Paul Ippolito transitions from trades to trails

Sabrina Dong

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Wall Street trader. Mountain biking extraordinaire. Teacher. Paul Ippolito is a man of many talents who followed his passions for biking and economics from New York to California.

He eventually combined all of these passions with his post at Redwood as an Economics and AP Economics teacher and his role as the co-founder of the Redwood Mountain Biking Team.

Originally a bond trader on Wall Street, Ippolito later became a fixed portfolio manager, handling money for large companies and institutions instead of individual people.

“I’ve always liked finance and I majored in economics in college,” Ippolito said. He attended the University of Chicago, specifically because of its reputation as a good school for the study of economics and finance.

His interest in the subject stems from the ability to use and apply economic theories to real-life.

“I think it’s a great platform for critical thinking and that you need to understand economic theory to help solve a lot of complex social problems,” Ippolito said.

Paul Ippolito

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During his youth in New York, Ippolito’s passion for finance was coupled with his love for motorcycle and dirt bike racing. When he was younger, Ippolito would race competitively with his brother.

“I would injure myself so badly that I’d break a lot of bones and I had to get back surgery,” Ippolito said.

The intensity of motorbike racing soon became too much and as he got older, Ippolito’s injuries made it harder for him to continue skiing and playing tennis. Mountain biking turned out to be the perfect sport for Ippolito because it was a relatively new sport, which made it easier for him train to compete at an older age.

“Mountain biking is something I could still do at a pretty good level even though I’d been injured a lot. I started mountain biking probably about 25 years ago and I’ve loved it ever since,” Ippolito said.

According to Ippolito, being outdoors coupled with the feeling of being youthful and adventurous  make mountain biking his favorite pastime.

“I love being outside in nature. I love that it keeps me young. I don’t like to crash, but I like that there’s the potential to get hurt, it’s exciting,” Ippolito said.

Biking became such an important part of his life that when Ippolito wasn’t able to ride during recovery from injuries or illness, it had a negative effect on his mood and happiness.

“Even one or two days after a really hard ride, I still get the endorphin high, so it’s something I almost need to do. I was sick for a while, so I stopped riding and it was a really bad period,” Ippolito said. “It’s really great to be getting more healthy and being able to ride again. I really love it.”

Ippolito decided to follow his passion for mountain bike racing all the way across the country when, despite his love of economics, he discovered aspects of the financial world that he didn’t agree with.

“I loved [working on Wall Street] for the first 10 years, and then I started to see some bad things in the industry that I didn’t like. I got really soured on it because the way for me to make money at one point was to do things I didn’t believe in and I couldn’t do that,” Ippolito said.  “I didn’t like what the people who were getting promoted were doing to get promoted. It seemed wrong.”

Paul Ippolito bikes on a grassy trail.

Paul Ippolito bikes on a grassy trail.

Ippolito’s journey took him to Sausalito because of its excellent mountain biking terrain, and he soon after became an economics teacher at Redwood High School.

“I just quit to start my life over and it led to me to move from New York to California. I left New York with two bicycles on my roof and raced bikes around the country,” Ippolito said.

After starting to teach, Ippolito helped co-found Redwood’s mountain biking team with English teacher Patchen Homitz, starting solely as an unorganized club of students.

“We started from nothing,” Ippolito said. “We had a little mountain biking club that was really unorganized and the kids weren’t doing anything.”

Ippolito helped take charge. He discovered a league for the riders to race in and began to make the club more intensive, demanding more commitment, which lead to the creation of a very dedicated team.

“We founded a mountain bike league and we said, ‘This is no longer going to be a club; this is going to be a team and you have to sign up and it has to be your only sport for this semester,’” Ippolito said. “We got a committed group of kids and we even won the championship our first year.”

Ippolito worked to raise money to support the team, create the uniforms, and find sponsors. Although he is no longer coaching the team, the end result of his work was a successful mountain biking team that continues to exist today and gives high school kids the opportunity to explore the sport that he himself enjoys so much.

“It was great. I love building things, new things, and it was great to build it from scratch and I’m glad it continues today,” Ippolito said.