They met 10 years ago through Charleston’s sailing scene, both about 8 years old at the time.
They grew up as self-described “friendly enemies,” racing each other in local regattas, always hoping to outperform the other as two of Hobcaw Yacht Club’s top youth sailors.
It wasn’t until three years ago, thanks to Wando High School’s sailing team, when Austin Ando, now 17 and Cameron Gise, now 18, actually formed a friendship after nearly a decade of just being competitive acquaintances.
Now the two are closer than ever, and have their sights set on winning a national championship together.
Ando and Gise make up the only South Carolina team competing in the 2016 U.S. Sailing Youth Championship, an invitation-only event which begins at Coronado Yacht Club in Coronado, California, on Aug. 5.
“You had to qualify through certain regattas last year and you had to send in an application,” Gise explained. “So I think there’s 30 International 420 sailboats that are going to be there. Probably 60 or 70 registered and try to get in.
“You had to go to certain regattas, certain big regattas last year. And how you placed in those, you put that on your resume. If they think it’s good enough, then they’ll pick you.”
Ando and Gise sent in their individual resumes with their sailing accolades listed on them, but they applied together, as one unit.
Ando will skipper the International 420 boat while Gise serves as the crew member. The International 420 boat is not like the regular 420 boat they sailed at Wando — the International 420 is lighter in weight and has an extra sail — so the training period has been an adjustment.
“We’ve only been sailing the boat for a couple months together and some of these kids have been sailing together for years in this boat,” Gise said.
“It’s pretty much a completely different boat.”
To train, Ando and Gise have gone to Rhode Island and Florida in recent weeks, as well as sailed around Charleston.
Two weeks ago, they got a good laugh when Gise unexpectedly flipped out of the boat. Ando said it’s been his favorite sailing memory with Gise thus far.
“We were sailing upwind, going pretty fast and then Cameron broke his wire that he hangs onto,” Ando said.
“He stands on the side of the boat and he’s hooked into a wire so he’s parallel to the water. But the wire snapped and there was just no Cameron. He was just gone.”
Ando and Gise will head to Florida once more, this weekend, for a final training session before it’s off to California the following week.
The goal is to place in the top eight of the 30-plus International 420 boats competing.
“We’ve pretty much been best buds for a while so we decided just to team up together,” Gise said.
“We’re both laid back, which doesn’t really get much done, but when we’re on the water, we start to get into it a little bit more.”