FORT MY­ERS WATER­MAN

Roy Massey has mas­tered the art of rid­ing the wind and waves of Gulf of Mex­ico. He's ready to share ev­ery­thing he knows.

RSWLiving - - Features - BY BROOKE MOR­TON

Roy Massey has mas­tered kitesurf­ing, pad­dle­board­ing, wind­surf­ing and more. The ex­pert talks about the world of wa­ter sports and why South­west Florida is the best place to do them all.

There are bad ad­dic­tions, and there are good ad­dic­tions—and this is def­i­nitely a good ad­dic­tion,” says Roy Massey of the water­man life­style, which, for him, means a daily fix of the Gulf of Me xico and its myr­iad in­lets and bays.

The 55-year-old owner and op­er­a­tor of Ace Per­former, a wa­ter-sports re­tail shop and in­struc­tion hub in Fort My­ers, feeds his habit with a mix of kayak­ing, pad­dle­board­ing, wind­surf­ing and kitesurf­ing, all depend­ing on how the wind is blow­ing—lit­er­ally.

“When it’s cold-front sea­son, like yes­ter­day, it gets windy and all my kitesurf­ing and wind­surf­ing friends show up,” says the tall and lean blond. “The op­po­site is true with pad­dle­board­ers and kayak­ers. They don’t like the winds. When it’s blow­ing 15 to 20 mph, they get blown all over the place.”

Ei­ther way, Massey joins in. He brings dif­fer­ent gear, but the re­sult­ing spark of plea­sure is the same.

Hear­ing the ex­cite­ment in Massey’s voice is an in­vi­ta­tion, an easy gate­way to join­ing him in his pas­sions. It’s hard to lis­ten to him with­out get­ting cu­ri­ous and per­haps even ready to try a new hobby.

To pick up a kayak or board, there are al­most no lim­i­ta­tions, even and es­pe­cially age.

“I have friends who are 80, 84 and older out on the wa­ter. The old­est guy I know who wind­surfs is 90, and the old­est guy out here who kitesurfs is 75. It’s amaz­ing to see peo­ple that age out on the wa­ter,” he says.

One of his fa­vorite cou­ples is Mag­gie and Mike, both in their 80s. To­gether, they play ten­nis most morn­ings and wind­surf most af­ter­noons. “That’s crazy! They’re do­ing it all,” he says.

How they came to like a wa­ter sports-ad­dicted life­style is how it starts for most folks.

“Peo­ple come down here and re­tire. Th­ese are some re­ally healthy peo­ple. They come into my shop and ask, ‘I can play ten­nis and golf, so can I wind­surf? Can I kitesurf?’”

And the an­swer is al­ways the same: “If you still have your brains and your body, I can teach you.”

As soon as peo­ple ex­press that in­ter­est, Massey launches them on the wa­ter as fast as he can. That’s why he strate­gi­cally placed his shop on McGre­gor Boule­vard, close to the Sani­bel Cause­way.

That patch of San Car­los Bay par­adise is one few know as well as Massey, a Fort My­ers na­tive.

As a kid, his fa­ther would bring him to the cause­way to ca­noe and kayak. Years later, at age 19, Massey started wind­surf­ing and re­al­ized how per­fect the Sani­bel Cause­way is for wind sports. “You have to go where the wind blows on shore,” he says of what makes for an ideal wind­surf­ing or kitesurf­ing spot.

His long­time cus­tomer and col­league Robert Page Hen­der­son also trea­sures the lo­ca­tion. “It’s all about ac­cess. No mat­ter which way the wind is blow­ing, you can find a good launch along the cause­way.”

He adds that along the sec­ond is­land of the cause­way, “when con­di­tions are just right—it needs to be the last hour be­fore low tide and with an east­erly wind—it is just the berries. You can get on the back­sides of the waves and ride the wave face with­out ever hav­ing to get back to wind­ward.” In other words, it’s end­less cruis­ing.

