Category Archives: About Us

About Us: Milena Johnson

Milena JohnsonI windsurf because it gives me the best feeling, whether its speed, freedom or adventure; it’s the only sport that never stops challenging me mentally and physically or rewarding me with new friends and memories.

Name: Milena Johnson

Favorite Gorge Beach: 
The Hatch

Where do you get your post-session grub: 

Grounds Coffee

Favorite no-wind Gorge activity: Cycling or SUPing

Who is inspiring to you? I am inspired by the people who share the same passion and addiction for windsurfing as I do. I love to meet people who inspire me to get better and challenge myself every day on the water!

Milena JohnsonWhen did you start windsurfing/suping and what has kept you going since? I started windsurfing when I was 7 years old at Big Winds Kids Camp. I have stayed passionate about the sport because of the amazing, fun-loving friends and family whom I share sessions with, along with teaching at Big Winds Kids Camp. My passion for windsurfing has only grown since I started teaching at Big Winds, because I was able to share my love for the sport with younger generations.

Where did you grow up, and what brought you to the Gorge? I have grown up in Grand Junction, Colorado and each year my family spends the month of July in the Gorge. During the past five years, I have been fortunate enough to spend my summers working and living in Hood River!

What do you do for activities in the winter? Skiing & Ice Hockey

Milena Johnson

About Us: T.J. Gulizia

I kite & sup because it feels like the moment you’re in is where you’re supposed to be.
Name:

 T.J. Gulizia
Favorite Gorge Beach: The Spit
tj1Where do you get your post-session grub….& beer: Pfriem Family Brewing!
tj7Favorite no-wind Gorge activity: Whitewater SUP / Mountain Biking
tj4Who is inspiring to you? Anyone on the water sharing the stoke.
When did you start windsurfing/kiting/suping and what has kept you going since? Kiting since ’03, SUPing since ’09, and Windsurfing since ’13.
tj3Where did you grow up, and what brought you to the Gorge? Grew up in NE. and CO. Whitewater kayaking brought me to the Gorge in ’01, wind kept me here!
What do you do for activities in the winter? Ski, Snowkite, Surf, Whitewater SUP, Mountain Bike
Anything else you want to share? Stoked to be working with a talented and committed crew here at Big Winds!tj6

About Us: Jason Watts

“Going out on the water sets you free.”

Name:

  Jason Watts

Favorite Gorge Beach: 

 Rufus and White Salmon Sandbar

Where do you get your post-session grub: 

Lampoei’s Thai Kitchen
jason4
Favorite no-wind Gorge activity: Snowboarding and mountain biking (leaving for the coast when I can as well)

Who is inspiring to you?: Ben Wilson, Reo Stevens, Josh Mulcoy and pretty much all the kiters from Cabo Verde.
jason2
When did you start windsurfing/kiting/suping and what has kept you going since?: I started kiting in 2007.  Coming from a surfing background, I started kitting strapless my second season. I instantly fell in love with the freedom of foot movement and challenge strapless freestyle.  Traveling to wave spots, whether on the Oregon coast, Maui or farther away to New Zealand and Chile, keeps me really amped.
jason1
Where did you grow up, and what brought you to the Gorge?: I grew up in Beaverton Oregon, went to university in Santa Barbara and traveled a lot in my early to mid 20s for surfing.  I moved to Hood River while teaching snowboarding at Mt. Hood for several seasons.  As the saying goes here, I came for the winter, but stayed for the summer.
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What do you do for activities in the winter?: I started snowboarding when I was 9 years old in 1989.  I still get excited when it gets colder around here.

Anything else you want to share?: Do what you love, love what you do is a pretty nice saying.

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About Us: Ben Skaggs

Why do you kite? I have been hooked on kiting because of how the sport has influenced me to push myself and it is a perfect mix with surfing.

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Favorite Gorge beach: Doug’s East.

You’re inspired by: Laird Hamilton and Rob Machado.

ben3

Post session grub spot: Lampoie’s Thai Kitchen.

