Scott Gerber, The Tube Dude
By Ed Bertha
Photography by Giovanni Lunardi
“The whole story behind doing something so sophisticated as custom yacht building, losing everything and then totally reinventing one’s self, has so much power and leg because right now so many people can relate to it. If Scott can turn his life around with something as simple as the Tube Dude, then I mean there’s hope for me. That’s what everyone is looking for, hope.”
Born and raised in Panama City, Florida, Scott Gerber was drawn to the water and had a passion for creating with his hands. “As a kid I liked drawing animals and fish. I was really into fishing,” he quips. The lure of the water won out.
Never pursuing art beyond adolescence, Scott entered the Merchant Academy and became a Ship’s Captain. One of the vessels he captained was 1,400 feet long, 300 feet wide and drew 100 feet of water. “We’d sail the ocean six months at a time carrying crude oil and not see land. You’d load up at a buoy and unload at a buoy and never see land. Later I spent three years on a boat without getting off the vessel,” he recalls.
I add, “You’re a sailor’s sailor.”
He laughs and responds, “I’m the real deal.”
The next leg of Scott’s voyage found him plying the waters between the Bahamas and Florida Keys as a professional sport fishing captain. He was doing pretty well on the circuit when Sarasota residents Dennis and Graci McGillicuddy learned of his prowess and success in sport fishing.
“I was fishing out of Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo and Dennis chartered me one day,” Scott begins. “We went out; it wasn’t a great day weather-wise. The water was very rough, making it a perfect day for sail fishing as the rougher it is the better the sailfish bite. In the first thirty minutes we caught three sailfish, one right after the other. It was the most aggressive sail fishing I had ever done. After the third sailfish I looked at Dennis and he says ‘I’m done, let’s go.’ And I’m like, ‘We have four more hours of fishing.’ He says ‘I’m done fishing; let’s go talk.’ So we went back to the dock and spoke for a little while and about a week later I’m asked to meet him at Fisher Island in Miami’s South Beach. We met on a gentleman’s yacht belonging to John Porter, the owner of a large communications firm in Sarasota, whom I knew from fishing in Panama City.”
At the meeting Dennis offered Scott a job he couldn’t refuse. The position took him straight to the Bahamas. “We fished a lot, placed in many tournaments and did very well. Those were probably five of the best years of my life, working with Dennis and Graci. They’re really great people,” he muses.
Moving on, Scott spent time as an owner’s representative in Europe, a position that placed him as a liaison between new yacht customers and the ships’ builders. “I was kind of a go between, like an ambassador for the owner, ensuring that the finished product was what he wanted, and keeping things moving smoothly with the boat company. Because I had a Masters License it was very hard for them to pull the wool over my eyes,” he says matter-of-factly.
Scott continues, “I was always very creative. I wouldn’t start at the shipyard where most owners’ reps start; I would start with the designer. I lived in Monte Carlo working with a gentleman named Richard Hine, who later became president of Oceanco, builder of the largest yachts in the world.”
During this period Scott helped design a 115 foot sport fisherman, which at the time was the largest vessel of its kind in existence. Achieving speeds upwards of 40 knots, it was the world’s fastest sport fisherman as well. Every detail of this boat was very unique, incorporating things never done before. Even with its mammoth size the boat was a very solid performer, and winner, in tournament fishing.
Scott then moved to Norway and oversaw the construction of the world’s fastest mega yacht. Upon completion he was to oversee construction of a big sport fisherman for the McGillicuddys. However, the ship works folded right before construction started. Scott then came back to Sarasota and went to work for Bill Griffin, who was then at the pinnacle of his business.
Bill never called Scott past 8:00 PM. But one night he called at 8:30 and asked that Scott come to Europe with him. Bill had read a book about a gentleman executing an IPO, which he was also in the process of doing. The fellow had a daughter who went to Italy and was kidnapped. “Mafioso do that,” intones Scott. “Bill had a daughter; I believe seven at the time, very American looking. Bill said ‘I need you to go as my bodyguard.’ He had a private jet, a Challenger. I can remember descending in Iceland, and the landing gear wouldn’t lock. We touched down and I jumped out and started running. After going five hundred and fifty miles per hour, what seems to be slow isn’t really slow; the jet was pulling away. I finally caught up to it and pinned the landing gear.”