Of course, Massey ven­tures be­yond the cause­way, es­pe­cially on his days off. His pre­ferred spots are the same ones he steers his clien­tele to.

“All of the bird refuges, like the J.N. ‘Ding’ Dar­ling Wildlife Refuge, are great be­cause you can’t use a mo­tor.” Which means that non­mo­tor­ized boats have a mo­nop­oly. “You don’t have to worry about a Jet Ski mo­tor­ing through and scar­ing all the birds

and fish away. The fish­er­men love that.”

Another of Massey’s fa­vorite spots is Bunche Beach Pre­serve, a five-minute drive south from his shop. Re­ally, any­where with shal­low wa­ter, ide­ally just three or four inches deep, you’re likely to find Massey and his peo­ple.

“With places like that, noth­ing but a pad­dle­board or a kayak can have ac­cess. You’ll find spots like that all over the back bay of Sani­bel and Pine Is­land.”

Another fa­vorite is Turner Beach, just past the bridge con­nect­ing Sani­bel to Cap­tiva.

If any of th­ese ar­eas seem too great a dis­tance to pad­dle or sail to, rest easy know­ing there is a cheat. Many peo­ple take their power­boats as close as they can to a pro­tected area, then they go pad­dle and ex­plore from there. They may go to fish. Many go sim­ply to wit­ness the dol­phins, osprey and sea tur­tles. Plus, for many pad­dlers and board­ers, be­ing on the wa­ter is the best stress ther­apy there is.

If you are new to wa­ter sports, how do you know where to be­gin? “Ev­ery­body is dif­fer­ent,” says Massey of each per­son’s start­ing point af­ter walk­ing into his shop. “Some peo­ple have never been on the wa­ter much, and they typ­i­cally start with kayak­ing. See if you like that. Then, you can stand up and pad­dle, so you get more of a work­out. Plus, you see a lot more. If you can pad­dle­board, I can get you to wind­surf in an hour. Wind­surf­ing is the same work­out as pad­dle­board­ing, but us­ing the wind.” To move onto kitesurf­ing, the next step is learn­ing the kite-fly­ing skills. For Massey, it’s a nat­u­ral and easy pro­gres­sion, one that he un­der­stands clearly, thanks to decades of ex­pe­ri­ence with ev­ery sport he teaches. Teach­ing comes nat­u­rally to Massey, and it’s a source of con­stant in­spi­ra­tion for him. “That’s what I like most about teach­ing—get­ting peo­ple on the wa­ter who thought they would never be able to wind­surf or kitesurf.” Though now a big part of his day to day, teach­ing isn’t where Massey thought he would be when he started his busi­ness in 1986, shortly af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Edi­son Col­lege (now Florida South­west­ern State). At that time his sole en­deavor

was craft­ing boards. From a ware­house in Fort My­ers, he shaped wind­surf­ing boards, skim­boards and surf­boards. That lasted un­til 1995. “I re­al­ized I couldn’t make enough money to stay alive by just build­ing boards, and so I moved into teach­ing and get­ting more peo­ple on the wa­ter. I was try­ing to do ev­ery­thing, and it just didn’t work.”

Now, he isn’t just get­ting by—he’s thriv­ing in that sweet spot of joy-meets-pas­sion.

One of the unique ben­e­fits of com­ing to Massey for in­struc­tion is that he’s able to match up a new­comer with the sport that’s go­ing to be the best fit. He knows which ques­tions to ask, and how to build con­fi­dence in newer en­thu­si­asts so that they stick with the sports they’re drawn to.

Be­tween wind­surf­ing and kitesurf­ing, Massey says, “I tell most peo­ple to get into wind­surf­ing first. Kitesurf­ing has a longer wait­ing pe­riod be­tween learn­ing and ac­tu­ally rid­ing.”

Plus, wind­surf­ing is pos­si­ble un­der a wider ar­ray of wind con­di­tions.

