Olympic skier Jeret “Speedy” Peterson says tinkering is the spice of life. Photo by NBC Sports / USOC
It’s pretty easy to see how knitting might be relaxing and a good way to spend idle time for a person who’s on the road a lot. Someone like an Olympic athlete. But taking apart a weed whacker to relieve stress? That’s something only a maker can understand, and that’s exactly why Olympian Jeret “Speedy” Peterson takes things apart.
The 28-year-old has been taking things apart since he was a wee tot, and has been on the U.S. National Ski Team since he was 16. He’s used his building skills to do construction work, and dreams about designing, or at least witnessing, the first magnetic motor. And he’s the only person to have completed an intricate 3.2-second jump called the Hurricane.
So this February, while you’re watching freestyle skier Speedy perform his signature Hurricane jump, remember that he’s likely to be taking apart a lawn mower or dirt bike when he gets home. Just like you or me.
After qualifying for his third Olympics this past December, Speedy was nice enough to answer a few questions for us relating to his tinkering urges. Here’s what he had to say…
MAKE: What’s the current project you’re been working on?
Speedy: As of right now, I don’t have any projects going because I don’t have time to finish any of them. I hate having projects that don’t get finished so I make sure to have time to finish them before I start!
What do you do when you’re on the road to quench the tinkering urges? Ever take apart a hotel room TV remote, whittle a bedpost, or something similar?
Architectural drawings and sketches of ideas are something that I love. I want to do the impossible and always have. To create a magnetic motor/engine. It will happen one day, maybe not from me but I hope to be around when it does.
What sorts of maker skills do you have, and which skill is your favorite?
I wanted to take a welding class in school so that I could weld my friend’s car doors shut but luckily for him it never happened! I had a general contractor’s license and was doing residential construction for a while. My passion is in finish carpentry but for some reason I seem to do a lot of drywall and tile, which I am good at, even though they’re not my favorite.
How long have you been making things, taking things apart, that sort of thing?
I’ve been taking things apart and putting them together for as long as I can remember. I rebuilt the engine on my dirt bike in the eighth grade. Needed a new top end, didn’t know what I was doing, but it started right up first kick when I was done with it! Took apart a computer — bad, expensive idea! Lawnmowers, weed whackers, any small engine. Lamps, remotes, cars, you name it!
How did you learn these skills, who taught you?
I learned a lot by trial and error, but one of my best qualities is being humble enough to know to ask for help from people smarter than me about what I’m doing. It has saved me a lot of headaches and time!
What do you get out of tinkering and making things, why do you like doing it?
Life is an ever-growing classroom and tinkering and building gives me a way to expand my horizons and is a great way for me to escape from my stressful life. I love doing things people tell me are impossible.
What’s the best thing you’ve made, the biggest, the worst, your favorite?
I first got into building things when I was young, making skateboard ramps and rails to grind down with our roller blades.
Has making things helped you with your skiing/skating, or vice versa?
I have always been comfortable with the unknown and view change as a learning process. Much like taking something apart or building something new, you never know what you are dealing with until you either take it apart or put it to use!