From the island nation of Malta to Fresno, Calif., covering the career of Mike Fiore, the founder of Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats in Bristol, R.I., took me to some mighty remote places during the years. But the place it took me most often, via long weekly telephone conversations that ranged from marine industry issues to raising kids, was the heart—his and mine.
Mike Fiore, who died a year ago on August 26 from complications of injuries he sustained during the 2014 Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in Central Missouri, wasn’t perfect. He had his demons. Despite creating some of the most incredible V-bottom performance boats ever built, his business struggled severely at times. He made good decisions and bad ones, personal and professional. He was—like all of us—imperfect.
But Fiore operated from his heart as much as his head, and while that worked to his detriment now and then it was a gigantic part of what made him so loveable. Because his heart was simply that, gigantic.
Like so many of his friends, I miss those phone conversations, the ones that began as mutual bitch-fests about one thing or another in the marine industry and ended with a lot of laughing and bad jokes and family stuff. I watched Mike Fiore soar to thin-air heights in his business and come crashing—and I mean hard—back to earth when the economy turned. I saw him joyful and despondent and arrogant and humble.
But I never saw him more at peace than the day I drove to his home in Fresno, a few hours from my place in the suburbs south of San Francisco, to interview him for a story on his company’s 20th anniversary that ran in the 2013 July/August Speed On The Water digital magazine. Dead-tired from his weekly bi-coastal travel, Fiore and I handled our interview on the porch in his backyard while his wife, Shonda, handled their infant children, Jet and Moxie, and the bookkeeping for Whipple Superchargers—the business founded by her father, Art Whipple—from her home office.
Of course, her home office consisted of a messy desk in their living room. Fancy it wasn’t. Efficient it was. When both parents of two young kids are working their butts off in their respective careers, fancy falls a distant second to functional.
Fiore was red-eyed road-weary from his weekly bi-coastal travel schedule, but he rallied and our interview went well that morning. And when it was done we chatted a bit more about personal things. His eyes bulged and the breath exploded from his lungs as it always did when he got excited or pissed off about something.
We laughed a lot that morning. By noon I was back in my car and on the way home.
“I’m really happy here,” he told me before I left. “I love it here.”
I thought a lot of my friend during the ride home that day. His journey had seemed charmed in the best of times and cursed in the worst of them, but now this diehard East Coast guy was spending half of his life on the West Coast. Home, as they say, is where the heart is, and while his business would always be in Rhode Island his heart was firmly planted in Fresno.
Matt Trulio is an award-winning journalist who has covered the high-performance powerboat world since 1995. He wrote for Powerboat magazine for 17 years and was the magazine’s editor at large until it ceased publication in 2011. Trulio is the founder, editor-in-chief and publisher of speedonthewater.com, a daily news site that covers the high-performance powerboat realm. He’s also the former editor of Sportboat magazine.