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AWS affiliate Dean Wilson wake surfing on the Willamette River.

Featured Article

Oh the Places You'll Go....On a Boat

Play, Relax and Make a Lifetime of Memories

When Warren Freece, a competitive water skier, opened Active Water Sports (AWS) out of a gas shack in 1982, he didn’t know that his hobby and love of water sports would lead to a life-long career. Thanks to him, thousands of people in the Pacific Northwest have enjoyed years of fun on the water.

Dan Lay, who grew up enjoying water sports, walked into AWS in 2007 at the age of 19 looking for a temporary job, and he too never realized he’d found a career. Today, he is the general manager. “It’s a fun place to work, and I’m a lifer,” he says.

With locations in Canby, Portland and Oregon City, AWS is now expanding into Redmond to be closer to many of its clients, and to attract new ones. People in the Bend area will have easier access to boating and all that goes along with it.

“Many dealers can sell you a boat, but when it comes to needing it serviced or stored, or buying toys like wakeboards and water skis, that’s where AWS stands out,” Lay states.

Along with the multiple locations, there’s an online catalog for merchandise as well. AWS also offers an outstanding concierge service. “We'll actually pick up your boat from you at the end of the season and take it to one of our facilities, have all the routine maintenance done and then tuck it away into storage,” explains Lay. “When you're ready to have your boat back, we schedule a time and bring it to you. We call it a “hassle free boating experience.” Warren has worked very hard over the last 40 years to make the boating experience very easy for our customers.”

Like Freece and Lay, everyone on staff is knowledgeable and can guide people to the right boat for their needs. “Some of the questions we ask are: ‘Where are you going to be using the boat? How many people are in your party? What activities do you want to do behind the boat – water skiing, wakeboarding, or something else?’” Lay says.

Years ago, water skiing was the main water sport, but times have changed. “That was the only thing available back in the 80s, but then wakeboarding became popular in the mid-90s and took over for a couple of decades,” notes Lay. “Now, we're seeing a huge spike in interest in wakesurfing. The boats for this sport are higher-end and are designed to basically create a wave big enough that you don't have to hold onto a rope to surf as if you would in the ocean. Instead, it creates an endless wave that never breaks. It's low impact and easy to learn. You can have little to no board sport abilities and you could be wakesurfing within the first few tries.”

Tubing, of course, is still popular, as it’s also easy and so much fun. “Every boat we sell typically has at least one or two tubes on it.”

They also encourage people to go out on the boats they’re interested in purchasing. “This is important whether it's your first boat or if you’ve been on a hundred boats,” Lay says. “We want you to see firsthand what the boat experience is like on our boats so you can make the best decision for how you want to invest your money. We're not going to sell you something that isn't going to make you a lifelong boater.”

Boating, Lay believes, is a great family activity. “Whether it's that houseboat trip on Lake Shasta that brings the family home for the summer, or just going out after work. Instead of kids going over to their friend's houses, the friends are coming over to their houses to go boating.”

“I'm a prime example. I've got two daughters, ages 11 and 9. I spent all summer teaching their friends how to get up on a wakeboard or wakesurf. And it's nice. Instead of them wanting to go to their friend’s house, they're all coming to my boat.”

In addition to the sports and the fun of boating, being on the water is just a calming experience where you can get away from it all. “I truly believe that there’s something special about the water that just provides a good, therapeutic, relaxing vibe for people,” Lay remarks. “Once I drop my boat in the water and we're off, all of those things that were stressing me out just don't seem to matter whatsoever anymore.”

Boat Safety

Before setting out:

Check the weather forecast. Dress accordingly. Apply sunscreen.

Make sure your equipment is in proper working order. Get a free vessel safety checklist from your local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Use a pre-departure checklist. Don't forget a first-aid kit and tool kit.

Always file a float plan with someone you trust.

Have a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket for every person on the boat.

Operating the boat:

Avoid alcohol while driving the boat. Alcohol affects balance, coordination, judgment and vision.

Once on the water, use common sense and stay focused.

Tips for water skiers, tubers, wakeboarders and others:

Always have a spotter in the boat.

Check the towline prior to entering the water.

Before getting back on the boat, wait for the propeller to stop.

  • Drew Cardinale of AWS wakeboard jumping from wake to wake behind an AWS 40-year anniversary edition Malibu.
  • AWS affiliate Dean Wilson wake surfing on the Willamette River.
  • Dan Lay, AWS General Manager, wake foiling on Lake Billy Chinook.
  • AWS founder Warren Freece (2nd from rt) with (l to r): wakesurf legend Tommy Chezchin, AWS team rider Tyler Higham, (far rt): Olympic wakeboarder Rusty Malinosk
  • Attendees in the AWS showroom at the 36th annual AWS Evening with the Stars event in 2022.
  • AWS hosts an annual Demo Days event featuring free demos on all their boat brands and all gear from the pro shop, offering a chance to ride before you buy.
  • AWS put a 2023 Malibu 23 LSV in the water at Lake Billy Chinook to kick off summer.