Foiling, a Pastime Worthy of Silicon Valley

“They took it to a different level,” Parlier said. “It’s not a very cheap sport, and people here are very wealthy, so it’s a good combination.”

The man who got Silicon Valley into the sport in the first place was Don Montague, a foil craftsman and the tech world’s foiling fixer.

“They look you up, or they have a friend, and all of a sudden you’re hanging out with Larry and Sergey,” Montague said, referring to Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

At a massive former naval base in Alameda, Calif., Montague has a staff of 10 working on inflatable foils, jetfoils and giant foil boats. His investors and clients include the Google founders and its former chief executive Eric Schmidt.

Photo

With San Francisco as her backdrop, Erika Heineken cruised above the chop on her kitefoil.

Credit
Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Montague, with messy brown hair and a surfer’s drawl, had made a name for himself building kitesurfing gear, selling more than 20,000 of those boards (he claims to have named the sport). In 2013, he founded a wind-power company and sold it to Google. But a motorized inflatable jetfoil is more complicated than a simple kiteboard, so he moved from Hawaii to the Bay Area and assembled a staff of mechanical engineers and designers.

“I had to come here to build the team,” Montague said. “This is the foiling spot for America.”

Montague is a regular on the private-island and yacht circuit with people like the Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and Google’s Page, whose islands are close enough to foil between. There is some competition in the small community. When Google’s Brin surfed with two girls on his board, Montague said, Branson took a photo with three.

“It’s just way better than golfing,” Montague said.

Now, once a week, Montague said, he takes Page on a four-hour…

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