Air and Opportunity

Air and opportunity, it’s a phase that has multiple meanings to me. I think the first time I heard it was in 1985, I was 17 and underway on a ship in the Navy. Basically, I wanted to do a thing that would possibly change my path in the military. There wasn’t any guarantee I would be selected and just about every chance I’d fail but if I didn’t try, I’d never know. The older enlisted guy advising me said at the time “What’s stopping you? Air and opportunity?”. (he also added some colorful words I won’t share here) It felt hurtful to my young ears, but it motivated me to try really hard things, to see them thru to their end, good or bad. The lesson was hard earned but invaluable. When I had different thoughts than my peers and no support for my goals, I relied on the lesson it taught me, to earn it.

Flash forward to 2023, and it still rings true in that regard, but it has another meaning now too. Now sometimes when I’m thinking of “air and opportunity” I’m thinking of the opportunity my Zodiac brings me. I quite literally air up my opportunity (Commando C4) and set out on adventure. Regardless of the adventure being mundane, exciting, or laborious, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow none the less.

Adventure gives experience as a reward and that can be heady perfume to someone seeking their own path. Looking out from the water towards adventure on an unexplored island delights the senses. From my quiet vantage on the Zodiac inflatable boat, I ponder what flora and fauna I’ll encounter as I make landfall. Will the beach be sloppy with deep mud or will it be sturdy enough to walk on. (I’m thinking of you Palmyra Atol) In this case, air in my inflatable boat, has led to opportunity to grow in my life experience. My contemporary peers, most I’d consider to be seasoned, call my Zodiac “a little rubber boat” and leave it at that. It’s not until we meet up on an adventure that they see what a little air and opportunity can do for the mission at hand. Many of my “little rubber boat” friends now own one or two and use them in ways I didn’t even consider.

When I was sailing out of Oahu with my now late friend Lester, I had no idea of the impact the Zodiac inflatable boat would ultimately have on the shape and direction of my life. Those surf spots no one ever heard of before became a very real thing to me, I just had to try to reach them.

Me on the left Lester on the right circa 1991 Oahu Hawaii

Lester got me into to sailing and yacht racing and it was fun and all, but for me my adventure started with a little air and opportunity in the Zodiac. We would take the little rubber boat out to the sea cliffs and pick opihi, snorkel down for lobster, catch ulua and ahi and feast after a long surf session all made possible with a little air and opportunity. It was one thing to cross the ocean and an altogether different thing to strike out into the unknown on a Zodiac once you got there.

In the military I never really understood the capabilities of a little rubber boat filled with air. It was just another day on yet another boat. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get just a little excited to play Zodiac Man. Even while in the Arctic, air and opportunity entered the chat. Operations were made possible because of a little rubber boat and men willing to go into the dark cold ocean beneath it.

I’ve learned so much from those halcyon days, Sun in the sky times that the lessons learned when it wasn’t so great almost seem to be forgotten memories. When the seas gave us conditions that prevented the launching of one of our workboats the rubber boats came out and took up the slack. Air and opportunity saved the day more than once and it was no wonder why the command had a good supply of “Z Boats” on the ready at all times.

Maxie in Zodiac CZ7 Glacier Bay

Our Queen Maxie in Zodiac CZ7 Glacier Bay

When I started working here at The Inflatable Boat Center, I was just looking for steady work, but air and opportunity came along for the ride. I never professed to be an expert, I’d been on a boat before is about the long and short of it. I learned some stuff from Captain Ron and his vast experiences, as well as another ex-sales guy named Adam who was also from Hawaii like me. They had some basics I lacked and some experiences I hadn’t chalked up yet to draw from. The more I learned about little rubber boats the more opportunity I saw in their use. Digging up old memories gave some insights, books gave more, and many of the inflatable boat users I talk to daily give the most.

So much air, so much opportunity, so much to see, do and learn. Air and opportunity should never be in the way of trying new things, and in this case air and opportunity can come from a Zodiac inflatable boat or Zodiac RIB as your ticket to adventure and learning.

You’re never too young or too old to start your inflatable boat adventure.

Breaking it all down and coming full circle to the phrase I was once told by the older Navy guy “What’s stopping you?”, “Air and opportunity?”. Basically, the only thing that was standing in my way was doubting myself. Kick some air into an opportunity in the form of a Zodiac inflatable boat or Zodiac RIB and see where it takes you. If you don’t have a little rubber boat stop by The Inflatable Boat Center and get yourself one. The only thing stopping you is air and opportunity!