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A lifetime passion for boats and the sea

Encouraging others today to pursue their passions is a bit like Monday-morning quarterbacking for me.

Encouraging others today to pursue their passions is a bit like Monday-morning quarterbacking for me. Growing up as a "beach kid" in Chadwick Beach, N.J., I was aware of the good fortune of my youth, which I embraced with open arms, but coming of age among the lifeguard stands and rowing dories of Hankins lapstrake hulls was a privilege I did not fully appreciate until later in life.

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Beach kid, surf grom, watersports enthusiast, college-bound young man — all of these began defining the path to happiness that was to shape my future.

It was during marketing classes in college that I saw an opportunity to blend my love for the sea and surfing into a retail business, and thus Body Language surf shop was born. That was 1981, and our surf hotline, 494-SURF, became the go-to source for those focused on the soul and authenticity of our sport on Long Beach Island in New Jersey.

Twenty years later, after I had traveled to surf destinations around the globe, parenthood and other responsibilities began to take hold of my life. Having two beautiful towhead-blond daughters and witnessing an aggressive change in the surf culture, I saw a way to shift gears a bit. From building and selling surfboards to building and selling boats was a natural progression, and as a family we hardly missed a beat.

During this transition I was fortunate to become part of the Maverick, Hewes and Pathfinder group as the customer service manager. This company remains privately owned and its owner, Scott Deal, along with many members of his team, continues to set an extremely high bar while leading by example. I learned an immense amount of boatbuilding and technology, as related to our industry, from this group.

Soon life once again had me pursuing the freedom of self-employment and a change of scenery from Long Island Beach to Vero Beach, Fla., and up to Camden, Maine, combined with my newfound passion for our yachting industry. The next segment of child-raising years would include coveted positions such as Rockport, Maine, harbormaster; waterfront director at Yachting Solutions in Camden; dockmaster at Journeys End Marina in Rockland, Maine; and ultimately a private marina and boatyard of my own under the Vintage Marine Group umbrella in Tuckerton, N.J.

During all of those years I could easily count the number of days that I spent more than 10 miles from the sea, but I would be hard-pressed to even come close to counting my days on and involved with the waterfront. From Maine to Florida and back again, when salt water flows through your veins you can never be far from the sea.

I continue to pursue my passions and do my best to urge others, including my daughters, to do the same. KISS (Keep it Simple, Surfer, and Keep it Simple, Sailor — my daughters are the sailors in the family; I remain a proud owner of a classic Huckins Fairform Flyer — and KMF (Keep Moving Forward) are the little mantras I continue to try to apply to all aspects of my life.

Today finds the girls off to college and me needing a dependable source of income with benefits, which once again brings life full circle — back to the sun sand, surf and boating lifestyle of Florida’s east coast. My current position as waterfront director and harbormaster at Eau Gallie Yacht Club is a culmination of my 30-plus years of pursuing my passions and remaining connected to the sea. I am happy to be a part of the team there.

All in all, I never made a lot of money, but I have always found myself to be happy and rich in life. As we grow, we realize that we cannot put a dollar value on that.

I would encourage all adults who have an opportunity to influence the youth of today to tell them to pursue their passions. All of us who are connected to the sea can do so by practicing what we preach.

Life is an adventure. Let's all enjoy it to the fullest!

Ken Kooyenga is the waterfront director and harbormaster at Eau Gallie Yacht Club in Indian Harbour Beach, Fla.

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