The home building business takes an extraordinary amount of drive and dedication, so it's not surprising that most builders eat, breathe, and sleep housing. But life is composed of so much more than what happens at work, and without the balance of a life well-lived, the challenges of the business can drain rather than energize a person. We asked builders to tell us how they spend their spare time; the responses were as creative and diverse as the home building business itself. Their passions extend far beyond closing a land deal or watching a house come up out of the ground. We heard about builders who collect Russian art, travel the world, and mentor children. Many have a passion for sports; we heard from two hockey players, three race car drivers, two water-sport enthusiasts, a breeder of racehorses, and a college basketball referee. Some pour themselves into the welfare of others, building schools in Africa and protecting endangered animal species.

We wish we could have featured all of them, if for no other reason than it was wonderful to sit and talk with them, soaking up the feelings they have for their pastimes. Bound by space limitations, we settled on five.

AIRBORNE ACROBAT Rick Porter can describe what aerobatic piloting means to him in one word: escape.

“The first time I did it, it was just the most delightful thing I'd ever done,” says the owner of Atlanta-based Richport Properties. “Here, 25 years later, I still feel it's sort of the epitome of three-dimensional freedom. It really is a ballet with an airplane.”

Porter not only flies an aerobatic plane, but also competes at the advanced level. In the world of aerobatic flying, only unlimited category pilots fly more difficult routines. In competition, advanced-level pilots must perform three flights inside a 3,300-foot cube between 800 feet and 3,500 feet above the ground. A panel of five judges scores the pilots on a series of maneuvers that must be done inside the cube, which is marked on the ground.

While air show routines are done for the “wow factor,” Porter says, competitive routines are all about precision. And even though he may be flying upside down at nearly 200 miles per hour, Porter says he doesn't consider himself a thrill-seeker.

“It's not about risk,” he says. “There probably is a bit of bravado involved in it, but it's truly about the expertise and control it takes to do it. You're flying an airplane that will do whatever you tell it to do and stay there until it falls out of the sky. It's very exhilarating. When you add the freedom aspect and the competition, it's something I really enjoy.”

He also enjoys the camaraderie of the community of aerobatic pilots; only about 400 to 500 pilots compete at this level and every competition is a bit like a family reunion. He looks forward to spending weekends hanging out with people who share his passion for the sport.

“There is a kid-like passion in all of us who do it,” he says. “I'm not sure any of us fully wants to grow up.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Napa, CA.