Norm Woods’ life seemed to always revolve around boats. In his early teens the winter months involved building sea flees and small hydroplanes. Summers were then spent racing around the lakes of Muskoka, running against anyone who was up to the challenge. His dream was always to someday race in the big leagues, but for many years as close as he could get was as a spectator.
Then in 1980 came the opportunity to finally join a race team as part of the pit crew. While he was gaining knowledge of how to assemble a competitive race boat program, it still not enough to satisfy his itch. So in the fall of ’82 Norm’s racing career started with the purchase of his first race boat, a Beyesmeyer flat bottom, which he named Gambler. He campaigned Gambler 311 in the CanAm Class from 1983 to 1989. The following year renowned boat builder Ray Brown built a newly designed narrow hull Bezer for the Gambler team. This boat proved to be extremely fast and agile, and the Gambler team continued to have great success for the next four years.
During the time from 1983 to 1989 Norm was named Rookie of the Year, Sportsman of the Year, broke 3 speed records, won 5 National Championships, 4 North American Championships, along with the Gold Metal at the World Championship in Valleyfield in 1988 and a Silver metal at the ’92 World Championships.
1994 was Norm’s final year competing in the CanAm class. The following year he joined the K 238 Fission race team in the States, driving for team owners Don Warner and Bob Catapolvic.
Safety, always a prime concern in the sport, lead to the team’s decision to incorporate a safety capsule equipped with air supply. At that time they were only one of three K boats on the circuit with a capsule and in 1996, in Hampton Virginia, they got to see how well the capsule worked. In a devastating end-over-end crash, the boat sank amid a mass of debris. Rescue teams pulled Norm from the wreckage in 1 minute and 3 seconds, with him suffering only minor bruising, while the boat was completely demolished. A new boat was built and Norm continued to drive for another couple of seasons before deciding to retire from competitive racing.
In 2002 Norm was honoured to be inducted into the Canadian Boating Federation Hall of Fame. Then in 2011 he was also inducted into the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame. He considers these awards to be his most prized recognitions in his racing career.
In 2012 Norm was asked to join BG Vintage Race Team to assist in the restoration of Miss Canada IV, a boat built in 1949 in Gravenhurst, Ont. This boat was built for Harold Wilson so he and his wife Lorna could compete for the International Harmsworth Trophy. Powered by a Rolls Royce V12 Griffon aircraft engine, it was the first boat in the world to eclipse the 200 mph mark. Working with the team has been an extremely rewarding experience and Norm considers it a true honour to be assigned the driver of such a significant piece of Canadian history.