Growing up in Santa Rosa, CA, I liked to tinker with things. I was fascinated by electronics and all manner of flying machines. In 6th grade, I ordered the blueprints for a small vacuum-cleaner-powered hovercraft that was advertised in the back of a boy scout magazine. After starting to build it, I got distracted by a more ambitious idea: I tried to convince my friend that we should attach wings to his go-kart and make it fly. All of our hard work in research and development of this idea went to waste when our parents insisted that it was too dangerous and we were not allowed to try it. I returned to the idea of a hovercraft, but the design needed to be spiced up. A hovercraft would be fun to build, but only if it looked like a speeder bike from Return of the Jedi. I drew up the schematics, but my hopes were once again shattered when I found out my allowance would not even come close to paying for the kind of hovercraft I was planning. If only Kickstarter had been around in 1995!
Lesson learned, my passions turned toward simpler problems, like discovering the meaning of life. I went to the University of California at Santa Cruz and majored in philosophy, with a minor in sociology. After college I used my expertise in philosophy to become a construction worker, remodeling houses in Silicon Valley at the height of the housing bubble. Somewhere in the midst of all that constructing, the idea of building a hovercraft came back to me. I started designing a craft with two rear thrust fans that would rotate so it could go in reverse and turn while braking. I don't remember when I decided to make it look like a Delorean, but once the idea was there and I saw that it was possible, there was no stopping me.
Doc Brown's design philosophy must have really sunk in after watching Back to the Future ten thousand times: "The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?" I think that really holds for no matter what you're building or doing. The way I see it, if you're gonna do anything, why not do it with some style?
Like every other 23 year old college graduate I knew, I was also dreaming of traveling the world and going to graduate school. I still had to answer one or two questions about the meaning of life and human nature, so I applied to masters degree programs in political science, focusing on political philosophy. I figured I had enough life savings to see the world, come home and build a hovering Delorean, then enroll in graduate school; and that's what I did. For eight months, I backpacked through Central America, West Africa, and the Middle East. I went to a specific, remote spot in West Africa to surf a wave I had seen in a satellite photo on Google Earth. It turned out that the beach I had flown half-way around the world to surf wasn't even surfable. It was just a mirage. But my ambition was rewarded when I found two world-class secret surf spots just half a mile away. Wanderlust satisfied, I came back to California and immediately started on my hovercraft project.
Having no experience with this sort of building, I just learned as I went along. Grad school was starting in 5 months, so I was working long hours to get it done in time. My real deadline was the end of the Giants' season, since the plan all along had been to take it out to McCovey Cove during a game and get on TV. With the end of the season approaching and a near-infinite amount of construction details to finish, I had to work even faster to try to get it ready in time. When I finally finished it two days after the last Giants home game, my disappointment was agonizing. I took solace in the fact that with a few more months until the next season, I had plenty of time to use my new skills and knowledge to re-build some of the hastily-constructed parts of the craft and really make it the Delorean Hovercraft of my dreams. This re-modeling took four years. The journey was worth it, though, because now I can look at the whole thing, its performance, and the level of detail in the craftsmanship and really be proud of it as my life's work.
During those four years, I could only work on the craft part-time because I also was in grad school and working to pay the bills. I took various short-term and part-time jobs like catering at the Bohemian Grove, being a Teaching Assistant at my university, remodeling houses, crab fishing out of Fisherman's Wharf, and I was even a guinea pig in a experiment at the Stanford University Human Experimental Pain Laboratory, where I was burned, poked, and electrocuted, all in the name of funding some crazy hovercraft! I also raised $5,644 on Kickstarter in July of 2010. All the support from friends and strangers during that fundraising campaign meant a lot to me and kept me motivated.
After a couple false starts, I finally debuted the craft at a Giants game on August 10th, 2012. It was so much fun to be flying around out there, seeing everyone's reaction and later hearing the reaction of the Giant's TV announcers, whose voices I've been hearing my whole life. In the first game of what would become the Giants' historic world-series-winning playoff run, I took the craft out to McCovey Cove and held up a sign that read "I'm back from the future, *spoiler alert!* The Giants win it all!!", thereby proving both that "jinxing" is not real, and that time travel is real.
After the hovercraft debuted I spent some time working out the bugs, then started my job driving for Lyft and Uber in San Francisco. It's been a great way to make a living and still have the flexibility to take time off to work on and play with The 'Craft. It's been a great ride. I've been interviewed by numerous TV shows, magazines, and blogs, I've been invited to show off the hovercraft at festivals and private parties, and I've met a ton of really great people who were inspired by what a determined person can accomplish if they really put their mind to it. This project has defined an incredible few years for me, and now I'm getting ready to pass the torch. If you'd like a hovering Delorean in your life, make me an offer and it could be yours!
September 23rd, 2017