Ian Urtnowski is a Coronado High School graduate (Class of ’08) and founder of Coronado-based waterman’s brand, URT Clothing.
1. You started a company called “URT” in 2010. What is it and where did the idea spring from?
I founded URT after deciding I wanted to start my own company based off something I enjoy, the unique culture of ocean goers. Watermen use phrases that I, in turn, tailored products around. I graduated with a bachelor of science in business administration/accounting from Point Loma Nazarene University. But I couldn’t envision myself sitting behind a desk for the rest of my life.
Since 2006, I’ve been working as a Coronado Beach Lifeguard. At work, everyone is known by his or her last name. Seeing as mine is far too long for people to remember and pronounce, everyone calls me “Urt.” One day, while out in the ocean on a physical training break, I heard someone yell “Urt, Urt,” but when I turned around I discovered that it was a sea lion barking. A light bulb went off in my head in that very moment and I decided to start a company whose logo is now a sea lion; appropriate because we are a company that caters to active ocean goers as well as professional ocean operators, Navy SEALs.
2. URT sponsors a number of community events. Why is this important to you?
Events give our company a heartbeat and allow us to interact with our customers face to face. In Coronado, we host a playful hole-digging competition in the sand (this year on June 5), a bodysurfing event called “the Womp” (mid-August), a Halloween surfing event in which you wear your costume out in the water and a Christmas-themed costume surf. We also do our annual free dive “Lobster Grab” competition at Sunset Cliffs.
We are committed to educating youth about the ocean, as well as supporting their passion, which is why we sponsor the Coronado Beach Junior Guards, Coronado Middle School and Coronado High School water polo teams and assorted spearfishing and bodysurfing clubs.
3. Where do you go when you need a break from the beach?
I like to get creative over coffee at Tartine or get rehydrated at Coronado Brewing Company.
4. Coronado-based Navy SEAL Charlie Keating IV passed away on May 3, 2016 while on deployment in Iraq. He was an immense supporter of yours. How will his legacy live on through URT?
Charlie was a waterman, a frogman, and most importantly my friend. He wore URT with pride and took our gear on his deployments. Charlie embodied our company’s profile due to his love of ocean adventure and involvement in everything life had to offer. Charlie won our URT Dig competition one year and was infectiously happy about it. Danny’s Bar still has the golden shovel he won, leaning in the corner of their establishment.
Charlie left me with an emotional blueprint that I will use to push URT forward confidently. HIs favorite phrase was “something that is worth doing, is worth overdoing.” To me, URT is worth doing.
5. Where do you see URT going in the future?
URT will stay true to its values. My biggest goal is to become a more proactive company. The years I have spent being reactionary have been rough. I want to limit the pitfalls and stop learning easy lessons the hard way.
Currently we are producing “Chuck Heavy” t-shirts in honor of Charlie Keating, manufactured in the USA. Through generous donations, we were able to hand out 1,500 shirts at his memorial service at Tidelands Park. Due to an overwhelming response for more shirts, we have made them available on our website, urturt.com. Proceeds from the shirt benefit the Navy SEAL Foundation as well as Charlie’s favorite nonprofit, One More Wave Surf Corporation, whose mission is to provide surfboards to wounded veterans.