Sunday, October 10, 2010

David Wells launched his new website early this year. He writes, "Waterhound is a Global Water Sports information and entertainment website dedicated to preserving and enhancing the waterman lifestyle." His multi watersports approach is different and unique for the U.S. This website explores new synergys of community, promotion and cross pollination.
DaNews thanks David for taking the time to do this interview.

Let's start with some traditional background questions: Married? Family? How long have you lived in San Francisco? Schooling? How old? Etc.?

I was born and raised in the Bay Area mostly on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge, in Marin County, but have called San Francisco proper my home for the last twenty years; always living within a mile or so away from Crissy Field’s east beach. Since I have a rule of never driving away from wind, and Crissy is almost always windy, that’s where you find me most often. Tomorrow is my birthday (Oct 10) and I am 41 years old on the outside but 14 on the inside. I have an awesome wife of 10 years and am blessed with a 5 ½ year old little girl who is the light of my life!

You've started a website about water sports. I'm pretty sure you windsurf and race Formula. Tell us about your windsurfing passion, how you came to the sport, when and where. Are you fluent in any other water sports?

I started windsurfing in 1979. My dad used to run a Sun Tan Lotion company that sponsored a Pan Am Windsurfing Racing Team. At the end of one season we got the teams old boards. What I wouldn’t give to still have them. They were absolute works of art with airbrushed naked Hawaiian ladies on the bottom. We took the boards down to the local shop and traded them for two complete windsurfing set ups. We used to take family vacations in the delta every year and it was there I experienced my first sensation of popping on to a plane. I will never forget the exhilaration of this massive board flying across the water I was hooked.  Although I love windsurfing I consider myself first a sailor. Windsurfing and Kiteboarding to me are just derivations of sailing. I started sailing dinghy’s as part of a yacht club run junior sailing program and some day hope to have the cash flow to own a sailboat – Cal 40 to be exact. Doing the Trans Pac on my own Cal 40 is high on my bucket list right behind the HiHo. As for other water sports I have been surfing for just as long as I have been windsurfing but always found windsurfing to just be more fun – more continuous action – and loved the jumping aspect of it. 

I started SUPing about 3 years ago and have become completely addicted. I like both flat-water paddling and SUP surfing and now will only prone surf if it’s barreling 8-10 ft or bigger. Kiteboarding is on my list of things to do. But my garage and van are completely overflowing with toys and I am pushing my wife’s tolerance and until she gets a new car it’s not gonna happen. It’s only a matter of time though. My philosophy for water sports is what I call the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ approach. The conditions dictate which blade (sport) to pull out.
How would you describe your website, Waterhound? Walk us through how the idea came about, all the way to your first day of operation. It's got a great name. Where did that come from?

Waterhound is purely a result of my solving a personal problem and trying to help grow event participation. I was finding myself subscribed to 10 newsletters and following umpteen blogs and it was just a hassle. I thought “wouldn’t it be nice if there was just one place for me to go?” Since I love all the sports, and I was already going to all these places, it was just one more step to put them all in one place. On the second front I felt it was really a shame how poor the information flow was surrounding local events. Out here in the Bay Area we have some of the World’s top Kiteboarders and Windsurfers but the event coverage was literally nil. I thought to myself that it would really help grow participation if we really covered these events like the local papers cover the pro games. So that’s what I try to do. One of my biggest compliments of all time came in an iWindsurf thread from some guys in SoCal who, after reading my Windsurfing race reports, told me it had reignited their stoke and they were going to start racing again! I blushed at my monitor. I’ll touch on why I think events and/or racing/competition are so important in a later question. The name actually came from an iterative brain storm and a few beers. It actually started out as Rover Water Sports. The whole idea came from a chance reading of the incredible maritime history of the Newfoundland dog. I was blown away by this literal waterman’s dog and how it embodied all the good things about the waterman in a symbolic and very cute animal. Essentially what the St Bernard is to snow the Newf is to water.  Back to the beers and some godaddy domain searching and Waterhound was born. 

