Hood River (the Columbia River Gorge) 8/3 – 8/10/10
They take their windsurfing – and train safety – seriously at this place!
I rolled into Hood River, Oregon at about 7:30 p.m. after two long days of driving. I left the Grand Teton National Park Monday at about 5:00 p.m. after getting skunked (was hoping to do some windsurfing there but Mother Nature didn’t cooperate.) I got to my motel in Boise, Idaho at about 2:15 a.m. Tuesday morning. I left Boise at about 12:30 p.m. and came to Hood River. I’m amazed at the beauty and topography of this place. It is absolutely spectacular, a very unique place and pictures could never do it justice.
I had dinner at the Big Horse Brew Pub. Their Tri-Tip Organic Beef Skewers with Teriyaki ginger and Thai peanut soba noodles was excellent, along with their Greek Spinach Salad. I drank a Kentucky Common Sour Mashed Brown ale that definitely had some kick to it and took a little getting used to. If I wasn’t so tired from driving I would have drank another (and another!) because at 6.3% alcohol content you can’t go wrong! And the restaurant is up on a hill and has a great view of the river and mountains.
The view from the streets of Hood River.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
I’ve been camping at Viento Campground since Wednesday. This place is the real deal and I’m having some problems with the river conditions but still getting some great runs in. There has been amazing wind since I’ve been here and I’ve sailed on my 4.2 six out of seven days, something I’ve never done on any other windsurfing trip.
And my “lightest” board was about 94 L (the Vivace) and way to heavy for this place. After three days of trying to get by on it I realized I needed a lighter board. The Vivace was too old to sell on consignment (the shop Second Wind wouldn’t take it) so I donated it to the Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Association. I then went to Second Wind and bought a used 80 L Rutger board.
Apparently (I need to do some research on this board) the guy who made it lives here at Hood River and makes boards specifically for these conditions. When I get moving on the Rutger it’s amazing and handles the swells and chop extremely well. She’s definitely squirrely in the wind holes and you have to point it way downwind to do a deep-water start but when she moves she’s a wildcat! And I’ve also never seen a better collection of older women in great shape (firm, flat stomachs, great legs and butts, about late 40s to mid-to-late 50s.) The local women have been windsurfing for half their lives and it shows in those bikinis and wetsuits!
Your humble guide and narrator, on a 4.2 and 80 L board getting ready to jibe / holding on for dear life, at Rowena, 8-8-10 (photo courtesy of Kirk DeVoll Photography, I met him in the parking lot and he was kind enough to take some shots of me.)
Not a bad background for windsurfing, eh?! Lyle at Rowena, 8-8-10 (photo courtesy of Kirk DeVoll Photography.)
I went food shopping and set up my campsite. You can windsurf out of my campsite at Viento and it was still cranking late in the afternoon. Viento is a little west of West Hood River. There was still plenty of wind (4.2 sailing) at about 4:00 p.m. today, something the locals told me was rare and they were all raving about what a great day it was. They said the wind usually starts out of the west in the morning and moves east over the river as the day progresses and they were surprised and happy there was still wind at Viento late in the day. I went out on my 4.2 and Vivace and had some good runs but got my ass kicked in the swells.
The view from Viento looking west, sailor unknown (8-5-10)
I met the editor of Windsurfing Magazine in town in the morning and we discussed my story idea. I then shipped more stuff home (the third box since I left July 20, I brought way too much stuff!) and went across the Hood River Bridge to Washington State to check out the Fish Hatchery. This place gets big swells and a lot of pros go here. It was another cranking day wind-wise and I had lunch at the Hatchery while watching everyone on the water. The place was crowded and the swells were too big for me. The windsurfers were sick and pulling off tricks I’ve only seen in videos. I then decided to go to Stevenson (a place not far from the Hatchery that the locals told me had flat water) but Route 14 in that part of Washington was closed until 4:00 p.m. because of road work. It was about 3:00 p.m. and I decided to check out Viento again since it was a little late in the day and I thought if there were still wind there maybe it would be more manageable than yesterday. Wrong. There were only two or three people out at Viento (a sure sign it’s not good) but I put up my 4.2 anyway and went out on the Vivace. I shlogged and again had trouble with the swells. I kept trying, put up my 5.0 and didn’t have much better luck. The wind was also real up and down with a lot of holes.
The Fish Hatchery
I had to go food shopping again and do laundry in the morning. After talking to some locals they said I would find flatter water at Rowena so I went there. I think these people need to look up the word “flat” in the dictionary! There were serious swells at Rowena. I went out anyway on my 4.2 again, had a few good runs but still got my ass kicked. I also decided to get a smaller board and went board shopping that afternoon. After dinner and a shower at my campsite I cruised out to Portland to see my cousin. He gave me a tour (along with some of his friends who came to town) of several brew pubs in Portland and they were all very cool. I could definitely have fun in that town!
A great view from my campsite one morning (8-9-10)
I bought the 80 L Rutger board at Second Wind and went back to Rowena. The board is great and I had some great runs.
Temira said (you hear that a lot here, she’s the wind forecaster at thegorgeismygym.com) Mosier State Park was the place to go to today so I went there. It’s also called Rock Creek. I went out on my 4.2, got my ass kicked in the swells and also schlogged so I put up my 5.0. I didn’t have much better luck and the swells were tough. I also wasn’t pointing the board downwind enough for my deepwater starts and spent a lot of time hanging onto the boom or rounding up into the wind. It was a brutal session but I didn’t give up. I packed up my gear after a late lunch and went back to Rowena. The swells weren’t as bad as Rock Creek and I had some great runs.
The launch on a Sunday gets crowded at Rock Creek.
Rock Creek, sailor unknown.
The view from Rock Creek looking west.
I went to a place called Stevenson today, on the Washington state side of the river. I drove over a really cool bridge called Bridge of the Gods (the views of the river and mountains were great.) And the windsurfing was great – another 4.2 day! I was a little hesitant though to start on my light 80 L board so I went out on my 103 L Fanatic Bee. After a few runs I realized I could use the lighter board so I went and got that one and had a blast, a great day on the water!
While it’s a great place to sail out of the launch is pretty treacherous.
And while the paddleboats look pretty on the river you have to keep out of their way.
And the one above is also docked right next to the launch at Stevenson so you have to be careful and avoid it during deep-water starts (you don’t want to be hung up too long on your boom and get pushed into it) and while sailing in and out of the launch.
I sailed out of the Event Site today and it was the first day I didn’t use my 4.2. I was on my 6.2 and 103 L board. After lunch the wind came up and was probably 5.0 but my body was killing me from 7 days straight of windsurfing so I packed it in. This place is incredible and the locals are so spoiled when it comes to wind. One guy told me his quiver was from a 3.7 to a 5.2. My second-smallest sail is a 5.0! I felt like saying to the guy look, I put on a drysuit in November in New Jersey and rig a 7.5 to get my kicks!