Hall of Fame
2015 Hall of Fame Inductee: Gary Sutton
Gary Sutton has contributed an enormous amount to both the marine industry and to the New Zealand Boat Show. A young show volunteer in the early 1960s he, 50 years later, became the New Zealand Boat Show’s first ever naming-rights sponsor. In the intervening years, he owned several successful marine manufacturing businesses and then rescued one of the country’s most iconic companies.
Gary was just 9 when he first started helping out at the New Zealand Boat Show. His first “job” was handing out the show programmes but it wasn’t long until he graduated to selling tickets at the gate and he has been involved, in one way or another, in every show since! In the 1970s he was instrumental in the building of the show’s famous big lakes, including the digging out of the arena.
Gary was also a keen water skier and, in the 1970s, was part of the professional skiing troupe performing at Sea World in Surfer’s Paradise.
Gary also helped arrange for the Sea World skiers to “cross the ditch” and perform on the lake during the New Zealand Boat Show.
Gary’s first business venture was the well-known Ski and Underwater Centre, just down the road from here, in Greenlane. He then switched to manufacturing: first creating the Water Werks brand of wetsuits and then revitalising the Dorlon range of wet weather gear.
Based in Parnell, Gary’s company at the time, Step One, gained huge profile by providing Peter Blake with Dorlon wet weather gear for his Around Australia Challenge in Steinlager 1.
Gary also created the Loose Unit range of kneeboards, ski vests and accessories, a brand that is still going strong today.
In the late 1990s, Gary’s relatively small company, Step One, surprised the marine world by buying one of the giants of the New Zealand marine industry, Hutchwilco. Although Hutchwilco was New Zealand’s oldest company, founded in the late 19th century, and one of its best known, it was not, by then, in very good shape.
However, thanks to Gary’s drive, enthusiasm and business acumen, both the company and the iconic Hutchwilco brand were soon restored to their former glory.
Just a few years after being bought by Gary, Hutchwilco became the first ever naming-rights sponsor of the New Zealand Boat Show, which has been known as the Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show ever since.
Gary has also always been very generous with both his time and his support, especially for the sport he loves. He has served on both the general and boat show committees of the Auckland Water Ski Club, on the NZ Waterski Association and the NZ Barefoot Skiing Association and, through his various companies, supported a large number of marine organisations, individuals and events.