I’m always grateful to friends, colleagues and clients who introduce me to new stories and so a special thank you to Dr. Pablo Erat for telling me about this one.
“SWIM 2.4 MILES! BIKE 112 MILES! RUN 26.2 MILES! BRAG FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!”
Sounds like quite a challenge but, on February 18, 1978, 15 people decided they were up for it and they descended on Waikiki to attempt the feat and compete in the inaugural “Hawaiian IRON MAN Triathlon”.
Honolulu-based Navy couple Judy and John Collins had come up with the idea in 1977 when they thought of combining the three toughest endurance races in Hawaii—the 2.4 mile Waikiki Roughwater Swim, 112 miles of the Around-O’ahu Bike Race and the 26.2 mile Honolulu Marathon—into one event.
In 1981 the race moved from the tranquil shores of Waikiki to the barren lava fields of Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. Along the Kona Coast, black lava rock dominates the panorama, and IRONMAN athletes now must battle not only the three challenges but the “ho’omumuku” crosswinds of 45 mph and 95 degree temperatures.
The move took the race to the back door of a woman by the name of Crystal Nylin.
Crystal was a triathlete herself and soon discovered one of the other challenges faced by the runners. The event might be three races in one but no-one had really thought about the clothes you needed to wear. There were swimsuits, running and cycling outfits but nothing specially conceived for triathletes. Changing in between disciplines was inconvenient and transition stages were like open-air changing rooms.
She began sewing pads into run shorts, experimenting with swim fabrics, attaching run singlets to bike shorts and eventually created one and two–piece uniforms. She started selling them to the small but growing number of triathletes and set up shop in a space above Huggo’s, the famous restaurant and hangout for many of the triathletes and surfers on Hawaii.
All the trisuits were handmade by Crystal and she would insist that, if she was going to make a suit for an athlete, she wanted to spend 30 minutes with him or her to get to know that athlete’s personality.
A few days before the big race a woman walked in the little shop, saw a newly completed one-piece suit on the wall, pointed to it and said, “I want that suit”. However the woman was from Austria and while her English was perfect she still had a heavy accent so what Crystal actually heard sounded like “I vant dat zoot” .
Crystal not only had a new customer but a name for her new company.
Further innovative designs followed including the padded Tri Brief, the drop tail, the aerodynamically designed Tri Jersey, and the 3″ inseam bike shorts coupled with colourful lycra fabrics and custom fitting and the business expanded rapidly. In 1996, Zoot Hawaii moved to the mainland and the product line has expanded since.
Zoot Sports is now a global leader in endurance sports. Still focused on providing athletes with performance apparel, wetzoots, footwear and accessories or as they say on their website “pioneering innovative product solutions that cover the athlete from start to finish and head to toe”.