US Sailing and the Sperry Local Ambassador Program – John Schoendorf

Meet John Schoendorf from Miami, Fla.

US Sailing and Sperry have partnered to recognize local sailors for contributions made to their respective sailing communities. Sperry Local Ambassadors have a passion for sailing and they share that passion with others to get out on the water and support the growth of our sport.

A Q&A with John Schoendorf

US Sailing: What is special about your local sailing community and the water that surrounds it?

John Schoendorf: We have this most wonderful protected warm body of water called Biscayne Bay on which we can pretty much sail 365 days of the year. It is approximately 35 miles long and eight miles wide at its widest part totaling about 428 square miles. It provides our youth with an opportunity to learn about and appreciate the value of water in our lives and to experience the joys of swimming, diving, fishing, powerboating and sailing. I also believe involvement in water-based activities especially sports, helps empower them to make decisions on their own and develop a certain independence, which affects them throughout the rest of their lives.

US Sailing: What/who inspired your love for the water?

John Schoendorf: As a third grader in Belmar, New Jersey, I used to be a second mate on my dad’s party (fishing) boat on weekends and during three summers before we moved to Florida. He was such a great water person and could fix anything on the boat so I learned just from watching. I especially loved to sit next to him on the party boat in rough weather when people were crazy enough to go out to fish. When we moved to Florida in the summer of sixth grade we lived in Coconut Grove and I loved to fish along the water down by the Coconut Grove Sailing Club and sell fish from my bike to neighbors. I was kind of adopted by the dockmaster at the sailing club and when he found an opportunity to get me out on a Pram I was hooked. I didn’t really get into sailing however until after college when I bought a Lighting from Tom Allen. Before I picked up the boat in Buffalo, New York, the Lighting fleet captain at the sailing club invited me down to the club and introduced me to other lighting sailors. I quickly learned how friendly sailors were and how exciting racing was. My love for the water was further enhanced when the big boat sailors scooped me up to race on their boats in the Bay and blue water races across the Gulf Stream and in the SORC. The friendships developed back in those days are still strong.

US Sailing: If there is one thing the sailing community could do to become more sustainable, what would that be?

John Schoendorf: I tell my friends with children or their relatives with children that it is sinful to not expose the kids to sailing and diving if they live here or are visiting. Over the years, I never stopped loving to watch the juniors rig their Optis early on Saturday mornings at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club. How they focused on getting the job done (and without mom or dad) and how most loved getting on the water to cruise around or race. A bomb could have gone off a block away and they would still be focused on their boats. It taught them responsibility, discipline and how to make decisions on their own. Being treasurer and on the board of Team Paradise at the US Sailing Center, which is dedicated to teaching the physically challenged and those in under-served communities, I also see the results of what getting on the water does to the handicapped and to the under-served (over 600 this past year). I think not only the sailing community, but every waterfront community should endeavor to help promote sailing programs for their youth to expose them to all the positive things that come out of the experience.