Friday, August 10, 2001
"Broken board? Nasty ding? Bad crack? Don't worry, man!
Take it to the Board Hospital."
That's the marketing salvo of the newest surfboard repair man in Hood River. Michal Przeciechowski is his name -- "Mike" for short -- and windsurfing is his game.
He has traveled all the way from Lublin, Poland, and in just one month, is already living the American Dream.
Mike founded the Board Hospital -- a part-time venture run out of his friend Nathan Salter's garage -- so he could make a few extra bucks while helping out in the community.
"People tend to worry when their board breaks," Mike said. "They think it will take a week to get it back, but we offer a quick, inexpensive service to get them back on the water in less than a day."
After spending the last 10 years surfing and repairing boards in and around Poland, Mike, 21, felt this summer was the perfect time to test some new waters.
"I read all about Hood River on the Internet and knew this was the place to be," he said. "I wanted to find the best windsurfing in the U.S. and that's what brought me here."
He didn't waste any time either. Within five days of his arrival, Mike had secured a job, a car and a place to live.
One reason for his relatively seamless transition into the American culture was Holly Tencer at Windance Sailboards in Hood River. Not only had she offered him a full-time position as a salesperson before he arrived, but she also picked him up at the airport and helped him find a room for rent.
"We had been exchanging e-mails since April, and he seemed like good fit for the job," Tencer said. "He even sent pictures of himself and his gear which helped us make a decision.
"The more people are into windsurfing, the better they are with the gear and the customers," she said.
Although Mike's main responsibility at Windance is equipment sales, he spends some of his time instructing newcomers at Rhonda Smith Windsurfing Center or Brian's Windsurfing in Hood Rivÿer.
"I enjoy helping people and working with the equipment," he said. "There's a lot of freedom in my job and I get to try new things every day."
As much as Mike enjoys interacting with people, his true love is board repair. And he has no doubt earned his credentials over the years. For the past four summers, Mike has lived out of a trailer in Hell's Bay, Poland and repaired boards to earn money.
"Repairs generally pay better than instruction," he said. "Plus, you're totally free. You make your own hours. Surf in the day, repair at night."
But Mike is quick to remind people that repairing boards isn't for everyone -- even die-hard windsurfers. There are many harmful chemicals in the fiberÿglass and resin that can present potential health hazards.
"This isn't a job that anyone can do," he said. "Every case is different and it can be quite comÿplicated -- kind of like a science."
From an outsider's perspective, it may sound like Mike doesn't allow himself any free time. But all work doesn't necessarily transÿlate into no play.
When he's not fine-tuning boards, he's usually riding them. Afterall, you can't travel all the way from Poland and not experiÿence what makes the Columbia Gorge so famous.
"I really love it here," he said. "Windsurfing on the river is difÿferent than what I've done in Poÿland, but so far it's been good."
Mike plans to stay in Hood River until the beginning of Octoÿber, when his work visa expires. He expects to return to the U.S. next summer -- perhaps to Hood River -- but would also like to explore another windsurfing mecca such as Maui, Hawaii.
"Next time I come to the states, I'm going to bring my girlfriend, Gosia," he said. "I don't want to experience all these wonderful things without her."
Although he misses his friends and family in Poland, Mike feels very much at home in Hood River and is making the most of his first overseas adventure.
Call the Board Hospital, cell: (541) 806-6283
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The secret agents of Big Winds may not exactly be Tommy Lee Jones oand Will Smith, but they still discovered there is plenty of strangeness to be found in Hood River...especially once winter sets in. Enlarge