Plus One: Ian Urtnowski and Doug Mann
Relationship: Friends, owners of URT Clothing
Together: Friends 12 years, business partners one year
Their story: The “urt, urt” bark of a sea lion conjures up many images for Coronado lifeguards Urtnowski, 24, and Mann, 26. It represents the sound of the ocean and their livelihood. It reminds them of their many surfing trips up to Malibu, down to Baja and as far away as New Zealand. It’s a joke between two longtime friends who chuckled one day upon hearing the bark and realizing how much it resembled part of Ian’s family name.
Today, the duo has turned that sound into a thriving T-shirt brand, and prominent water enthusiasts like world body surfing champion and San Diego Lifeguard of the Year Mark Brown have been spotted sporting URT shirts. What’s so special? For one thing, the certified-organic cotton tees have the 2010-2011 tide chart printed on the inside, tracking the surf from Los Angeles to Tijuana.
“We wanted to make something that looks cool but that’s also really useful for people who love and use the water,” says Urtnowski, a graduate of Saint Augustine High School. “I like our slogan that the URT shirt can bring you to the water’s edge, but it’s up to you to jump in.”
Mann, a graduate of Coronado High School, got his whole family involved in the venture, even convincing his 70-year-old father, Lance — a Coronado lifeguard himself — to pose in an URT shirt for the company Web site (urturt.com). “He loves the water as much as we do, so he was happy to do it,” says Mann.
The duo says sales are picking up online, and they’re aiming to get their shirts in local surf shops and fishing stores later this year.