywhere from 4-7 hours on a sailboat and usually offers great opportunities for seeing several species of dolphin and if you are lucky, a whale or two. We are blessed with abundant marine life in Los Angeles, so it’s imperative you keep your eyes peeled when on the water with us! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
L.A. Sailing wouldn’t be where it is today without our co-founder’s vision, enthusiasm and tutelage, so my shout out goes to Kevin Herink. Not only is he a skilled seaman, but his approach to instruction and providing a guiding hand with beginner’s has helped hundreds (if not thousands) of people learn how to sail and begin their respective oceanic careers. He has an enjoyable anecdote for almost every situation you can encounter on the water and his two and a half decades sailing in Los Angeles’ waters lends to unmatched experience when it comes to introducing new boaters to the sport. He not only taught me how to sail when I moved to L.A., but more importantly showed me how special sailing in our local waters is and how much fun it can be to teach others this unique skill set. Without Kevin I would never have found this passion in my life and would probably still be slowly destroying my vision (and sanity) behind a computer screen looking for more out of life.