Cory Busichio blew into St. Augustine riding the winds of change. Now he’s staying put.
Looking out at towards the sea, Cory Busichio is, for the moment, trapped in contemplation. With the glassy, docile currents of Intracoastal Waterway to his back and the windswept peaks of the Atlantic Ocean in front of him, Busichio stands above an aquatic crossroads, of sorts, as the waters of the Matanzas Inlet – which connects two of the main Northeast Florida aquatic thoroughfares – recede with the falling tide.
The moment is short-lived however, as, without a word, Busichio, a big smile drawn across his face, is already into his wetsuit and setting up his kite for an afternoon surf session. According to Busichio, Matanzas inlet provides some of the best conditions for kitesurfing–a water-based pastime that combines aspects of wake boarding, surfing, sailing, and even gymnastics–in all of Northeast Florida.
“[Matanzas] has really consistent winds,” he says. “It’s a pretty consistent spot for kiteboarding.” And he should know. Owner of the popular Ocean Extreme Sports–a kiteboarding and paddleboarding retail store on Anastasia Island–Busichio has built a life around water-based activities. And, according to Busichio, the relatively consistent quality of kitesurfing conditions in and around St. Augustine has increased his quality of life greatly.
“We have such a great kiteboarding scene here,” he says. “We are a really tight group and we are always looking out for each other.”
Setting the Hooks
Busichio grew up wakeboarding and racing sailboats on the Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis, Maryland. In the early 2000s, one might have encountered a wide variety of aquatic activities on the Chesapeake, from kayaking to fishing for highly sought after local catches like Striped Bass or Rockfish. However, in those days kite surfing was a fairly obscure hobby.
“I remember there was one guy in our community, Jeff Silver, who was kiting [i.e. kitesurfing or kiteboarding] at the time,” says Busichio. “My brother and I saw what he was doing and we were hooked. We went out and bought our own stuff and spent nearly the next three years teaching ourselves how to do it.”
Though Maryland provided enough opportunity to learn the basics, Busichio felt the need to travel far and wide in order to get the best winds and waves for kitesurfing. Pilgrammages to the British Virgin Islands became almost annual endeavors as Busichio’s obsession grew.
“The winds blow down there everyday, so it’s perfect for kiting,” Busichio says. “That’s where I really improved.”
Don’t Let Schooling Interfere With Your Education
In 2006, Busichio moved to Daytona Beach to pursue a degree in aviation from Embry Riddle University. Was there a correlation between using his kitesurfing rig to navigate windy seas and flying airplanes? Not exactly.
“I grew up flying planes, but I really chose to come to Florida because it was closer to the ocean and I knew I could kiteboard more,” Busichio says with a laugh.
While still in pursuit of his degree, Busichio started working part time detailing the school’s fleet of airplanes. Within months an opportunity arose for Busichio to acquire an airplane detailing business, which had a contract through the Federal Aviation Authority for the work on all 65 of the school’s planes. The acquisition of this company was perhaps the first sign that Busichio possessed an entrepreneurial spirit that came as naturally as his love of the water.
“Even though it didn’t last long, owning the airplane detailing business was a great experience,” Busichio says. After a year Busichio’s company was outbid for the FAA contract that was the main bulk of their business. Busichio, now in possession of a degree in air traffic control, decided to just fold the company up.
“It was a good lesson,” he says. “I figured out that I’d rather be kiteboarding than dealing with the politics of the FAA.”
Preparation Meets Opportunity
The process of being hired as an air traffic controller is somewhat arduous. After completing mounds of paperwork, applicants often have to wait 6 months or more for the FAA to review their information and hire them on.
As he waited for the FAA to do their thing, in 2011, after shutting down his business and giving up his apartment, Busichio moved in with his parents, who had just settled in St. Augustine after falling in love with the ancient city during a road trip.
Busichio went to work part time at Ocean Extreme Sports, then owned by Daryl andKristen Drown. Burned out on retail after 12 years in the business, the Drowns were looking to unload Ocean Extreme. Busichio, who had become an invaluable employee, and who was already disillusioned from his prior experiences with the FAA, decided to forego his plans to become an air traffic controller and get into the kiteboarding retail business. He bought the company from the Drowns shortly thereafter, with Kristen staying on board to help with the transition.
Winds of Change
Since acquiring Ocean Extreme Sports in 2013, Busichio has grown the business exponentially, not only through his connections in the budding kiteboarding scene, but also by tapping into an emerging market. Years ago, inspired in part by the mediocre waves and windless days of a typical Florida summer, Busichio hopped ona standup paddle board (S.U.P.) and tried paddle surfing for the first time. Alternating between kitesurfing when the winds are up and paddleboarding on flat days, Busichio found he was in the water more often, which is a good thing for him, of course.
“With all the water around us here in Northeast Florida, I really thought paddleboarding was just such a natural fit for us,” he says.
Busichio expanded Ocean Extremes paddleboard inventory and, since doing so, has seen local interest in the activity grow exponentially. The shop offers rentals of paddleboards, as well as kiteboarding equipment.
Ocean Extreme also offers both kiteboarding and paddleboarding lessons. Busichio says taking lessons is especially important for those who want to get into kiteboarding. “It’s not a sport you can really figure out yourself,” he says. Busichio’s fiancée, Emily, who he helped encourage into kiteboarding years ago, is now one of the main kiteboarding instructors for Ocean Extreme. Now heavily entrenched in two growing local scenes Busichio is happy he ended up where he did.
“St. Augustine is like nowhere else in Florida. It’s laid back, friendly, and we have water everywhere,” Busichio says. “I’m very lucky that I get to live here and do what I love.”
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