File photo by Adam Lapierre
THE MASS START of Saturday’s downwind race from Viento to Hood River is a good opportunity to see the sheer size of this event.
The Hood River Waterfront Park will be abuzz with activity this weekend as athletes, both local and from around the world, compete in the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. Saturday’s action features an 8-mile downwind race from Viento State Park to Hood River — an open-river course that has gained widespread acclaim for being one of the best downwind runs on Earth when strong summer winds whip-up head-high and surfable river swell. Sunday’s rounds of course racing will be much more spectator-friendly, as racers complete tight and technically demanding laps on a diamond-shaped course in front of the waterfront park.
Along with racing action, the event will feature free SUP demos and technique clinics throughout both days (about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday) provided by Big Winds, free live music Saturday from 4-6:30 p.m. and food/drink concessions all day both days. A free, just-for-fun community relay Sunday will follow the completion of the elite course race and is open to anyone; Big Winds will provide the boards.
A Paddle for the Park fundraiser event that was originally scheduled for Saturday morning didn’t materialize this year.
Saturday timeline: Day-of registration is 8-10 a.m. Elite class starts at noon at Viento State Park; other classes start immediately after. Awards for the day are a 3:30 p.m. at the Waterfront Park. Last year’s overall winner, Kai Lenny, finished in a time of 55:57.
Sunday: Day-of registration is 8-10 a.m. Course racing runs from 10:30 a.m. to about 1 p.m. Community-athlete team relay race is at 2 p.m. Final awards are at 3:30 p.m.
For more info see gorgepaddlechallenge.com.