It’s the summer of 1989 in Hood River. The town, smaller than it is today, is at its busiest with water enthusiasts flocking to the riverfront to take advantage of the prime conditions as they still do 30 years later. Crowds of teenagers and 20-somethings mingle from the heart of downtown to the shores of the Columbia; somewhere, the faint echo of Richard Marx’s “Right Here Waiting” can be heard. Among the Hood River residents is a lean, tan 25-year-old Bruce Peterson with a love for windsurfing and a passion for sail-making. He’s been windsurfing for a number of years and making sails since ’82. While he’s competed in a number of windsurfing events throughout North America with reasonable success, he’d yet to claim victory at a professional event, partly due to his work constraints.
“I was working with Rushwind in town,” said Peterson. “So I was working and surfing all day every day. I was always captivated with the speed of windsurfing, the efficiency and science of making the craft go as fast as you can.”
As the summer peak passed, the 1989 Pro-Am event returned to the shores of Hood River and garnered its usual large audience and top-tier contenders, Peterson one of the latter. He’d placed third in the event the year prior and was competing again with high hopes and a vision set on first place.
“I had a good chance, I knew that,” said Peterson. “It was my home course, I knew the wind and water conditions, I knew the angles and I had some of the best training partners and good equipment. It was going to come down to who had the better day and made the least mistakes.”
In the end, it was Peterson who did both, as his collective score following the three heats saw him win the event. With his teammates and fiancé congratulating him and his home crowd celebrating, Peterson seemed to have made his break through in the windsurfing world.
“That day was my day,” said Peterson, recalling the event with a grin. “To win at that event, with the big cash purse, in front of the hometown crowd it was … incredible. It all came together that summer 30 years ago. The event was in July, my wife and I got married in September and then myself and my business partners opened Sailworks. Everything fell into place that year; I remember thinking how these were the best days of my life.”
Peterson and his wife, Amy Peterson, established the research and development facility for Sailworks in a humble starter home in Hood River. Together they devoted endless hours to make their dream a reality and help Sailworks take off.
“We started in a double-wide trailer with a 2,000 square foot shop in the back and my wife and I bought that place,” said Peterson. “I didn’t even realize it was a double-wide trailer, I was looking at the shop. That was a good spot for us to start. Then we built this place in 2000 and have been here ever since.”
While he competed professionally for a few more years after the Pro-Am victory, Peterson never topped his ’89 win and eventually gave up the pro-gig in favor of the shop. Sailworks simultaneously pulled back as a business, unable to compete with the capital of other companies. They maintained their popularity in the sport but slowly stopped sponsoring pro racers, ceasing any pro work 10 years ago.
Today, Peterson keeps the same routine of caring for the shop and getting out on the water as much as he can; it’s one he plans to keep going forward.
“The whole project from the beginning has been very hedonistic,” said Peterson. “I do it because I love it. I make new sails because I have ideas on how to make them better, I got into racing because I wanted to be better and faster.”
Peterson can be found today doing what he was back in that summer of ’89 when it all fell together and his life started on the path it’s been on for the last 30 years — a life of making sails and surfing. Hedonistic indeed.