Aquaglide produces water sport gear and has plans for growing its business.
Jeff Cunningham wants you to have fun on the water. As the General Manager and VP of Sales for Aquaglide—a producer of commercial-grade custom Aquaparks, inflatable kayaks, and standup paddleboards—Cunningham is responsible for bringing Aquaglide to Bend, which was no small feat.
When in the spring of 2018 he met with John Archer, the President and CEO of Kent Watersports, he was charged with a simple task: “I was there to facilitate Kent’s acquisition of Aquaglide and move the operation—then based in White Salmon, Washington—down the road to Snoqualmie.”
Founded in 1995 by a windsurfing distributor named David Johnson, Aquaglide now operates in more than seventy countries and offers more than 120 unique products.
The company was a natural fit in the Kent Watersports portfolio and both Archer and Johnson were eager to see the deal go through. Cunningham also understood the importance of the deal for both Aquaglide and his own career, but there was a catch. Moving from Bend, where he had been working remotely for six years, was a deal-breaker.
“It was the first time in my life where I’ve actually chosen where to live,” Cunningham said, referring to his 2013 move from Seattle to Bend.
No stranger to working for big corporations, Cunningham has lived all over the country from California to Vermont to Tennessee and Washington. He had visited Bend while in college for mountain biking and rock climbing but after graduation, he began what he refers to as “chasing chairs.”
“I was moving from company to company trying to grow and attain the next position up.”
The purchase of Aquaglide by Kent was the biggest deal of Cunningham’s career; it had to go through, but the “Bend or bust” mantra that he and his co-workers adopted complicated things. It took months of negotiations and a shared vision by both Cunningham and Archer.
“I had to show him that the quality of life that Bend offers would make Aquaglide a better company,” Cunningham said.
As of December 2018, Aquaglide, the newest subsidiary of Kent Watersports, moved to Bend. With ten employees, most of whom are local hires, it is likely that Central Oregon will see its first Aquapark in the not too distant future.