1981: The Vision

In 1981 founder Dan Empfield competed in the first Ironman on Hawaii's Big Island. As a pioneer of the sport, he envisioned a bright future for it, but felt something was lacking: High-quality equipment that accommodated the needs of triathletes.

He decided to provide the solution to this dilemma by starting a company named after one of his favorite places on the planet, Quintana Roo, Mexico. The first creation was a wetsuit designed specifically for triathletes.

As the wetsuits began to show up on triathlon starting lines across the world, he noticed a gap on the road as well. Triathletes' only options were road bikes and that they adapted with aerobars. Dan filled that gap in 1989 with Quintana Roo's first ever tri-specific bike.

This bike was revolutionary. It came with aerobars, a unique performance-enhancing angle, ride, and whole new feel. In the years that followed, many companies claimed to be contenders, but none had the focus and insight of QR.

Since then, QR equipment has evolved right alongside the sport. The wetsuits for 2011 are unsurpassed and our bikes are considered some of the finest available.

Is it true? The fact that our athletes are among the world's best in the sport speaks for itself. But of course, you could simply take a good look around at our remarkably large following of active triathletes.


1987: The Wetsuit

Where to begin? This is probably one of the most often told stories of triathlon, aside from the Iron War of '89: Dan Empfield created the first triathlon-specific wetsuit and founded Quintana Roo in 1987, and in 1989 released the first 'modern' triathlon bike 'built from the handlebars back.' The bike was designed with a steep seat-tube angle, a geometry that enabled a triathlete to truly to take advantage of the the Scott DH aerobars that were by then coming into fashion. The rest, as they say, is history.

The rest may be history, but this is a story that did not end there, with the original Superform. No, this is a story that spans the 27 years since the founding of QR until today. It is a story that, like it or not, if you are a triathlete, you cannot escape. It is a story of innovation and new ideas, and, like every good story, it has its ups and downs. Without this story, we would not have triathlon as we know it, and it is a story worth telling. Without this story, we would not have our wetsuits or triathlon bikes. There would be no USA Triathlon, as we know it today. We would not have Slowtwitch or learned the importance of triathlon bike fit. The world would be a much different place. At least, our world of triathlon would not be the same.

First things first: where did the name Quintana Roo come from? This has been a long-debated and controversial topic for many years (okay, not really). Some 'historians' suggest that the name came from a trip that Dan took to Australia, where he learned to skin and tan kangaroos from a man named Quinn: 'Quinn, tan a roo?' Others suggest that the name came from the previous owners of the original QR warehouse: Quintana Roofing, a failed Mexican roofing contractor, and as the letters fell off the sign, Quintana Roo was born. Still, some conspiracy theorists maintain that Dan, while doing testing in a wind tunnel, discovered that 'Quintana Roo' happened to be the most aerodynamic name he tested, and that it added special aerodynamic and hydrodynamic properties to whatever object he put the name on. However, even though truth may indeed be stranger than fiction, this time it isn't: the name Quintana Roo simply came from Dan's favorite place, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

But why found Quintana Roo? As the story goes, Dan did his first Ironman in 1981, the first year it was held in Kona, and became hooked on the sport. However, it wasn't long before he realized that the products that triathletes were using were not suited to the task. In 1987, Dan, with the help of Victory Wetsuits and the support of Bob Babitt, developed and produced a new wetsuit that had the swim-specific characteristics that triathletes needed. The first person to swim in the new wetsuit was Mark Montgomery, a lifeguard and triathlete, who knew right away that this was something special.

But, when a triathlete by the name of Brad Kearns wore a QR wetsuit in an L.A. Triathlon series race and came out of the water significantly ahead of his friend Andrew MacNaughton, well, by the next race Andrew had a QR wetsuit, and by the end of the season, almost every top pro in Southern California was wearing a QR wetsuit. As more and more athletes began to use the QR wetsuit, the advantages of using such purpose built products became more and more apparent. A new market was born, and Quintana Roo was established.

Quintana Roo's first building was a warehouse in Santa Ana, California. Dan needed a place other than his apartment to make his wetsuits, and split the building with George Yates, the founder of Trico Sports, who needed a place other than his garage to pour his seat pads into the aluminum molds. Was this warehouse the old headquarters of failed contractor Quintana Roofing?