The New Faces Revolutionizing Adventure Sports
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Meet the visionaries, gear gurus, scientists, risk-taking adventure entrepreneurs, and blessed masters of bigthink and hype who created a new world of adventure—and are taking it place we never knew it could go.
At Cloudveil they like to say, “Feel my ass.” Every year, founders Stephen Sullivan, 37, and Brian Cousins, 30, invite their sales reps to the Jackson Hole, Wyoming, headquarters for a backcountry ski outing in which Sullivan leads a strenuous slog to the top of Teton Pass. Then he pulls down his pants and brags that he’s sweat-free all under thanks to Cloudveil’s main product: soft-shell Schoeller outerwear, made from stretchable nylon that’s more breathable than waterproof shells, and more wind- and water-resistant than fleece. Cloudveil’s 1997 Serendipity jacket helped launch what is now a $3 million company with 340 dealers worldwide.
When mogul skier Mike Douglas, 32, began poaching terrain parks at Whistler Blackcomb in 1997, he learned the hard way that landing backward on square-tail skis could induce severe body-whompus. So he went to Salomon armed with his innovative design for a twin-tipped ski. The result: 1999’s Salomon Teneighty, which launched the New School movement and made skiing hip again. His latest brainstorm has just arrived: Salomon’s new Pocket Rocket, an extra-wide twin tip built for higher speeds, deeper snow, and sicker air.
Surfing pre-1985: Check the weather, drive to the break, pray for waves. Post-1985: Use Sean Collins’s pay-per-call Surfline service, which told you if there were waves. In 1995 he added Surfline.com, a $3-million-a-year business employing 20 people in Huntington Beach, California, and 50 freelance surf spotters around the world. Collins, 48, pioneered the use of weather charts, ship reports, and wave-measuring satellites to predict incoming waves to the hour. His newest service: LOLA, a pay-per-drool online forecaster that tries to nail the swells up to ten days in advance.
During hours off from his day job as a bioengineer, Ted Ayliffe, 34, became the creative wizard behind Skye Alpine, a Park City, Utah, startup that courts the growing backcountry market with its exclusive focus on telemark bindings, climbing skins, and avalanche probes. Ayliffe made his mark designing the smooth-performing Targa telemark binding for G3 (Genuine Guide Gear). At Skye, he created the cleaner, smarter, and lighter O2. He’s now working on a combination telly/randonnée step-in binding that continues the Skye revolution.
“Get rid of glare and you make things more real,” says Steve Rosenberg, 38, a world-champion sailor who left Oakley in 1999 to start Kaenon Polarized sunglasses. His bulletproof, distortion-free sports eyewear—which, thanks to a proprietary resin-based lens material, features performance-enhancing polarization—aims to bring glare-free sight to all sports and all people, and grow Kaenon beyond this year’s projected $2 million in sales. First he’s out to conquer the water: Kaenons, with five models priced from $160 to $220, already adorn the crew of the Volvo Ocean Race boat the Illbruck.
*Smartwool, Ibex & Woolrich
Wool is hot again—in a good way. Today’s Australian merino wool—same as the old merino wool, but more refined, with naturally superior thermal and antistink properties—outperforms just about every other fiber. SmartWool, Ibex, and Woolrich were canny enough to bring it to the outdoors. Now a $24 million outfit selling long johns, gloves, and clothing, SmartWool started with socks in 1995 when ski-industry lifers Peter, 55, and Patty Duke, 50, sought an end to cold feet. Ibex, a $3 million Woodstock, Vermont-based company founded by John Fernsell, 52 (an outdoor retailer turned entrepreneur), and Peter Helmetag, 52 (a mountaineer and sheep rancher), is blending wool with Lycra and Cordura to make durable apparel the performance equal of pricey synthetics. And in 2000 Woolrich—a venerable giant that has been keeping people warm since 1830—started its TechnoWool line, which offers superior insulation and moisture wicking for strenuous outdoor fun.
Chris McNamara, 23, started SuperTopo.com in Bishop, California, last year to finance his lifestyle as one of the fastest big-wall climbers on earth. For ten bucks, his Web site sells 300 downloadable pages of up-to-date, detailed information on 200 Yosemite climbing routes. McNamara runs lean and mean—$30,000 in annual revenues so far—but look for him to improve that this May with additional climbing hot spots like Utah’s Desert Tower, Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon, and Lover’s Leap in California.