When it comes to racing hydroplanes, Tyler Kaddatz of the Ahh-$um $ecret 519 racing boat that he competes in the Formule 2500 (or 2.5L class depending on where he’s racing) has looked up to his two older half brothers—Bert and Kent Henderson—for many years. But when it comes to protective driving suits, hats, shirts, shorts, sweatshirts, pop-up canopies, flags, banners and anything else a race team or poker run crew could desire, Kaddatz, who lives in Brockville, Ontario, Canada, and holds a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering, has his brothers looking up to him—or at least looking to him to supply their gear.
And they’re not the only ones. In the past five years, Kaddatz has built his business, TK Kustoms, into a go-to apparel company for many hydroplane racers and, as of late, many poker run enthusiasts and offshore racers. Kaddatz, who grew up running around on the St. Lawrence River in his parents’ 100-plus-mph Fountain Powerboats 27 Fever powered by a blown 1,000-hp engine, has been into fast boats his whole life and has looked up to his brothers—both accomplished racers and world record holders.
“I grew up watching my dad win top-speed runs at Bill Taylor’s poker runs and my brothers having success on the racecourse,” Kaddatz said, adding that his mom wouldn’t let him race until he was an adult who could buy his own boat. “I kind of lived in the shadow of them, but they’ve both been extremely supportive of me. In fact, my brother, Kent, helped me buy my first raceboat off of his wife’s father. I raced it for a few years and then I had my brother, Bert, build me a new one last year. It is painted in the same bright colors with the same 519 number in honor of my niece, Carsyn (Kent’s daughter), who died from brain cancer in 2012. My brothers both race under the 777 number—they have for years—but I won’t change my number because I want to continue to race in her honor.”
Tyler’s oldest brother, Bert, actually owns and operates a successful raceboat building and repair company, Henderson Hydroplanes, and races in the H1 Unlimited series in the U-7 Spirit of Detroit boat, the former Miss Budweiser hydroplane. The 48-year-old holds the one-mile world record of 112.786 mph average in a Grand Prix hydroplane and has won three Hydroplane Racing League Grand Prix national championships. The middle brother, Kent, who is 45 years old, holds the world record for the fastest time in the 5-litre class at Pontiac Lake.
Despite some big shoes to fill, the 34-year-old Kaddatz, is a confident, motivated individual who is working hard to be improve his driving skills and take his business well beyond the racing world.
“I’ve always been entrepreneurial since I was a kid, and when I got into boat racing, I knew what I wanted my team to look like I just didn’t realize how expensive that was going to be so I started sourcing my own shirts and gear and it took off from there,” Kaddatz said. “I’ve worked with other race teams in sports such as drag racing, tractor pulls and even monster truck series. I take a lot of pride in providing high-quality products at a good price.”
Although he’d been around go-fast pleasure boats his whole life and seen plenty of offshore racing action over the years, he didn’t have many connections in that industry up until a couple of years ago when he decided to attend some races Florida and start getting the TK Kustoms name out there. The effort has paid off to some extent as he’s done clothing for offshore race teams such as Randy Sweers’ FB Marine Group as well as Pro Floors Racing, Team Woody and Killer Bee.
He’s also started to make headway in the poker run market, producing shirts, bikinis and more for people like Cass Shewbart of Texas, Mark Munro of New Jersey and Devin Wozencraft of Wozencraft Insurance in Southern California. He even made some apparel for the late Joe Sgro of Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats fame.
“I love going to poker runs for basically the same reason I love going to boat races—it’s the camaraderie and getting the chance to make new friends and talk boats,” said Kaddatz, who also owns a 17-foot Checkmate with an inboard V-6 engine that he uses on the river on weekends when he’s not racing. “I don’t think I’ll ever stop being in awe of boats. The raceboats are awesome, but then you go to the poker runs and you see such incredible hardware from the boats, engines, tow vehicles and more.”
Kaddatz added that it’s been amazing meeting industry icons like Reggie Fountain and Randy Scism and getting to know some of the poker run enthusiasts he’s read about online and followed on social media throughout the years.
“This is just such a fun sport to be around—I can’t see myself doing anything else really,” he continued. “I enjoy the racing, it’s what our family does, but I also enjoy the branding part of this business and helping my colleagues and their boats stand out and be even more recognizable than before.”
Photos courtesy Tyler Kaddatz