Scott came back to Sarasota and worked with Bill for five years. Meeting a very special lady he decided it was time to start a family. “You can’t be a boat captain, a bodyguard or whatever with a family,” he states. “I never gave it a second thought.”
“When you are an ex-boat captain/designer your next journey is to be a boat builder. I worked in the best yards in the world, saw how they operated and what they did. I knew this was something I could take to the next level.”
He certainly took it to the next level with his first boat-building company, Predator. Predator built gorgeous, incredible boats, some of the fastest vessels on the water. Eventually, Scott and his business partner Bill Griffin sold the company.
Scott then started a second boat building company on his own, Legend. Legend produced boats even better than Predator, faster and extremely well-appointed, but the timing wasn’t right. Just as Legend started getting manufacturing to capacity, the economy began to deteriorate. Many customers became unable to finish their boats, and there wasn’t anybody else to pick up the slack. Ultimately Legend closed its doors. “Yeah, it was the toughest thing I ever did. I saw these folks’ babies being born. I wasn’t looking forward to letting my people go. I would have done anything. I would have walked over hot coals to not look in those guys’ faces and let them go that day,” he says sadly.
Inspiration struck on the way to work one day at the corner of 17th Street and 301. “Something hit me in the back of the head and said ‘You are going to make a stick man today.’ I had no clue where that came from.”
In one corner of the Legend shop was a welding company. As the story goes Scott headed over there, started picking up their stuff, bending it, welding it, teaching himself metal working. About five hours later, the first Tube Dude was born.
Speaking of the Tube Dude he shares “I only wanted to convey happiness, and the only thing you need to convey happiness is a smile. The only two things you need to convey a smile are a big old grin and some big, bright eyes. The name is fifty percent of its ability to make you smile. It’s hard to say Tube Dude and not smile.
“We haven’t put that much into it, but what the Tube Dude gives back is so much more,” Scott adds. “It was the restraint of keeping it as simplistic as possible: no nose, no ears, no putting five fingers; it only has four. That’s where the artistic part came into it. I had to work to keep it as minimalistic as possible.
“I love symphony, theater, museums and all that, but never practiced it. This was all new to me. Looking back, my yachts were art. They were art that could do fifty knots and take any wave Mother Nature threw at them. They were gorgeous in every aspect. I would sit after hours, stare at my boats and critique every line, as if I were Picasso himself trying to figure out exactly where to put the next little piece of paint,” he recalls fondly.
Tube Dude Phenomenon
Noticing the first Tube Dude, Scott’s Fisherman Dude, an inquiring neighbor asked him to create a mailbox for her. “I thought, that’s the most ridiculous thing I ever heard. But I went ahead and made it,” he says smiling. While trying to find his inner self and figure out what to do next, Scott decided to paint his three-story home. Up on the roof he could look down at the Tube Dude mailbox. Every time he looked there was a new car with people taking photos with their arm around the Tube Dude. Jokingly he offers, “This was when I knew there was something really wrong with this world.”
Each Tube Dude is unique. All are handmade, individually made; there is no production line. Thumbing through Tube Dude photographs Scott shares “You don’t get bored with them. You never know what you will see next. We’re doing Tube Dude furniture, you know it’s endless. That’s what great about this whole concept; anyone can come up with something that’s perfect for them.” Catching a wave globally, Tube Dudes have found homes as far away as Australia, Norway and Poland.
Every Tube Dude is influenced by the owner. According to Scott that’s why the owners like them so much; it’s a piece of them. He offers emphatically, “I don’t look so much at what can I create but who is behind it, the wonderful stories they have and who is that person. When I look at a Tube Dude I don’t see metal tubing, a skeleton or the lines of a stick drawing. What I see is the person’s happiness aura, what color their aura is and what shape their aura is. There’s not a single Tube Dude, and we’ve made over five hundred of them, that I don’t remember who I made it for and know something about them.”
Scott adds, “The greatest thing about the Tube Dude is I’ve never sold one to an unhappy person. Everyone who comes through the door is happy and smiling. What I’ve learned about the Tube Dude is that people don’t buy Tube Dudes to make them smile, they buy Tube Dudes to make the people around them smile.”
Copyright © 2011 REAL Magazine
Links to this article are encouraged
Photography used under license from Giovanni Lunardi Photography
Photography Copyright © 2011 Giovanni Lunardi