Two decades ago, Andy Morrell was pro windsurfer traveling the world. Today he manages the Caribbean’s wildest sailing/ windsurfing event, scores luncheons for all on Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island, and has started a budding beachwear line that embodies his lifestyle on Tortola. Below the 44-year old shares his island life, and his plans for the future. See the photos.
You were raised Tortola, attended high school and college in the states, and then lived on Maui as a professional windsurfer. What brought you back to the BVI? Growing up in Tortola I couldn’t really imagine living here, but then having traveled the world windsurfing I realized I really couldn’t not live here. Also, when I took over the HIHO event that meant living on the island. I’ve found raising my kids on here to be a fantastic experience. Besides all the fun things they can do like surf, windsurf and sail it’s a very nourishing environment. They grow up in a wonderful world. The biggest problem is making sure they know there is much more beyond the islands. We travel as a family as often as possible.
Organizing and running the HIHO windsurfing regatta seems logistical nightmare — involving a flotilla of chartered catamarans, island hopping, pirate parties and over 150 miles of sailing through the BVI. Why take it on year after year? I was a very competitive racer but I’ve hopped over the fence because this event represents what windsurfing and the island life are all about — great adventures, fun races, parties and a unique inter-island route that includes private islands that average BVI visitors can’t access. I’m very proud to own and run the event, which will celebrate its 25th Anniversary in 2009. We’ve been through thick and thin with it — great sponsorship and lousy sponsorship; high and low turnouts. I simply find the HIHO event a very rewarding experience, and I’m lucky to have spun another business from it.
You’re referring to the HIHO apparel line, which started with T-shirts for the event and has since taken off on its own. So what gives? What does a former pro beach bum know about fashion? My wife Fran was (and remains) a tremendous design asset, and at first we simply saw the brand as a marketing exercise for the HIHO event. But I remember getting excited when I realized we were on to a good thing. Early on, we defined where we wanted to fit in the clothing spectrum — focusing on casual, comfortable clothes that reflect our wonderful life in Tortola. Easy wearing styles in Caribbean-friendly materials. We incorporate what’s important to us in the way we do business — moving toward organic cotton and recycled surf short materials, supporting environmental efforts, creating a fun work environment and giving back to the community.
Recently, the HIHO regatta included an exclusive stopover on Sir Richard Branson¹s Necker Island. Meanwhile, the HIHO clothing line has grown to 9 retailers throughout the Caribbean. What’s next? Well, we can’t always count on lunch at Necker Island, but when I meet Mr. Branson again I’ll ask him if HIHO can design a range of clothing for his planned eco-resort on Moskito Island. Meanwhile, we’re busy planning to sell HIHO clothes in the US. We’ll start hitting trade shows in September!
_ Find more on the HIHO clothing line and windsurfing event at www.go-hiho.com. Also, check out ISLANDS’ editor Eddy Patricelli’s HIHO write up (including a run-in with Sir Richard Branson) by clicking here._