During the heydays of the annual Powerboat magazine Performance Trials, there always was a least one weeklong stop in either Sarasota or Sanibel Island, Fla. Go-fast boatbuilders from the Midwest to the East Coast brought their latest and greatest models for the Powerboat test team to evaluate in advance of the magazine’s Awards For Product Excellence program. While the entire endeavor was not without flaws, it was the best of its kind. And I was privileged to be part of it.
For almost 40 years, the Schaldenbrand family patriarch had a front-row seat to his sons’ Sunsation Boats success.
But though I recall most of the 1,000-plus boats I was part of testing during my 15-plus years with the magazine, I remember all of the people I met along the way. And among them were Eugene and Anita Schaldenbrand, the parents of Sunsation Boats founder Wayne Schaldenbrand. That’s because the couple used to accompany their sons Wayne and Joe from Sunsation’s home in Algonac, Mich., to one of the Florida legs of the Performance Trials.
For Gene and Anita Schaldenbrand, it became an annual family vacation of sorts. And like the rest of the Powerboat magazine crew, I always looked forward to seeing their smiling faces in Florida each September. Just happy to be there, they were joyful and clearly proud of the boat company their sons created.
“I would imagine they came with us to the Powerboat tests for 10 or 12 years, and it always was a fantastic vacation for them,” said Wayne Schaldenbrand, who established Sunsation in 1982.