Santa Barbara Sailing Center's Skip Abed
Paul Wellman

“I love this city so much,” says Skip Abed, owner of the Santa Barbara Sailing Center. “I love showing it off and being an ambassador for it.”

As we have lunch on a particularly stunning day overlooking the harbor and ocean, Skip’s words ring true. In the midst of the past film festival, he handed me his business card out of the blue and told me to get in touch. He wanted to show me a perspective of Santa Barbara that I’d never seen: a view from a sailboat overlooking our beloved city. “There’s nothing quite like it,” says Skip.

Aside from awesome views, the S.B. Sailing Center provides professional sailing instruction, skippered sailing charters, bareboat charters, club member activities, kayak & stand up paddle board excursions, powerboat rentals, and daily cruises along the Santa Barbara coastline. Skip fell in love with chartering when he was 12 years old while sailing from Rhodes, Greece, along the Turkish coast for 10 days.

“It’s really rewarding to teach kids and adults how to sail,” he excitedly explains. “All of the sudden it clicks. They know how to read the wind. They learn to navigate. It’s a skill they’ll have for the rest of their lives.”

Skip was born in Washington D.C. in 1972. His dad worked for the oil industry, so Skip lived in many places as a child, from Tokyo to Dubai to New York City. “I’m not one to sit still,” he volunteers. “I like to keep busy.”

As a young man, he helped his grandma’s friend run an antique store on Cape Cod, and then got a job as a bookkeeper in Dubai when he was a teenager. “I’m not for building sand castles all summer long,” said Skip, whose family lived in the first house built on Jumeirah Beach in Dubai.

He boarded during junior high at Cardigan Mountain School in New Hampshire, but grew sick of the bitter winters. That led him to high school at Dunn in the Santa Ynez Valley, which is how he found Santa Barbara.

Right after high school, he went to New York to pursue a career in finance, which is what his dad wanted him to do. But in 1991, he turned down a full-time job working for Cantor Fitzgerald, whose offices were atop the World Trade Center.

Santa Barbara called beckoned Skip back. He took business and marine biology courses at SBCC. In 1992, he got a job at the Sailing Center, working the docks, moving and cleaning boats, and teaching sailing. Soon, he was running the place. “Six weeks into the job, I started thinking a way to buy my boss out of the business,” recalls Skip, who bought the Sailing Center on April Fool’s Day 2000.

Today, Skip lives in Goleta and enjoys sailing with his wife, Jen, and their two daughters, Hala and GiGi. He’s still enamored by the sailing lifestyle, explaining, “You’re able to be in charge, to have a feeling of independence, and of harnessing nature and getting the boat to move.”

Skip Abed answers the Proust Questionnaire.

What is your greatest fear?

I don’t live in fear. I embrace everything that comes my way positively and optimistically.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Business ownership.

Where would you most like to live?


What is your current state of mind?

Positive and energetic.

What do you like most about your job?

Bringing families and friends together in an outdoor, healthy environment.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Health, balance, and a good quality of life.

Who do you most admire?

I admire people who follow their passion and dreams like I do.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Food. I love cooking and eating and appreciate exceptional service.

What is the quality you most like in people?

A good sense of humor.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?


What do you most value in friends?

Ability to not be competitive with each other.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Attention to detail.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Very exciting!” and “What’s next?”

Which talent would you most like to have?

To be multilingual.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

More time to exercise.

What is your most treasured possession?

My wedding ring.

What makes you laugh the most?

Making fun of myself.

What is your motto?

Enjoy your life.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I am creating my own path in history.

On what occasion do you lie?

When I told my daughters the tooth fairy is real.


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