When did you start kiting and what has kept you going since? I started kiting in 2006, and became a IKO instructor in 2007. Teaching this amazing sport has kept me going as well as the endless possibilities this sport has to offer.

ben4

Where did you grow up (assuming you did), and what brought you to the Gorge? I was born in the Philippines and traveled around the world with my parents on a sailboat. We moved to Baja when I was 7 and I grew up there until now. What brought me to Hood River is the amazing wind we have here as well as the beautiful people that also gather here to follow their sport.

Favorite no-wind activity: Surfing, SUPing, Mountain biking.

What do you do for activities in the winter? I teach kiteboading in Los Barriles.

ben1

About Us: Tom K.

Why do you windsurf? I’ve been around the water most of my life and I used to surf with a passion as a teenager. I was living in San Francisco and would drive my motorcycle out to Crissy Field and would watch the windsurfers going for it and thought what a great sport! Windsurfing puts you very much in the moment. You constantly have to make spit second decisions and movements, the rush of riding swells and catching air all in a gorgeous setting like the Gorge, what could be better! If you love the outdoors and like to be challenged it’s a natural fit.
Favorite Gorge beach: An even split between Doug’s and the Hatchery.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAPost session grub spot: There is a new brewery down on the waterfront called Pfriem that has great beer and delicious food . Try a pint of Wit and the cheese fondue and you’ll be a happy camper.
When did you start windsurfing and what has kept you going since? Well I don’t really want to date myself, let’s just say I picked it up in my mid-twenties and haven’t missed a season since. My first trip to the Gorge was when I was living in Santa Fe, NM. Suffice it to say even when I was land locked I managed to get some good sailing in. Thank god for windsurfing, it’s helped me keep my sanity!

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Where did you grow up (assuming you did), and what brought you to the Gorge? I’ve been a bit of a nomad my whole life. Started my life in Minnesota and got yanked from my scandinavian roots and was plopped down in St George town, Grenada, then it was on to South Florida, Santa Barbara, CA, San Francisco, CA, Santa Fe, NM, back to the Bay Area and finally to Hood River.

I came to the Gorge when I was living in the Bay Area and finally decided to pull the plug on city life. Working long hours in dark rooms (visual effects) is not conducive to enjoying the great outdoors.

teetalicousFavorite no-wind activity: In the Gorge I live off the grid in my yurt palace out in the country on a nice little chunk of land. Let me tell you that land keeps me busy!

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What do you do for activities in the winter? I work in the ski industry in Park City, Utah and telemark ski whenever I get a chance.

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About Us: H20 Joe Morgan

joe07

Click to enlarge.

I enjoy SUP, windsurfing and kiteboarding because each allows me to live in the moment.

When did you start all these watersports and what has kept you going since?

I Started windsurfing on Labor Day, 1980, SUPing in 2010 and kiteboarding in 2014. I started windsurfing, SUPing and kiting for the challenge and healthy lifestyle and that is what still keeps me motivated.

joe08Where did you grow up, and what brought you to the Gorge?

Who said I was “grown up?” I’m still working on that one. I spent my childhood in Georgia then spent about 10 years living in Spain. After moving back to Georgia in the early ’90s I realized after 5-6 years that wasn’t were I wanted to live so I packed up and moved to the Gorge. That was in 1998.

joe01Favorite Gorge Beach: Three Mile Canyon

joe03Post-Session Grub Spot: Solstice or Everybody’s.

joe06Favorite No-Wind Activity: White water SUP.

What do you do for activities in the winter? Ski, snowshoe, bird watch. We have an incredible bald eagle population here in the winter.

joe04
Inspired By: Everyone who has a good time on the water regardless of the conditions inspires me.

joe-coast

Anything else you want to share? Live everyday to the fullest!

joe02

Big Winds Turns 25

Back when waterstarting was considered a freestyle maneuver and chest harnesses were worn over neon wetsuits, Big Winds set up shop in Hood River, Oregon.  25 years later, we’re still here and having as much fun as ever!

