King of the Hook: goofy but refined

August 24, 2005

The King of the Hook freestyle windsurfing competition started in 2001 with about 20 people and a keg of beer from Full Sail. Windsurfing instructors Katie Crafts and Kelsey Juster-Switlyk wanted to get the Hood River community out in the water, having fun and coming together through the sport. Prizes didn’t matter. In fact, they were non-existent. The competition was for the glory of the award… for the glory of being crowned the year’s King of the Gorge.

Four years later, last weekend, spectators crowded the west end of the Hook from the water up to the road to watch and cheer for the grandest King of the Gorge in history.

“This year we had the biggest turnout and the biggest community support ever,” said Crafts. “We had kids, we had pros, we had aspiring pros and women finally got some recognition. It was a good community event and it is very unique. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”

The competition was unconventional, to say the least. At its peak of peculiarity in the tandem event, two clowns tied balloon animals next to two goofy kiteboarders climbing and flipping off each other’s shoulders, next to a sailor and his dog, next to a reenactment of a famous Titanic scene… all while tacking and jibing around the Hook. Chris Farrow and Andy Crafts won the tandem category after Farrow did a giant back flip from Crafts’ shoulders.

Dressed in a sports bra sized for a child, an even smaller mini-skirt and a hairdo like Beetlejuice, professional windsurfer Rob Warwick reflected the true spirit of the King of the Gorge. On a serious day of windsurfing, Warwick can fly, flip and rip with the best of the best. On Saturday afternoon, however, he didn’t win a thing; if only it were called Drag-King of the Gorge.

“I had a blast,” Warwick commented. “The moves I saw were great and the whole crowd had an awesome time.”

With the field divided into six groups (super groms, groms, men, women, tandem and flair), competitors took to the Hook one group at a time, with their best moves in mind. Ian Smith, Joe Sager, Ben Bonham and Katie Crafts had better kept those moves in tune, as their new King of the Hook titles will be up for grabs next year.

“The event was a great success because of the support we had from the local community,” said Katie Crafts. “Our volunteers did everything and we appreciate their support. Special thanks to Nick Dills and Kate Regalbuto for their lively commentary, judges Matt Morrow, Heidi Chapel and Andy Gurtner for coming out on such short notice, thanks to Greg Crafts and Bob and Vicky Milbert for the food, C3 for organizational support, and the Big Winds staff members who helped with gear, registration and clean up.”

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