Klay Thompson drives to work in a 37ft fishing boat.
In open water, he can forget the disappointment and frustration. He can find comfort in the cool breeze. Finally close to a return to the field for the Golden State Warriors after missing the past two seasons due to injury, Thompson has found a new hobby that has been particularly therapeutic.
“You can’t have a bad day when you’re on the boat,” he said.
So he fishes and explores deserted coves – and uses his Axopar 37 cabin to avoid Bay Area traffic.
“It’s been so good for my mental health,” said Thompson, the star guard who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the 2019 NBA Finals and then tore his Achilles tendon. right before the start of last season. “When the days got really tough, I would cruise around town or to Oakland or just out in nature. It always helps.
Thompson came up with a few names for the boat. One is the Nordic knife. (As he recently explained to NBC Sports Bay Area, “It was made in Finland, so it’s Norwegian, I think.”) The other is Splash Express, for whenever friends are on board.
“I fell in love with all the little things,” Thompson said in an interview, “whether it was navigating it, cleaning it, storing it — all the things you would never think about when driving a car. .”
Thompson is well aware that he often refers to his boat as a living, breathing person.
“I know,” he said. “That’s how much I respect her.”
He went so far as to adhere to certain maritime superstitions. Among them: an outright ban on bananas, as they are believed to invite bad energy onto the boat. It’s tough for Thompson.
“Because I like bananas,” he said.
Coach Steve Kerr encourages his players to have outside interests, for balance. Golfs by Stephen Curry. Draymond Green touches on broadcasting. Thompson pilots a high-end craft with two supercharged engines and an enclosed cabin.
“Being on the water is a safe space for him,” Curry said. “He’s on the outside and he has the freedom to go where he wants.”
Growing up in Southern California, Thompson was not the product of a “boating family,” he said. But he always loved the ocean. He finds the water peaceful and soothing, and the goal of owning his own boat was spurred on by Anthony Nuccio, his best friend since kindergarten. Nuccio took Thompson fishing on his 1976 Aquasport.
“He kept talking about getting one for years,” Nuccio said. “We were sending each other pictures of boats back and forth.”
For a long time, Thompson made do with a canoe, which he would sail with his bulldog, Rocco. (Thompson did all the rowing.)
It wasn’t until Thompson was injured that he was motivated enough to invest in a full-fledged personal watercraft. A few months after tearing his ACL, Thompson was in rehab with Rex Butler, who is a sports performance specialist and boater. When Butler learned that Thompson was looking to buy something, Butler showed him pictures of an Axopar. Thompson was hit.
“I loved his lines so much,” he said.
At the time, Thompson was dealing with the angst of not being able to play basketball. The days were long and his rehabilitation difficult. He knew he needed something to take his mind off things. He needed a boat. He spoke with Nuccio, who found a dealer in San Diego named – believe it or not – Kenyon Martin, a brand manager for Seattle Yachts who goes by the same name as the former NBA forward.
“I thought you’d be taller,” Thompson told Martin when he met him in his showroom.
Thompson and Nuccio went through the inventory, then tested an Axopar. Retail price: North of $300,000, although it is available at a discount as it has been lightly used. Thompson signed a $190 million contract extension in 2019 but still appreciates a deal.
“Wow, that’s it,” Thompson said as he got behind the wheel of Martin.
Martin customized the boat with underwater lights and an infrared camera so Thompson could operate it at night. Martin also put him in touch with a boat captain who trained him.
“It’s not like a car where you just flip someone’s keys and you’re like, ‘Yeah, you’re good to go,'” Martin said.
Thompson said it took him several months before he felt confident enough to pilot the boat on his own. In the meantime, he relied on Nuccio to guide him. Thompson also learned to spear fish.
“I love moving my body and I was going through such intense rehab,” he said. “So to be able to do a hobby that refreshed me and see the world in a different way was a dream come true.”
Thompson eventually had the boat shipped to the Bay Area, where it became apparent that he still understood the nuances of boat ownership. Whenever he went to Chase Center, the waterfront arena where Golden State trained and played its home games, he left his boat in places assigned to other people at a nearby shipyard. . Golden State assistant coach Mike Brown overheard Thompson causing a hubbub.
“He just moored his boat wherever he wanted,” Brown said. “And I was like, ‘Klay, you can’t park your boat there!'”
Arvind Patel, the owner of the shipyard, enlightened Thompson on the protocols and was so charmed by him that he invited him to moor Splash Express alongside his own 60ft sailboat.
It was the start of an unlikely bromance between five-time All-Star Thompson and Patel, a 70-year-old grandfather who runs startups in Silicon Valley — and doesn’t like to divulge his exact age. (“I’m old,” he says.) Patel became interested in learning more about boating in Thompson, and they recently went on a day trip together in search of halibut.
“We caught two beautiful fish and had a wonderful time,” Patel said. “It’s actually kind of pure friendship because I’m not a basketball fan. I’m in it when the home team wins. I’m a fan of sunny days. So now if I need tickets, I say, ‘Hey, Mr. Klay!'”
His teammates have accepted Thompson’s open offer to join him on the high seas. A trip comes with the caveat that they are likely to make an appearance on Thompson’s Instagram feed.
“I got on the boat with me,” Thompson said in a recent post, pointing to sophomore center James Wiseman behind him. “He doesn’t know anything at all, but I’m teaching him the tricks of the trade.”
Leandro Barbosa, a former teammate who joined Kerr’s coaching staff last season, is a regular. Barbosa and Thompson will take their mountain bikes with them and dock on one of the small islands in the bay so they can hit the trails.
Brown has so far resisted calls from Thompson to let him out.
“I’m not a boat guy,” Brown said. “Maybe if we were in the Turks and Caicos Islands.”
Thompson, who could return to court for Golden State in late December or early January, said he sees himself getting into sailing.
“The ocean, snorkeling, spearfishing and boating bring me joy,” he said, “right after winning basketball games, really.”
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