Ways of the Wind: It’s been a great summer, and there’s more to come

Except for a brief stint of hot weather earlier this month, the wind has hit the Gorge in full force this summer, as is evident by the numerous wind-chapped, sandblasted and tired — but euphoric — faces you see around town. And since the end of June, an action-packed schedule of events has accompanied the wind, making for a great start to what is sure to be an epic summer on the Columbia River.

Let’s have a wrap-up of events so far this summer:

First was the Gorge Windfest at the end of June, which was a success thanks to a full day of wind on its first day. The heat moved in on the second, but there was plenty to keep people busy, with SUP demos and relay races, clinics from pro riders such as Philip Soltysiak, Kevin Pritchard and Tyson Poor, games, food, beer, music and more.

To add to this great weekend, the Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Association was stoked to bring back The Blowout. With over 40 competitors, both windsurf and SUP, everyone had a great day on the river, even with the challenging wind conditions. Dale Cook took the win on formula gear, and Jan Boersma finished first for the SUP down-winder from Viento.

Next up, the ever-growing Kiteboard 4 Cancer fundraiser took place July 12-14. Although there was a lack of wind the first day, the popular kite endurance race was held on Sunday. Saturday was filled with fun relay races, concerts, auctions and more, and in the end more than $100,000 was raised for cancer survivors (check out athletes4cancer.org for more information on what the money is used for).

After KB4C, a new event this year brought kiteboarders to Rufus for the Hood River Huck Fest. This big-air kiteboarding event used the new 3D, GPS tracking technology from Xensr to measure precisely how high a jump is. This new, how-high-can-you-go contest takes the guessing and subjectivity out of judging and leaves the podium strictly to those who post the best numbers. Congrats to Brian Smith, Colleen Carol and Marcus Catlett on their wins, with jumps of 45.37 feet, 39.05 feet and 32.49 feet, respectively.

Last week we saw the resurgence of the Freestyle Frenzy, which last run in 2008. The return of the event brought a lot of hype and excitement to the windsurfing community, and with classic Gorge conditions on hand, it lived up to the high expectations. All three of the event’s categories and divisions were able to run on the first day, making for one long and exciting day at the Hatch. Brian Metcalf-Perez won the Super Frenzy with an array of impressive new-school, flat water tricks; Mitch Gingrich took first in the Gorge Style category with big classic aerial maneuvers and Ingrid Larouche stood atop the podium in the women’s division.

The Freestyle Frenzy also featured a big air, jump-off contest using Xensr’s technology. As is typical, winds diminished by the end of the day, making for a mellow but successful big-air event. Gorge local and renowned huckster, Dale Cook, took home the win for the men with a jump of 18.86 ft. Ingrid Larouche jumped highest of the women with 7.53 ft. Winning the amateur division was Aruban, Steven Max, jumping 10.65 ft.

With four days left in the Freestyle Frienzy wind window, head judge Casey Hauser decided to hold another jump-off contest last Saturday, which ended up being one of the windiest, biggest-swell days of the year. Everyone was going HUGE that day, but Whit Poor claimed the biggest air of the week, impressively boosting over 28 feet.

Finally, we have the annual Gorge Cup windsurfing race series, which, after last weekend, has completed four of six races. See the accompanying article in this sports section for more on that.

Congratulatsion everyone, and thanks to all of our July event competitors, volunteers, organizers, sponsors, and winners. Next up in the local water/wind-junkie scene is the annual Bridge of the Gods Kite Fest July 27-28 and Aug. 3 (www.botgkitefest.com), the CGWA’s annual King of the Hook on August 10 (www.gorgewindsurfing.org) and the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge, August 17-18 (gorgepaddlechallenge.com).

Until then, see you on the water!

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