Owen Porter Churchill (March 8, 1896 – November 22, 1985), the son of a successful gold prospector who founded a real-estate and investment company in Los Angeles, had decided to take up flying as a hobby after leaving the Army at the end of World War I. But on his return to Los Angeles, his mother presented him with a boat in exchange for his promise never to fly while she was alive.
Churchill was the first person to win an Olympic yachting gold medal for the US. He and Duke Kahanamoku were US Olympic teammates on the 1932 Los Angeles squad. In 1939, Churchill went to Tahiti, where he observed the natives swimming with braided banana leaves attached to their feet. Mr. Churchill decided to make his own design of swim fins out of vulcanized rubber. The rest is history.