Kiteboarders from all over North America set sail for Stevenÿson, Wash. last weekend to compete for more than $2,500 in prize money at the second annual Bridge of the Gods Kiteboarding Festival.
Despite the international apÿpeal, it was the locals who stole the show, as the top three men and two of the top three women hailed from the valley.
David Tyburski of Hood River won the men's freestyle division, followed by Ken Winner of White Salmon and Kor Harrison, also of White Salmon. Karen Bureker (Hood River) won the women's competition, with Stacey Boggs (Hood River) finishing second and Renee Hanks (Arcata, Calif.) takÿing third.
"We had kiters from Puerto Rico, Hawaii and British Columÿbia, but when it came down to it, the locals really shined," event coordinator Floyd Wilkes said.
Conditions were favorable and the competition was spectacular as many of the world's top kiteÿboarders -- some who competed in the 2001 Gorge Games -- showed how far this sport has come in the past year.
"The level of ability has douÿbled since last year," said 2000 Bridge of the Gods winner Adam Koch, who helped judge this year's event.
"Last year everyone was learnÿing how to catch air, but they were jumping out of the water three times higher this year," he said.
Wilkes said organizers and sponsors are already preparing for next year. They hope to exÿpand the competition to include both pro and amateur divisions so people who aren't able to devote all their time to kiteboarding can still compete.
He explained that the main reaÿson for the event's success the past two years has been the help of the many volunteers. Two notÿable volunteers were race director Mike McHugh, who organized the judges panel and heat structures, and Kat Betz, who handled regisÿtration, updating the heat board and more.
"We were really pleased with all the support from our sponsors and volunteers," Wilkes said. "They were willing to do whatevÿer needed to be done for the event to succeed."