Set the scene for us back in 1987.  What was Hood River like?  What was the sport of windsurfing like at the time?

[Steve Gates]  Hood River was a pretty sleepy town in the spring of ’87. The recession had hit rural Oregon hard and things were pretty dormant economically. Safeway was still downtown, Franz Hardware still anchored 2nd and Oak and The Coffee Spot was the place for good coffee. The locals were generally friendly, but a bit suspicious of the “Boardheads” moving into town.

When summer hit, so did the windsurfers. This was before everyone had a van, so the boards were stacked to the sky. And they were everywhere. Windsurfing was THE thing then. Kiting didn’t exist, mountain biking wasn’t happening yet and whitewater wasn’t really on the radar yet…it was all windsurfing, and windsurfing was going off!

Why did you want to start Big Winds?  And why did you choose Hood River for its stomping ground?

My wife, Ginny, and I had been living in Girdwood Alaska for 15 years and were thinking of a move, we just didn’t know where. We had looked at the central coast of Cal and some small towns in the mountains of Colorado, but nothing had really grabbed us. I was a building contractor and my back was tired from having a tool belt on 7 days a week. We were ready for a change.

I caught wind that a friend was thinking of opening a windsurfing shop in the Gorge. Several friends and I had gotten totally hooked on windsurfing on trips to Maui several years earlier, so we had heard and read all about the Gorge. Ginny and I talked it over, and within about 5 minutes decided that I should chat with my friend. The rest, as they say, is history. We struck a deal, became partners, and we moved lock stock and barrel to Hood River, sight unseen.


How did being a new dad reconcile with opening shop?  What were some challenges you encountered with both endeavors unfolding concurrently?

My daughters were 2 and 6 when we moved so they adapted easily. Fortunately, Ginny and I made a lot of friends quickly, so the fact that I was totally consumed by the new business wasn’t a disaster on the home front. Though I was working a ton, I was still staying really involved with the kids, primarily through sports. That continues to this day. I’m super lucky to be able to windsurf, ski, surf, bike, hike, and play tennis with my “kids”.

What are some highlights from the past 25 years for you and for Big Winds?

The highlights certainly revolve around all the great people I’ve had the good fortune to meet and call friends. We’ve been incredibly lucky to have so many great customers who have supported us over the years. Without them, the rest would be moot.

We have so many great folks working in our industries, as well. My mantra is that I want to do business with people who are fun and easy to business with.

The area that I’m most proud of is the opportunity I’ve had to mentor so many young people that have worked with us at Big Winds. It’s tremendously satisfying to watch kids grow in confidence and mature into really neat young adults and know that we have played an integral role in that process.

Is the shop today where you imagined it would be?

It’s way, way beyond where I imagined it could be.

Paint us a picture of Big Winds in 2036- 25 years from now.  What do you think the wind sport scene will be like, and where do you see Big Winds fitting in?

I certainly see Big Winds still active and vibrant 25 years down the road. We’re definitely in it for the long haul. Though I won’t be at the helm, it’s my expectation that it will continue to be a well-run, successful business.

If the last gazillion years are any indication, the Gorge will still be windy. I do believe that windsurfing will still be a popular sport, as will kiteboarding and SUP. Hood River will continue to be a favorite destination for these sports, it’s natural beauty mostly preserved for generations to come.

The future looks quite good, really.

Kiteboarding Pioneer

David Ambrose kiteboarding in La Ventana in 1998.

David Ambrose kiteboarding in La Ventana in 1998.

Here’s a scan of an old film shot of David Ambrose kiteboarding in 1998 in La Ventana, BCS, Mexico. This is really dates him as a pioneer in kiteboarding. Note the gear: 2 line Wipika Classic 5.0, and a Timpone tow in surf board! There are no other kiters out because there were no others there at the time. This is back when Baja Joe’s was a windsurfing resort.