By ADAM LAPIERRE
News staff writer
July 15, 2006
Editor’s note — this is the first of a two-part series that describes some popular windsurfing and kiteboarding spots outside of Hood River. Part one describes several Oregon launch sites. Part two, which will run in the July 19 issue, will feature Washington sites.
From now until late September, good wind weekends will bring a zoo of windsurfers and kiteboarders to sites around Hood River. When the sun comes out and the winds start early and blow until sundown, waters surrounding the Event Site and the Spit are transformed into the apparent chaos of an angry beehive. From the air it would look something like a colony of ants, racing back and forth from a nest to a bowl full of sugar.
For the most part, people are safe, polite and courteous on the water. A sense of camaraderie is perceivable, even between kiteboarders and windsurfers. A classic hang-loose sign or “woo-hoo” shout between the two user groups is not an oddity.
Company on the water is nice, whether it’s to feel safe sailing in the presence of others, busting new tricks in front of an audience, or watching the pros show off their best, biggest tricks.
When, however, the company of others is somewhere in the thousands on a mile or two stretch of the river, conditions are way too close for comfort, especially when kiteboarders are in the mix.
Longtime Gorge sailors and kiters know where to go, and when. Sometimes winds are best at the Event Site; sometimes they’re better way out east, or out west in Stevenson. Sometimes it blows clean and steady from Stevenson to Maryhill.
Others, who haven’t been around or into the sport long enough might know of only a couple launch sites in the area. Or they might not be comfortable with anywhere but right in Hood River.
For those of you looking for spots outside Hood River to spread your kites and sails in the wind, the following are some popular sites to consider. Remember, however, when trying new locations, safety is key. Some locations are more dangerous than others for different reasons. Rocks, gusty winds, strong currents, barges and difficult access are obvious factors to consider at any unfamiliar site.
Rooster Rock is viable on east wind days. Often times, a slight east wind in Hood River means strong easterlies from Stevenson to Troutdale. Rooster Rock State Park is a good site during those days. The earlier you get there the better, as winds can taper off in the afternoons. The park is located west of Cascade Locks, off exit 25.
This is a good site for beginning windsurfers. Water is often calm and winds are light. The city of Cascade Locks has a nice marine park with a large beach that allows windsurfing and kiteboarding, although kiteboarding from the beach is not recommended unless it is a downwinder from Stevenson on an east wind day.
Viento State Park
Viento is an excellent starting point for downwinders to Hood River. The distance is seven miles. On super-crowded days near the Event Site, Viento is a good alternative to try. Take I-84 west for about seven miles to exit 56. Access is across the railroad tracks and will cost a daily permit fee.
Although almost entirely windsurfers at the site, kiteboarding is viable there when waters are low enough to set up on a small stretch of beach. The highlight of Mosier is the width of the river at that location, meaning once people launch there is plenty of room to get away from the crowds. Daily permit fees apply. To get there, take exit 69 at Mosier and drive under the off ramp. Turn right on a gravel road just before the sewage treatment plant and you’re there.
Rowena can get very windy, very choppy and pretty crowded, meaning it’s not a great place for kiteboarding. The launch can be tricky as well, with slippery rocks and burs underfoot. For windsurfers looking for an intermediate to advanced site outside Hood River, Rowena is good. It’s also a great place to watch other shredders. Daily permit fees apply. From I-84, take exit 76, cross the railroad tracks and head east to the park.
Celilo Park is located off exit 97 east of The Dalles. The park setting makes for a decent launch and land site. The further east you get, the more careful beginner and intermediate kiters need to be, considering there are far fewer people in the vicinity with boats or jet skis to help if you get stranded on the water.
Rufus is known for steady, solid winds and big swell. It is quite a drive from Hood River, however, which means only the super-motivated sailors get there. From The Dalles, continue on I-84 eastbound past Celilo and Biggs Junction. Take exit 109, at the Rufus exit, turn toward the river and follow the road to the spot.
Arlington is a great weekend sailing destination since it’s a few hours from Hood River. Wind is often very strong and the swell can get massive. Landing and launching can be tricky. Arlington is located off I-84 at exit 137.
Three Mile Canyon
This is an advanced site, good for windsurfing and kiteboarding if you’re a solid rider. With strong winds and famously large swell, rides can get wild. It’s past Arlington a little ways, off the Three Mile Canyon exit. Cross under the freeway and travel west on a gravel road to the river.