Is Waterhound a full time job? Do you make money doing Waterhound?

By trade I am a web developer so Waterhound serves a second purpose beyond giving me my water sports fix. It also serves as a showcase for all the various elements that a website can operate. That’s why it’s so big and chock full of so many things. Video, Photos, Calendars, Social networking etc. The site does make money in that my hosting fees are paid and all the hard dollar expenses are recovered but it’s not real money. It does however generate quite a few leads for my website development business so I guess in that respect it does.

You live in a water sports rich area, San Francisco. Does your locale factor in the focus of your reporting?

Yes and no. Given my focus on the local events it’s a definite yes but I try to give the site what I call a global coverage with a North American focus. What I really love is seeing a local Cal Cup Windsurfing story right next to a PWA story on my front page! That’s what it’s all about for me on the local level. Elevating the local events with the goal of growing participation in them.

Did you build your website? Nerd us up a little with some website building talk and how you were capable of doing such a thing.

I built the whole thing all by my lonesome. About 3 years ago I was blown away by what I saw as a major revolution in the way websites are built. Historically individual HTML pages were built and linked together but the advent of the Content Management System (CMS) in my opinion was going to completely turn that in to an antiquated past time and I saw the opportunity to be a part of it. After a deep review of all the CMS options (Drupal, Wordpress, etc) I settled on Joomla and am glad I did. It’s an amazing tool with an incredibly rich community behind it. My clients are blown away but I am delivering to them in look and functionality for a fraction of what they think it would cost. Joomla also gives the clients the ability to run a lot of the site without the need for a developer. While at first glance that might not seem like the best business model for me it generates a lot of referrals.
Reporting on almost every water sport seems ambitious. Do you give equal time to them all or do you favor some more than others?

Basically, Surfing and Sailing are pretty well covered so on Waterhound they are a bit of the red headed step children. In those areas I am pretty much just a content aggregator as the industry is already pretty well served. I really focus my energy on Windsurfing, Kitesurfing, and Paddling where I see a big gap in the coverage. In the paddling space I emphasize SUP, Paddleboard, Outrigger and Surfski paddling. Occasionally Kayaking, Canoeing and white water makes it in there when it’s warranted. The focus across all the sports is on the People and the Events. While I have a gear section for all it’s definitely a second, ok a third tier effort. Because it’s so much content my 3 times a week newsletter is something I am really quite proud of. It’s like getting the water sports world summarized to your inbox in a digestible format. 

What music would be playing in your head, on the water, when you're in the zone?

Lately it’s the Fresh Beat Band. That’s my daughter’s favorite and she has it on continuous repeat in every audio device we own. I wish I could shake it but it’s like a cranial audio tattoo! Left to my own devices my favorite bands are Midnight Oil, Bob Marley, Steel Pulse, and lately The Killers.

Favorite post sesh food?   Hops and Barley.

Top 3 water sports you most admire.

Small Boat Dinghy Sailors, Windsurfers, Kiteboarders.

How important is news reporting to water sports?

Mainly it’s just entertainment. However with respect to racing and events it’s pretty important. For every racer you build it’s my opinion you influence 10 people in their circle to consider the sport recreationally. In other words it’s a growth multiplier. To me racing and competing does two things that are important. It progresses the level of ability in the sport and it results in significant improvements in the equipment. Both of which benefit the sport as a whole at least that’s my 2 cents.

Your favorite windsurfing media outlet?

It’s the French site the Windsurf Journal. These guys just seem to be on the same page as me. While they have a different level of focus it’s just a great site.  

Your favorite blog, other than this one?

I get to choose two – First its Beej over at the Beach Telegraph for his great news, industry, event coverage in a quick easy to read format. And then it’s Maui Surf Report. Giampaolo’s killer photos, nice write ups, and more people focused coverage help give me my Island fix even though I can’t be there. Ok the girl pictures are nice too.

David Wells right before the 2010 U. S. Nationals



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