May 27th, 2011 by Rusty Manoff

Alliance: Sail & Ski Center? That has nothing to do with wakeboarding. Why are we even interviewing you?
Sail & Ski Center: We’ve only been number one boat dealer in North America; I mean that’s no big deal. We without a doubt have the biggest and best selection of wakeboard gear in Central Texas. We also provide the lake community with grass roots wakeboard tournaments, pro clinics, demo days and, new this summer, a water sports camp for kids.

A: Sail & Ski Center has some serious history in Texas. When did the first store open and when did you expand to multiple locations?
SSC: The very first store was opened in 1969, but the snow and water sports didn’t come into play until about 1975. Our San Antonio store was opened in 1988 and Lakeway in 2005.

A: What are the benefits to having more than one location and what are the struggles?
SSC: Each one of our stores feeds a different market and different lakes.  Our motto is, “We make boating easy.”Having locations everywhere certainly makes it convenient for our customers. I don’t know that there are any downsides. Each store is different and serves its own customers’ needs.

A: What about the Sail & Ski Yacht Club & Marina? What’s the story with that place and how’d that get started?
SSC: Having a marina to make our customers’ ownership experience more convenient and fun was always the plan. We had an association with the marina for almost 20 years before the opportunity to buy it presented itself in 2007. Our customers can stop by our Lakeway store, demo a wakeboard, replace their impeller, get a Red Bull and drive a couple hundred yards down the road and be on Lake Travis. It’s a pretty ridiculously convenient set up.

A: You guys… sorry, “ya’ll”, carry a ton of different boat lines. What are they and why so many?
SSC: Thanks for correcting yourself. I only speak Texan. We only carry the best and they are Nautique, Sea Ray, Bayliner, Meridian Yachts, South Bay Pontoon, Kawasaki, Trophy, and Boston Whaler. Did I forget any? Nope that’s all. We aim to get you as a customer and then keep you no matter where life takes you. We not only sell to people on lakes, but our market includes much of the Texas coast.

A: Sail & Ski Center was named #1 Boat Dealer in North America a few years back. What does that mean to you and how did you win such a prestigious award?
SSC: I don’t know if there is a bigger honor for the boating industry. Rod and Buzz, the owners, are innovative thinkers. They are always looking to expand on our already extensive customer service. When the economy went bad, a lot of people cut back on the customer service side of things. We didn’t. We kept having events and kept providing the same level of service and we prevailed.

A: So wakeboarding wasn’t around in 1969. When did the wakeboarding become such an essential part of the stores?
SSC: From the beginning. We carried Skurfers and everything in between then and now. We have always been on the leading edge of wakeboarding’s popularity. It’s just how we roll.

A: What brands can people expect to see when they walk in your pro shops?
SSC: In wakeboards, we carry Ronix, Liquid Force, and Hyperlite, but that’s only the beginning. We carry wakesurfers in all of those plus Shred Stixx and Props. Not to mention our huge selection of fresh street gear to keep our customers looking like the studs and supermodels that they are.

A: The Texas boating community is really important to Sail & Ski Center. What type of grass roots events do you host?
SSC: Wake the Lake is our grass roots wakeboard tournament.  We’ve been holding these for over 10 years and have been able to literally watch kids grow in size and skill level. In 2008 we started a grass roots wakesurf tournament called Barrel Boss, and it is having the same effect as Wake the Lake. These tournaments make us absolutely NO money, but what we are able to give back is priceless.

A: What do you do in the winter to keep things afloat?
SSC: We have an enormous winter sports business. We sell snowboard and snow ski equipment and apparel. We carry the best of the best in the winter also. We aren’t going to carry something we don’t believe in just because it’s cheap. Quality and selection are our top priorities in winter. Not only do we sell it, but we rent it also. The benefit is getting rental equipment that isn’t rented out to a different person every day so you end up with better gear for a super affordable price.

A: How does a shop from Texas that’s nine hours from the closest ski resort, get into ski and snowboard gear?
SSC: Lots of Texans take it to the mountains in the winter. Boaters and water sports enthusiasts naturally gravitate in that direction. We just made it more convenient for them to prepare for their trip.

A: Have you ever messed with Texas?
SSC: Never farther than 2nd base. Promise.

A: What’s better, “Walker: Texas Ranger” or “Dallas”?
SSC: Between riding the lakes, rivers, and creeks during the day and 6th street at night, we don’t have time to watch TV here in the ATX.

Sail & Ski Center
Austin, TX: 512-258-0733
Lakeway, TX: 512-266-1515
San Antonio, TX: 210-734-8199
Yacht Club on Lake Travis: 512-266-2507
www.sailandski.com

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