Jim Drake, an aeronautical engineer credited with inventing windsurfing in the late 1960s, died Tuesday of complications of emphysema at his home in Pfafftown, N.C., at the age of 83.
"He led an incredible, incredible life," longtime friend Bill Mai told the Winston-Salem Journal. "He was a generous man. He never held a grudge against anyone. We are all going to miss Jim."
Drake spent his career primarily as an aeronautical engineer and national security systems analyst. His aerodynamics work included helping to create the X-15 rocket plane and the Tomahawk cruise missile.
But it was his work on what would become known as the windsurfer that secured his status in the marine industry. His lifelong affinity for the water and sailing led the native Californian to develop a workable design for attaching a sail to a surfboard in 1967.