It may be logical to think someone who races boats at speeds over 200 mph might enjoy everything in life at a faster tempo. Not so for Andy Reynolds.
"My wife calls me grandpa when I drive," said Reynolds, a 38-year-old Lake Wylie native. "She says I drive so slow."
Reynolds' cautious driving habits and his decision to settle in the relatively slow Southeastern part of the country could be partly because he gets the need for speed out of his system on the water. Reynolds has been racing drag boats professionally since 1991.
"My brother, Joe, used to race boats in the late '70s and early '80s. That's how I got into it," said Reynolds, a Realtor for Keller Williams Realty in Fort Mill.
At age 15, Reynolds and his brother, who is 15 years older, started learning how to build engines and getting the boats ready to race. About a year later, while working on a crew for friend Chuck Shelton, Reynolds settled into the driver's seat for the first time.
"He let me drive around the lake. At that point, I was hooked," he said.
Racing has led Reynolds as far away as Arizona and California.
"The Southwest is really the hotbed of drag boat racing," Reynolds said. "There's really not a lot in the southeast. There are a handful of guys in the Carolinas."
Unfortunately, fans would have to travel out of the area to see a boat like Reynolds' in action.
"We used to test our boat on Lake Wylie, but it's just too fast," Reynolds said.
All in the family
Reynolds races a hydroplane, a small boat designed for drag racing that glides in the air just above the water rather than moving through it. His boat, Déjà Vu, is about 20 feet long and weighs 2,350 pounds.
"My original boat was named 'Parental Discretion Advised,'" because of my parents' view of drag boat racing," Reynolds said. "When myself and the boat's owner got together to build our second boat, we wanted a new name. We decided to name it "Déjà Vu," because we had that feeling -- here we go again."
His teammates are his brother and nephew, Jeremy Boughman, who works out of Reynolds' brother's shop, Marine III, off S.C. 274 near Lake Wylie.
"He deals a lot with custom boat motors and installation. Mostly with performance boats," Reynolds said about his brother's work.
His wife, Karra, 11-year-old son Taylor and 12-year-old daughter Kelsey are all supportive, Reynolds said, but there is not another speedboat racer growing up in his home.
"They have no desire (to race boats), and my mother-in-law would kill me if I tried to put one of her grandkids in one," Reynolds said with a grin.
An interesting feature on the hydroplane is the driver's capsule, a small pod just big enough to hold the driver. In the event of a high-speed wreck, the capsule is designed to protect the driver from the force of the crash while the rest of the boat breaks away into the water.
"It's designed to be a little cocoon. It encapsulates the driver," Reynolds said.
Reynolds said the capsule is a safety measure of last resort, and once, it saved his life.
"I crashed about two years ago in Augusta (Ga.)," Reynolds said, explaining mechanical problems caused the boat to veer off course. "I was lucky though. It happened early in the race. I was only going about 100 mph."
Although the boat was no longer raceable after the wreck, Reynolds walked away unhurt. It is the only major crash Reynolds has ever been involved in, and even though he said it all went by so quickly, it was an experience he said he never hopes to relive.
"The boat we have now is the first one we built after the crash," Reynolds said.
A lasting career
Sixteen years before that Augusta race, Reynolds was named Rookie of the Year in 1991. He went on to earn the Driver of the Year title in 1999, and in 2000, held the National Drag Boat Association records for time -- 5.66 seconds -- and speed -- 215 mph -- for the quarter-mile race.
Now, Reynolds races as part of the International Hot Boat Association. In November, Reynolds finished as runner-up is his division with a time of 5.58 seconds, reaching a top speed of 219.94 mph in the Napa Auto Parts IHBA World Finals in Phoenix.
He finished second by one-hundredth of a second.
"It was hard to lose by that close of a margin," Reynolds said. "The big goal is 220 mph. We were oh, so close."
The IHBA all-time speed record is 225.02 mph. Still, Reynolds will have plenty of chances to best his goal of 220 this year. He plans to return to the Firebird Raceway Phoenix, his favorite racing venue, April 24-26 for the 26th annual Lakefest. He'll also be in the Southeast twice this summer, July 17-19 at the Augusta Summer Nationals in Augusta, and July 24-26 in High Point, N.C.
Besides hitting the 220 mph mark, Reynolds said his ultimate goal is to, one day, run the quarter mile in five seconds flat.
"Right now, the quickest run ever is 5.23 seconds," Reynolds said.
For more information on Reynolds, visit dragboats.com, and for more information on drag boat races, results, or records, visit IHBA.com.