When you pull up in front of the Chinook factory-warehouse in Cascade Locks, Oregon it is hard to believe that this is the source of the rock-solid windsurfing components we have all been using for decades. An unassuming building in an industrial park near the banks of the Columbia River, most passerby’s would never guess what is hidden inside!
On the day that we visited the place was buzzing with activity, the variety of products that are produced and assembled on-site is mind-boggling. Carbon booms and extensions are handmade from scratch by a handful of local Oregonians who clearly take pride in the quality of the end result. Each step of the process is hands-on and labor intensive. Starting with the guy who lays up the carbon, ending with the guy who glues on the boom grip, and lots of other hands in between. The only step that is hands-off is when the carbon goes into a mold under high heat and pressure. The Chinook carbon booms are fully made in the USA functional works of art.
A centerpiece of the facility, the injection molding machine is responsible for spitting out all of the plastic components that your board and rig need. Footstrap inserts, mast tracks, fin boxes, boom front ends, adjustment collars for booms and extensions, the list goes on and on! Aluminum booms and the aluminum extension tubes are the rare items that are not produced on site. We think they still deserve their “made in the USA” status based on the man hours that go into drilling the holes in the extensions and assembling them with the made in-house adjustment collars and pulley and cleat parts.
Chinook doesn’t just rely on their team riders to test their gear and drive innovation. The guys who run the company can be found on the water in the evenings after work and in exotic windsurfing locales during the winter. They don’t just make the gear, they also use it, so they are clear on the importance of function and durability! They are just as stoked as you are to have the new RDG (reduced diameter grip) boom in their hands so they can stay on the water longer.
After walking through the warehouse and seeing the products being built, it is clear that Chinook is a lean operation that strives for efficiency. When you think of the machinery and time that goes into the production of each item, the price you pay for them seems like a great deal. And buying made in the USA parts also lowers the environmental impact, since they don't have to be shipped across the ocean to get to you. Next time you downhaul your sail with your Chinook extension you can think about the Columbia Gorge area resident who assembled that extension while rocking out to a local radio station in a beautiful location. And you can know that their products have been thoroughly tested on the river by windsurfers just like you.