At least 6 feet of seawater filled the inside of Ace Performer, a kayak and windsurfing shop off the southern end of McGregor Boulevard near the Sanibel Causeway.
When the surge from Hurricane Ian receded following Sept. 28 of last year, it left piles of mud and gunk inside the store Roy Massey built decades ago. He had a lot of work ahead of him and needed a lot of help.
He ended up getting it.
“Just how much people care,” Massey said of what he learned from the storm. “Like most disasters, I had people drive by giving me money, and I didn’t even know them. One guy gave me $1,000, and I didn’t even know this guy.”
The store at 16842 McGregor Blvd. has been cleaned up and open ever since, but Massey estimated he lost about two-thirds of his business. That loss seemed permanent, he said, until Sanibel, Captiva and Fort Myers Beach rebuild their resorts and hotels.
Massey began windsurfing in 1982 and formally started Ace Performer in 1986. He built windsurf and surf boards from 1986 to 1995 and also teaches lessons.
With an estimated 30% of Lee County’s hotels still out of commission from the storm, Massey had to pivot his business model. Although Ace Performer still rents kayaks and windsurf boards among other equipment starting at $50 a day for a kayak, it has shifted to doing more sales than rentals.
“People don’t rent, because they’re not here,” Massey said. “And so, I’m relying more on people coming in and buying kayaks. They’ve lost their kayaks, and they’re happy to come in and buy a kayak from me.
“My main goal is just to get people back in the water. It might look different with all the resorts being destroyed and rebuilt. But it’s just beautiful.”
Kayaks and windsurf boards fill the inside of the 3,200-square-foot space with a 20-foot ceiling. The surge did little permanent damage to the equipment, which floated in the surge until it receded.
Most of the kayak prices range from $1,200 to $1,400, including those with foot pedals to power them. Those have been trending as of late, Massey said, giving his business a needed boost from his local following.
“It really started about five years ago, a little slowly,” Massey said of the food-pedal kayak trend. “More and more people are finding out that they can last longer and go faster, and then they can fish.”