Windsurfing competitors who tested “The Hatch” on Sunday got a taste for what makes the Gorge winds famous.
Those same competitors who took to the water on Monday for the Ford Gorge Games freestyle windsurfing event discovered what can make the Gorge winds so frustrating.
“It was a bit gusty today,” said men’s competitor Chris Audsley, who took third place overall. “I tried using a larger sail and hold it in the gusts, which seemed to work for most of the day.”
Winds at the Spring Creek Fish Hatchery were a relatively steady 20 miles per hour, but the inconsistency made for a less-than-epic day on the river for some competitors.
“I had really hoped to see the sport shine today,” said Hood River resident Tamira Wagonfeld, who took second in the women’s competition. “But it’s tough for it to shine with these unpredictable conditions.”
But, despite some feelings of disappointment among the field, the freestyle windsurfing event was a huge success, drawing plenty of sunshine and a record crowd.
Mitch Gingrich of The Dalles overtook Web Pedrick of Mosier in the finals to take top honors in the men’s division, while Nori Hubbs of Ottawa, Ontario, outlasted Wagonfeld for the top prize on the women’s side.
Pedrick entered the finals of the double-elimination bracket undefeated, but fell off his pace in the final two heats. Fellow men’s standouts Sean Aiken, Nathan Mershon and Pascal Hardy also had big days, but were unable to crack the top four and earn a share of the $20,000 purse.
Both the men’s and women’s winners took home $5,000, while the second-place finishers took home $3,000, the third-place finishers $1,500 and the fourth-place finishers $500.
Nick Warmuth of Maui, Hawaii, won the Junior division and was followed by 15-year-old Riley Coon of Kula, Hawaii, who also took fourth in the men’s open division. Royn Bartholdi of Hood River won the Master’s division by outperforming Randel Strome of Haiku, Hawaii, and Doug Beaman of Hood River.
Saturday’s 17-mile Blowout from Stevenson, Wash., to Hood River was also a struggle for some competitors, as only one-third of the 134 competition entries crossed the finish line.
Hood River resident Bruce Peterson finished first in the men’s windsurfing division with a time of 1:09:33, and despite some poor wind at the start, was able to finish sixth overall.
“I changed sails at the start line and opted for a 6.6,” the Sailworks owner said. “The wind kind of crapped out at the start line, and I just caught the last puff out of town.”
2001 champion and Gorge Games record holder Cory Roeseler, also of Hood River, finished second in the men’s kiteboarding division with a time of 1:13:15.
His time was faster than winner Chris Gilbert (1:17:51), but Roeseler was penalized for not crossing the prescribed finish line. Adam Koch took third with a time of 1:22:12, while Flash Austin finished fourth in 1:23:09.
On the women’s side, kiteboarder Renee Hanks of Arcata, Calif., successfully defended her 2001 title by winning the Blowout in 1:19.40. Julie Prochaska was the only other female kiteboard finisher, and posted a time of 1:45:09.
Hood River resident Monique Anderson was the lone female windsurfer to cross the finish line with a time of 3:35:22, but she did not qualify for a place because she missed the time cutoff.
“A lot of people got psyched out by the wind at the start,” Peterson said. “But if you were able to get yourself moving, it was a breeze.”
The 2002 Ford Gorge Games continue today with head-to-head kayaking, to be held on the White Salmon River. Kayaking continues Thursday with a qualifying round for Friday’s Extreme Kayaking event, which will take competitors over Big Brother Falls — a site not in use last year.
2001 men’s Extreme champ Sam Drevo is back to test his best against the likes of Eric Jackson, Tao Berman and Steve Fisher. Brooke Winger and Kelly Liles head up a world-class women’s field.
Also taking place this week will be climbing, 24-hour mountain biking, outrigger canoe and a 100-mile adventure race.