My Hamptons: David Ryan – Mon Tiki Captain, Surfer, Guitarist

David Ryan with his trusty guitar
David Ryan with his trusty guitar, Photo: Behind the Hedges

Gaze out at the waters off Montauk and there is an excellent chance you will catch sight of a singular sailing vessel that embodies the magic of life on our local waters and the spirit of David Ryan. Ryan is the captain of Mon Tiki, a beautiful catamaran inspired by traditional Polynesian double-canoe designs. Designed by James Wharram, the 38-foot Mon Tiki was built in Bridgehampton by local craftsmen using low-impact, eco-conscious construction, and offers escape and adventure you find only at The End.

Behind the Hedges: You’re from La Jolla, California. What made you decide to come to Montauk?

David Ryan: I was born in New York City. When I was two my parents moved to La Jolla in large part because my Jersey City–born father wanted to learn to surf. I grew up surfing, fishing and sailing. When I was 16 we moved to the mountains in Oregon—kayaking, skiing, fly fishing, rock climbing. When I was about 25 I moved back to NYC to further my career in photography and film. Over Labor Day weekend of 1996 I saw the East End light up on a close pass by Hurricane Edouard. There were overhead body womps at Indian Wells on Sunday and perfect chest-high lines with offshore winds at Ditch Plains on Monday. I was hooked. By that January I owned 3 wetsuits, including a 5/3 hoodie, and two boards and had a broken-down fixer-upper of a house under contract.

David Ryan on Mon Tiki
David Ryan on Mon Tiki, Photo: Behind the Hedges

BTH: Why a catamaran as opposed to another type of sailing vessel?

DR: Wharram catamarans, with their mahogany-planked open bridge deck design, offer a relaxed graciousness that no other vessel can match. What other boat can do a private sunset charter for 60 people and have half of the guests relaxing in beanbags, a couple dozen in the hammock-like nets fore and aft, and the remainder dancing salsa on the central deck!?

BTH: What are your hobbies on land?

DR: When I’m not sailing, building new boats or taking care of the boats we have, I study guitar, and carve out a little time for personal photography and film projects.

BTH: Describe your perfect day on the East End.

DR: My perfect East End day starts with a very early morning surf session and/or some running and calisthenics. Then prepping for the day’s trips: an 11 a.m. sail and swim, 3 p.m. pure sailing outing, and the sunset cruise. When it’s just right we have fair winds and favorable tide, and the sailing is fast and smooth. The boat makes people so happy, and that’s contagious. I get high, really out-of-my-mind high, from how happy people are on our boats. At the end of a day like that, as we’re coming in the inlet at the end of a sunset trip, I can’t help but reflect on how lucky I am to live where I live and to be able to raise a family doing something that makes so many people happy, most especially me.

BTH: What is the greatest part about your job?

David Ryan playing guitar
David Ryan playing guitar, Photo: Behind the Hedges

DR: The best part of my job is knowing that, 99 out of 100 times, when people come out with us they are going to get just the sort of relaxation everyone hopes to find when they’re on vacation but can often prove so elusive from being out of your normal routine and trying to have “fun” against the vagaries of weather, traffic and the rest. If I ever felt like packing it in, I would. It wouldn’t be right to take people out and be hating it all the while. But I don’t see that happening any time soon. I love being on the water and I love sharing it with people.

BTH: If you could have anyone at your Hamptons dinner party, dead or alive, who would you invite?

DR: I can tell you we have a Montauk dinner party every night on our sunset sail. People bring picnics and wine and sometimes we get out guitars and ukuleles and drums and shakers and make a little music. Whoever shows up is who’s invited and it’s always great!

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