Beginning his life in a landlocked region of France, Philippe Gadeyne began to appreciate sailing, boats, and the sea at an early age. His passion expanded to the underwater realm as he read the classics of sailing and undersea adventures penned by his countryman and hero, Jacques Cousteau
At an early age, his attention turned to photography, spending part of the summer, at his Godfather’s photo studio and dark room. Other times he and his brother worked at Dad’s construction company doing all the “nasty stuff.” In that way he was able to contribute to family vacations while learning the family business.
At the age of fourteen, Philippe’s father enrolled him in a beach club on the Mediterranean coast; dad told him: “You are going to learn to sail.” That began a lifelong love affair with the coast, boats, diving, and nature. Bursting with excitement, Philippe would leave the house at 7 a.m. and return at 7 p.m. never quite fulfilling his need for that magnetic romance that is boats.
Soon, overcoming his own shy nature, the student was teaching other teenagers as a coach at the beach club. As eager as their tutor to learn about boats, some went on to become avid sailors and racers, competing in Americas Cup Regattas.
At the same time Philippe’s interest in photography began to intensify. His Godfather helped him buy his first camera, a Russian Zenith that could easily be compared to a tank. He began shooting friends, boats, the ocean, the countryside and village of Provence, etc. He hasn’t stopped since.
Telling his father that he wanted to become a boat designer, dad suggested son first attend business school. On weekends Philippe studied photography at a fine arts school and began teaching students both how to improve their photographic skills and again, coaching sailing.
Sidetracked by his business degree, the graduate began his career in retail management at superstores and eventually entered into management at Union Carbide. In the late eighties, he sojourned to the US east coast settling in the state of Connecticut. There, he opened his first business importing French gifts and decorative accessories. As the economy tanked the intrepid entrepreneur uprooted himself. He headed west to Colorado to begin a business consulting with European manufacturers and developing domestic distribution channels. Involvement with a dive shop followed and Philippe became a dive master, assisting with classes at a Denver dive shop.
Later on, Philippe moved to California and worked as a sales manager for a company founded by one of his heroes, Jacque Cousteau, the co-inventor of the aqua lung. At US Divers’ newly created swimming division, Philippe’s job as a sales manager led him to travel the US supporting athletes and retailers on triathlons and trade shows the company sponsored. It’s through the Ironman Triathlon series that Philippe came in contact with disabled athletes. That was a life changing experience.
In 1997, he met his wife, Sandra. Continuing their travels, the couple moved to Florida for a while and in 2007 returned to San Diego where he introduced Sandra to sailing. An immediate disaster ensued when Sandra became afflicted with motion sickness during their first foray on the water. The intrepid sailor thought his sailing days were over. However, seasick meds were acquired, Sandra overcame motion sickness, learned to love the water as Philippe does and today the pair race, or cruise, regularly in San Diego.
Philippe’s first contact with the disabled, and their ability to unexpectedly surmount major obstacles, was when a branch of US Divers sponsored triathletes in the Ironman Competition. And like most of us, meeting Urban was a life changing experience. Then he worked at the Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, where he watched and photographed wounded warriors overcoming the odds to compete in surfing, kayaking, cycling, track & field, and sailing regattas. The more he learned about Challenged America (CA), the more amazed he became and the more passionate he became in his wish to work with the organization. At the summer sports Clinic you can spot Philippe on the dock with his telephoto lens focused on veterans racing in the Martin 16′s. You can catch him on the bay riding on support boats taking photos on the water and most, if not all the photos on the CA website, can be attributed to Philippe.
Philippe has coupled his passion for helping others and his computer skills to support CA. In the last year he redesigned the Challenged America website, adding photos and videos. He went on to establish a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and then Google+. CA now has over 1000 on-line followers and during our busy time of the year we receive over 40,000 page views per month.
“I have been lucky to have met or been influenced by quite a few exceptional people who overcame the odds, a lot of them connected to sailing and triathlon. Urban is one of them. There is something about what he has overcome and how he uses his experience to help others with disabilities overcome and live life. I think a lot of us could learn a thing or two from him.”