Sailing culture inundated Fontenot’s life in large part because his father and grandfather were big sailors, Fontenot said.
“I think what drove me was that I really loved [sailing] as a kid, and it was cool,” he said.
Fontenot’s family took up sail-making in their living room, which became his summer job for a few years around when he was in high school. Fontenot continued wanting to make sails into college despite parental pushback, Fontenot said.
Following an offer by Olympic medalist sailor John Kolius, Fontenot began working at the Seabrook building in 1977, which became UK Sails Texas in 1985. The sail loft went on to win two sailing championships using loft-made sails, Fontenot said.
“We were representing our sails and ourselves, so after a while, people felt like we had a good product,” Fontenot said.
Fontenot enjoys the teamwork and competition involved in sailing races and is driven to win, he said. Nowadays, he also coaches sailing teams.
“Our sport’s also a little difficult in that it’s like playing chess on a moving chessboard as the wind moves around,” Fontenot said.
Kolius eventually left the sail-making business, which led to the formation of Quantum Sails in 1996 by Fontenot and two other partners, who are no longer involved in the business. The company offers both cruising and racing sails.
“There are times I pinch myself and think, ‘I don’t know how we got here,’” Fontenot said. “Just seems like yesterday I was some kid crawling on the floor.”
Quantum Sails was purchased by an investor a few years ago, but Fontenot remains the executive vice president.
“We’re the second largest sail-making company in the world,” Fontenot said.
The multimillion dollar company has nearly 60 lofts and multiple manufacturing locations spread across the world, Fontenot said. However, most sails are no longer made directly at lofts, including Seabrook.
The loft currently offers sail repairs, maintenance, removal, installation and measurements that are used to craft custom sails.
“I enjoy working with people; I love the sport, and I don’t know if I am going to retire,” Fontenot said.
Top U.S. sailing communities
These cities are the top five boating communities in the U.S., Fontenot said.
1. Newport, RI
2. Annapolis, MD
3. Los Angeles, CA
4. Seabrook, TX
5. San Francisco, CA
1606 First St., Seabrook
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-5 p.m., closed Sat.-Sun.