Thanks to relationships formed from rowing, RecWest was born.
It all started when RecWest Outdoor Products’ Founder and President, Michael Bennet, was on the college rowing team in the early ’70s at the University of California, Berkeley. Mike explained, “Our rowing team was very good! Rowing is both a challenging and strength-building full-body workout. I loved the team camaraderie.”
After college, Mike coached rowing at Berkeley High School and Saint Mary’s College. At the age of twenty-four, Mike was hired to coach the UCLA crew and he moved to Los Angeles in the summer of 1977. Mike remembers, “For five years I had the pleasure of coaching the UCLA Crew. The young men on the team were extremely bright and energetic. It was a fantastic time in my life.”
Even though Michael loved the coaching gig at UCLA, after five years he was ready to find his way in the business world. He was hired by Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate and spent ten years as a commercial real estate broker in downtown Los Angeles. It was then that the relationships he made in rowing circled back to him, “An old teammate, Tim Hodges, was exploring the possibility of starting a sales rep firm to represent Landscape Structures. He introduced me to the idea of selling playground equipment as a business.” Landscape Structures wanted to have two rep firms covering southern California. Mike got an interview with Steve and Barb King, the founders of Landscape Structures, “Steve and Barb chose me to cover the LA area as a rep, and it was one of my luckiest moments! I started the rep firm, RecWest Outdoor Products late in 1992 and it changed my life.” Six months later, Tim started Coast Recreation to cover the San Diego area.
“They chose me to cover the area as a rep, and it was one of my luckiest moments! I started the rep firm, RecWest Outdoor Products, and it changed my life.”
Just recently, Mike’s passions for rowing and coaching were brought back into the limelight. Two of the students that Mike coached donated two 8-oared racing shells to the UCLA Rowing program. With the significant donation of the German-built boats, they had a request – that the boat is named after their rowing coach, Mike Bennett.
On March 8, 2020, the UCLA Rowing Team, alumni, and others gathered for a boat christening ceremony for the Mike Bennett. “It was amazing to be at the boat christening and see so many kids I coached, the fraternity, and those I made friends with while I was there. What a cool experience!” The UCLA Rowing team will use the “Mike Bennett” boat this spring and probably for the next ten years.
“It was amazing to be at the boat christening and see so many kids I coached, the fraternity, and those I made friends with while I was there. What a cool experience!”
What started as a conversation with a rowing buddy in the early ’90s, turned into a recreational products business with 5 employees and over 2000 playground projects under his belt today. Mike continues to focus on relationships as the foundation in all of his endeavors. Although he doesn’t participate in the sport of rowing anymore, Mike stays active by running, cycling, and encouraging outdoor play for kids through RecWest Outdoor Products.