Windfest offers no rest for weary

Last weekend’s Windfest celebration at the Hood River Expo Center wasn’t billed as a religious experience. But there was plenty of praying going on.

Praying for wind, that is.

As every windsurfer knows, you can’t go very far without a little help from the wind gods.

Good thing they were listening, because 900 local and out-of-town sailors were treated to a better-than-anticipated weekend of weather and wind.

“All you can do is pray for good weather,” said Eric Skemp, general manager of Hifly North America and president of the American Windsurfing Industries Association (AWIA), which sponsored the fourth-annual event.

“We were just hoping the conditions would be good enough to give people a chance to test out some new equipment, take a lesson and enjoy the town of Hood River,” he said.

Local manufacturers and retailers such as Sailworks, Gorge Sport, Big Winds, Reel Wind, Windsurfing Hawaii, Hood River WaterPlay, Brian’s Windsurfing, Windwing, Chinook, North Sports, Hifly and Lava Gear all set up shop along the Hood River waterfront.

Highlighted by Saturday night’s Pray for Wind party, sponsored by the Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Association, the third stop on the Windfest circuit offered plenty of good times and good jibes for windsurfers of all ability levels.

“Our goal for Windfest is to encourage people to get their gear out of the garage and come celebrate the sport,” Skemp said of the event, which passed through Cape Hatteras, N.C., and San Francisco before blowing through Hood River.

“Overall, it’s good for business, good for the sport and good for Hood River. We’ve been very fortunate over the years, and this year was our best yet,” he said.

Skemp also said that AWIA recently added two additional stops to the Windfest tour in 2003. Cape Cod and Minnesota will join the fun next year, but dates have not yet been announced.

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