Imagine. Orca Man entertaining your out of town guests at your next convention or corporate event. Out of nowhere he appears. Screaming across the waves traveling more than 70mph on a 255-horsepower super-charged jet ski isn't for everyone—but that's exactly what He lives for. It doesn't matter if it's a warm Pacific Northwest day, or cloudy and raining. Whenever he can break away from the daily grind, you'll find him on the back of his blazing fast jet skiing traveling somewhere in Puget Sound or through the Straits of Juan de Fuca in search of adventure with his trademark Orca Fin slicing through the Northwest air.
Howard Garton, Orca Man himself, puts it best: I'm always looking for that next ultimate challenge where I can put my survival skills to the test against what nature might have to offer. What challenge will push me to the limits, and then take me further into the thrill of outdoor adventure.
I've been riding jet skis for the past 4 years. It's funny how the image of riding across the waves at break neck speeds came to me on day 23 of a 390 mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail wilderness in the coastal Cascade Mountain Range. I had been without water for days, food was low, temperatures freezing, and I was carrying a pack that weighed more than 40 lbs. Maybe the lack of water was affecting my brain, I can't say for sure, but while I was hiking, my mind filled with the image of riding a jet ski across the cool, blue, refreshing waters of Puget Sound. I literally could see myself, up on my toes, holding onto the handlebars and riding across the water at speeds faster than I realized a jet ski could run. At that moment I had to ask myself, “am I delusional, or is this a sign that jet skiing is in my future? Needless to say, jet skiing was in my future – and it seems I couldn't just ride the waves, I had to add a twist – something that hadn't been don before. but more about that later.
The day after I got home from the Crest Trail hike, I wandered into a local watercraft shop to try out a jet ski. I liked the features of the Sea-Doo ski, 255-hp engine with mind-blowing acceleration and loads of race features. I couldn't get enough of riding – I went out skiing the next day . and the next . and the day after. and the day after that. For the next 11 days I was on a ski. I clocked more than 25 hours and traveled almost 1,300 miles.
I really liked riding jet skis, and I liked the feel of having nothing more than a small machine separating me from the water. That feeling of skipping across the tops of ocean waves, flying across the water – it makes the hair on the back of my neck stands up just to talk about it! I'm lucky to be home-based in Seattle, Washington, because that puts me in an ideal location for any type of water sport. My beloved Puget Sound offers endless opportunities for countless adventures, especially on a jet ski.
I like to compare the thrill of jet skiing to snow skiing through a monster mogul field. The slightest loss of attention and you're down. It's also like riding a powerful thoroughbred, full speed, balanced in the stirrups, hoping that you're communicating clearly with this powerful horse as you steer through an obstacle course. Talk about an adrenaline rush. That's exactly what it's like to ride a jet ski, throttle open, wind in your face.
My jet-skiing nickname is Orca-Man, which comes from those partners who swim with me in the sea. The amazing Killer Whales known as the Orca are one of the fastest marine mammals. Orca can swim up to 35 miles-per-hour—not quite as fast as I travel on my ski, but I do admire their speed and agility. I respect their space, and would never infringe on their territory, and I'm thankful that they return the favor.
But I'm not at all about being a serious guy, and I am a bit of the alpha-type, power-loving male who feels akin to these amazing Orca. I just had to add a bit of fun to my adventures. I've painted my personal flotation device (pdf) black and white (to match the color of the Orca), and “grew” a dorsal fin (it's actually a hard foam fin adhered to the back of my pdf). Thus began the legend of Orca Man.