Tres Martin, the nation's top high-performance powerboat driving instructor, is training Karen Benson as an instructor for his Performance Boat School. When her training is complete next summer, Benson, who currently works with the school to help manage its administration, logistics and marketing, will begin teaching the school's "Boating for Beginners" and "Performance Boat" courses. Based in Ocala, Fla., the outfit offers courses around the country.
"Karen already teaches about half of the indoor curriculum for our courses, from using life jackets and lanyards to situational awareness," said Martin. "She has been working with us since the beginning of March and right now she has 55 to 60 hours on the water with me and my clients in the boats.
"There are probably a lot of women out there who would be more comfortable learning to drive their boats or their husband's boat from a woman," he continued. "We toyed around with the idea over the summer, but now we're ready to bring her on. We think it's the perfect time. She'll start with the courses for boats that go up to 75 mph."
"What we're hoping to do is expand the courses to women," said Benson. "We think it's really important that they get involved with learning how to run the boats properly, and I think women will be less intimidated by a woman instructor. So far, we've gotten nothing but positive feedback on it."
An amateur horse trainer, Benson entered the go-fast boat world in South Florida in 1999-2000. She worked for the Aqua Toy Store and even raced for the now-defunct dealership in its Donzi 38 ZR Comp and Reindl "bat boat." Before joining the Tres Martin Performance Boat School, she worked for the Florida Powerboat Club for two years.
"Between the Florida Powerboat Club and the Performance Boat School now, I can't even tell you how many boats I've been in," she said. "Tons."
While Benson will continue to join Martin in the cockpit with his students, her one-on-one, behind-the-wheel training with him will begin in earnest this winter.
"I know he plans to put me through a lot more this winter," she said. "I'm excited about it."
"For me to put her through all of this is a lot of investment in time," said Martin. "She's already spent a lot of time with me and my students on the water—she's spent a lot of hours listening to me talking to my clients through the headsets—but now she's going to be getting a lot more one on one.
"Teaching people how to drive boats is not just skill-based training, it's psychology," he added. "It's not just human performance. You have to be able to get into the head of the person you are training, because we're all different and one person learns differently than another.