“To kitesurf, you need at least 10 mph, oth­er­wise you are just swim­ming,” Massey says, laugh­ing the easy chuckle of a guy who’s been there and seen it all.

And he has tried it all—and mas­tered it all—but hasn’t for­got­ten his early days. The mem­o­ries keep him hum­ble, and keep the re­minders fresh as to what not to do. “Oh yeah, I got dragged across the beach a cou­ple times when I was learn­ing to kitesurf, but noth­ing se­ri­ous.”

In his teach­ing he al­ways stresses the im­por­tance of safety sys­tems. For wind­surf­ing, should rid­ers feel in dan­ger, they need only to let go of their sails. For kitesurfer­s, it’s a bit more com­pli­cated.

“You need to know where your safety sys­tems are, so if you’re by a bridge or a tree or any­thing hard, you can pull that quick re­lease,” he says, re­fer­ring to the sys­tem that de­pow­ers the kite—re­leas­ing the ten­sion that keeps the kite fly­ing. Hit the re­lease, and you’ll stop be­ing pulled, and the kite drops to the wa­ter.

It’s cer­tainly the big­gest les­son Massey em­pha­sizes when teach­ing new­bies to fly.

As much as Massey sees the value in safety, so, too, does he see the value of con­nec­tion. Of community. The work he does isn’t just about sell­ing boards or rash guards. It’s about help­ing peo­ple make new friends and about giv­ing fam­i­lies new ex­pe­ri­ences to bond over.

“I’ve had grand­par­ents come out with their kids. I get whole fam­i­lies up and wind­surf­ing in an hour. That’s re­ally cool to teach sev­eral gen­er­a­tions at once. And that’s so cool for them that they all share in the first time they wind­surf to­gether.”

Massey places no age re­stric­tions on older en­thu­si­asts seek­ing lessons, but he does limit the age of kids. “I don’t rec­om­mend teach­ing kids un­til they’re 8. Be­fore that age, they don’t have the at­ten­tion span, strength or stamina. They just don’t un­der­stand the con­cepts.”

Younger kids need not miss out, how­ever. In his for-sale and rental fleet, Massey stocks lots of “big, floaty boards that you can put the whole fam­ily on.”

Though his own kids are in col­lege now, when they were younger, he took them out on his pad­dle­boards and wind­surf­ing boards while he was at the helm. “That was the great­est thrill of my life,” he says.

For Massey and his cir­cle, the wa­ter has long meant bond­ing—and so much more. “Of course you get to see the ospreys and the tur­tles and all the an­i­mals God makes, and that brings so much joy. For oth­ers, it’s all a way to have fun, get a work­out and have some peace of mind. Th­ese sports are re­lax­ing. It’s good for the mind and the soul to be on the wa­ter.”

One look at Massey’s face and it’s clear as the Gulf wa­ter that he buys what he sells. The man has a twin­kle in his eye and an easy grin on his face. It’s no won­der that peo­ple want to know the se­cret be­hind the good life he lives.

Stop by his shop and he’ll read­ily tell you. Just don’t be sur­prised if you get hooked on what he says. Which just might be a good thing. Af­ter all, some may say the world doesn’t need more ad­dicts, but if they’re of the Roy Massey va­ri­ety, maybe that’s ex­actly what the world needs more of.

"TO KITESURF, YOU NEED AT LEAST TO 10 MPH, OTH­ER­WISE YOU ARE JUST SWIM­MING" - ROY MASSEY

| MAR/APR 2019

| MAR/APR 2019 Roy Massey rid­ing the wind at the Sani­bel Cause­way. Be­low: Wa­ter-sports en­thu­si­asts pre­pare to hit the wind and the waves of San Car­los Bay .

Wa­ter sports of all kinds are a way to en­joy South­west Florida’s nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, while get­ting a work­out and find­ing peace of mind.

The first step in learn­ing to kitesurf is mas­ter­ing kite-fly­ing skills.

Learn­ing to wind­surf usu­ally comes first in the pro­gres­sion to kitesurf­ing.

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