The time has come for extreme sports fanatics from all over the world to Gorge themselves once again.
Athletes and spectators alike are hoping to feast on the world-renowned Gorge winds and raging rapids when the 2002 Ford Gorge Games kick off Saturday in Hood River.
With a veritable buffet of corporate backing from names like Ford, Nike ACG, Yahoo! and Outward Bound, the sixth-annual sports and lifestyle festival boasts a $200,000 cash purse, as well as support from NBC, Outdoor Life Network and National Geographic.
Competition begins Saturday with the Blowout — a unique 17-mile downriver race that begins in Stevenson, Wash. — which will test windsurfers’ and kiteboarders’ ability to overcome the giant swells of the Columbia River.
Last year’s champ and Gorge Games record holder, kiteboarder Cory Roeseler of Hood River, will lead a field of more than 100 participants as they compete for a $2,000 prize.
Last year’s women’s kiteboarding division winner, Renee Hanks of Arcata, Calif., will also be back to defend her title. Local windsurfing guru Dale Cook will pace the men’s windsurfing division, while Susie Richards hopes to do the same on the women’s side.
The festival’s main attraction, freestyle windsurfing and kiteboarding, is scheduled to go off July 14-21, wind permitting. Both competitions will be held at the Spring Creek Fish Hatchery, and feature a $20,000 overall purse.
Windsurfing favorites include Web Pedrick, Nathan Mershon, Sean Aiken, Jocelyn Hrkach and Jennifer Henderson. Kiting favorites are 2001 champ Adam Koch, Julien Sudrat, Julie Prochaska and Cindy Mosey.
Another big draw this year will be the head-to-head and extreme kayaking competitions. A new format was introduced last year, and was a huge hit with the field. Sam Drevo will be back to defend his title, along with Tao Berman, Steve Fisher, Kelly Liles and Brooke Winger.
Additional Gorge Games events include rock climbing, mountain biking, outrigger canoeing, and a 100-mile adventure race. For more, visit www.gorgegames.com.