STICK, SALES, AND SAILS: Wind & Wave isn’t your typical windsurfing store. Talk shop while shooting pool or simply get an honest opinion while browsing the racks. Hill strong arms Tony Ramos, whose job it is to fill his shoes and manage the shop while Hill escapes for a day of sailing.
In the spring of ‘93 I returned to LA from an extended job in Key West where I had converted to the religion of windsurfing. Desperately in need of a congregation, I searched the LA area looking for that special shop where I would meet my new windsurfing buddies. A shop where we would gather on Sunday mornings, when the wind wasn’t howling, to feed our souls and pay homage to row upon row of epoxy monoliths awaiting baptism.
At the beaches I frequented, I would ask the other searchers if they knew of such a place. They would laugh and grin and not believe that yet another one was still naive enough to still be in search of the grail. It was grim. Windsurfing in LA seemed to be something that people did in secret, kind of like trying to practice Christianity in the shadow of the hammer and sickle. At last, one day as a good blow was ebbing at Leo Carillo, one man said “Ahhh…seeker…I think…I think you should meet Paul Hill.”
Posing in front of his shop “Wind & Wave”, Paul Hill has single handedly changed the complexion of the sport.
“Purveyors of high quality toys for perpetual adolescents,” said the sign at the shop entrance, and just past the sign, was the purveyor himself. “Kind of funny looking for a guru,” I thought. The first thing I noticed about him was that he said “eh” a lot and that he had a red maple leaf tattooed to his biceps. He also used words like rad and dude, didge (a word that means money), and groms (which means kids, derived from grommets but how that crosses the bridge to kids is beyond me).
This made me worry that he identified too much with a generation that I feared had chosen all the wrong role models. Not withstanding the aforementioned detractors, he knew his ship. We had just met and already he was inviting me to go windsurfing with him on the following weekend, which I did. There, I observed Paul Hill on the water in a dry t-shirt jibing around me and about a half dozen other sailors, the self-appointed coach to the recently baptized.
That was two years ago. Since then, Paul’s enthusiasm has only increased. He is constantly organizing clinics for men and women on the water and in his shop, all which are free of charge. His annual women’s clinic is now a nationally revered event, complete with board valets and rigging slaves. Two years ago, aside from donating a lot of equipment, he threw in a male stripper to help the under experienced ladies come out of their jibes. For the clinic this year, in his “never do anything the same as it has always been done” attitude, he bought a piñata. Much to his dismay, the piñata was not anatomically correct. No worries, Paul found some epoxy and affixed a dow between the piñata’s hind thighs. The ladies, while blindfolded, each got two whacks at the wooden member. Thinking that the joy of pugilling a male apparatus might not in itself prove to be enough motivation for the event, Paul organized several sponsors – Viasa Airlines, Hotel California, and Margarita High Wind Center, who provided a Margarita dream vacation for two, complete with equipment, for the lady whose blow cleared the unit from its temporary paper mache and cardboard home. Apparently Paul Hill knows epoxy and woodies. The brave little dow lasted through forty women before falling victim to Jean Eis, in a single whack.
Paul has competed five times in the Nationals, finishing respectably. Last year, crediting a new carbon fin, he took sixth place. His on the water enthusiasm for the sport and his up to the minute knowledge of equipment, make him perhaps the finest “purveyor of toys” that can be imagined. His first goal in his promotion of the sport is that people have fun. This is facilitated by what he calls “good borderline clean fun”. The aforementioned event at the women’s clinic is only one of dozens of ideas he has come up with to add to the joy of the sport itself. I personally partook in the finals of a beer chugging contest that was held in lieu of a race that was cancelled due to no wind. Grand Prize? A brand new carbon boom. In the finals I was disqualified for leakage. I still contest to this day that it was saliva on my chin and not beer.
His second goal in purveying to perpetual adolescents is to always be honest and give the best advice. His third goal is to make damn sure that the equipment is comfortable and has the best range for the particular windrider who’s going to be using it. Whether you’re fast, slow, big, or beginning, your interest and questions are as important as the next windsurfer’s and in Paul’s mind, (if that’s not an oxymoron) that importance is extreme, or nuclear, or rad, or something…only Paul would know. The attitude at Paul’s place is simply, “If you have, or even think that someday you might have the faintest glimmer of an interest in windsurfing, you’re welcome here.” Paul doesn’t equivocate at all about the fact that LA is home and he is making a home for windsurfers. That is just why he’s here and what he’s going to continue to do. He started his shop three years ago when everyone told him that windsurfing was a declining sport. Paul knew differently. “Someone needs to approach and organize this sport around fun.” This is what he has done and consequently his business is booming. He recently had to move to a building five times bigger than his old one.
He is also doing everything that he can to develop other places in the country where windsurfers can congregate with as much fun as they are doing now in LA. Aside from being on the Board of Directors as the retail rep at AWIA, (American Windsurfing Industries Association) he is also the chairman of a subcommittee of the AWIA that is in charge of the promotion and development of windsurfing schools. Anyone who wants to can call AWIA and receive a packet of information and their assistance to organize and set up a school.
Paul is a much busier man than he was two years ago, but will always return a call or find the time to answer questions. And if he’s away, on the water having fun himself, his faithful assistant Tony Ramos is on the job. He has in three short years built a home for LA Windsurfers.
On Pico Street in West LA, there’s a very interesting feature to the building where Paul’s first store was. (His new shop is just a couple of blocks down from the old one) The previous owner or original builder made the corner that Paul’s single story shop was on, a two story lighthouse. You think about a lighthouse, what it is— a beacon for sailors, to keep them safe so they find their course. Prior to Paul renting the space, it had been empty for years. This lighthouse sat unattended waiting for someone to make it a landmark once again. Wind & Wave, that’s Paul’s lighthouse. He lit it with his passion for this sport, so other sailors like himself can find the way.
Aside from thinking up new column ideas for AW, Brian Thompson is a talented actor who has been known to disappear for weeks on end for serious acting jobs. Paul Hill is especially proud of Brian’s extended trip into deep space nine as a Klingon in the Star Trek television series.