10 Questions with John Tomlinson
As part of our 10 questions series, we are incredibly fortunate to be able to pick the brains of some of the leaders in the performance boat industry. This time around, we are extremely grateful for the opportunity to ask John Tomlinson some questions about how he got into boats, his passion for racing, the work he enjoys doing and how he throttled his team, Performance Boat Center, to another win in the Superboat class world championship in Key West Florida.
John has been in the boat business for over 34 years as a co-owner of TNT Custom Marine, an offshore throttleman with one of the most impressive records of any racer, race team manager, boat tester for leading boat magazines, and Hollywood movie consultant and driver. It is an impressive resume to say the least. I heard about John a long time ago as a kid growing up reading Powerboat, he was testing boats and winning races, doing things you dream about as a kid, so he is a legend to me. Here are 10 questions with John Tomlinson.
Where did you grow up and how did you get into performance boats?
I was born in Miami and have been here my whole life on the water. I used to see the old offshore boats down here and in the magazines as a kid, which sparked my interest in high performance engines especially with boats.
What are your 2 favorite race boats, and 2 favorite pleasure boats of all time?
I have raced many different boats in many classes that we were able to win championships with, but there was always a team behind the scenes that believed and invested in me to help make us successful. These were boats that we won a lot with over the years and in their own way were my favorites, 42′ and 48′ MTI, 388 Skater and 50 Mystic. As far as pleasure boats go, I prefer them simple and clean built like a race boat with a open pleasure cockpit and big power.
Before you started TNT in 1984 and racing on the pro circuit a little later, did you realize you could have a career in the boat industry? Or did that seem far fetched at the time?
I always dreamed of racing a boat as a young kid but didn’t think much about a career at that time so yes I guess you could say it was far fetched. I just hoped I could run a boat someday and would do anything it took to get that chance. Once Mike and I quit our jobs after high school we just worked really hard everyday and before we knew it time went by and we had a career in the boat industry.
With new designs and advanced materials, along with new engine technology, it seems like some pleasure boats are getting awfully fast, closing the gap between them and full race boats, which are also getting faster. Does this concern you at all from a safety standpoint?
When the 1350 came out and we saw the reliability with it, I knew it was only a matter of time before we would see many 150 mph pleasure boats from all the high performance manufactures. When they are run in adverse conditions or with other influences and inexperience we have seen the accidents that have unfortunately happened.
I always have told my customers to just take your time and get familiar with your boats characteristics. The more seat time you have in the boat will benefit tremendously and hopefully help recognize a situation before it happens.