Boating Industry’s 2014 Bold Moves
Fineline Industries/Centurion Boats
Talk about water sports these days, and it’s pretty much a given the conversation will turn to wake surfing. It’s the hot topic in the towboat category, and boat builders are focused on creating the best wake through a variety of new models.
That wasn’t the case just a few years ago, but Centurion founder Rick Lee has been a proponent of the sport for two decades, building the first boat designed for wake surfing in the 1990s.
“While others scoffed, Rick remained true to his mission, knowing that wake surfing would one day be wildly popular,” wrote water sports industry veteran Jim Emmons in his nomination of Lee.
Lee’s a-ha moment came in the early 1990s when he and some of his team were testing the Wave, a new wakeboarding boat on Lake Yosemite. After seeing the wake created by the boat, one of his employees (who had grown up surfing in Hawaii), thought he could surf it.
As a baby boomer, Lee found the sport attractive. It was physically easier and less punishing than wakeboarding or skiing, and the lower speeds and proximity to the boat made it possible to interact with the surfer.
“Our pursuit of a big wake for wakeboarding yielded a big wake for surfing and it was obvious to us this was going to be attractive to baby boomers and families because of the social nature of this and the low-impact nature of it,” he said.
Every major towboat manufacturer is now bragging about the quality of their wake, something many were ignoring just a few years ago. Wake surfing is now the No. 1 pastime for new buyers of towboats, and the industry has Lee to thank for that, Emmons said.
Along with the rest of the industry, Centurion/Fineline has reaped the benefits of that growth in wake surfing. First-quarter sales for Centurion were up more than 60 percent from 2013 to 2014, and production has more than doubled in the past two years.