Many Gorge residents celebrated, or cursed, this summer as one of the windiest in history. From May through the end of August, the Gorge saw almost continuous sunny skies and strong west winds, while Hood River County saw the ensuing migration of summer travelers, tourists and wind junkies on pilgrimages to find big winds, big waves and like-minded friends to connect with along the way.
At the epicenter of the action, the Hood River Waterfront was host to tens of thousands of visitors seeking to enjoy the idyllic scenery and epic summer conditions that have put the Columbia River Gorge on the map as an action sports capital of the world.
For the Port of Hood River, which owns much of the waterfront property, autumn is a time to breathe a sigh of relief and take account, as best as can be done, of all the activities that transpired over the summer.
After her second summer on the job, Port of Hood River Waterfront Coordinator Liz Whitmore assembled this year’s Hood River Waterfront Annual Report, which she presented to the Port Board of Commissioners Oct. 15, at a bi-monthly board meeting. Below are selections from the report, which can be seen in full at www.portofhoodriver.com. –– Adam Lapierre
The 2013 season has been described as the “best ever” for the Port of Hood River along the waterfront. There were a total of 25 events scheduled from March through October from the Marina Boat Basin to the Hook. Daily parking passes at the Event Site increased by 16 percent from 2012 for a total of 6,186 sold. Kiteboarders and windsurfers experienced one of the windiest summers in years with local businesses benefiting from the influx of visitors who accompanied that wind … The season ended on a high note with record crowds over Labor Day.
The Event Site saw some organizational changes this year, with the reduction and consolidation of schools on the upper cruise ship dock. The five school concessions included Brian’s, Big Winds, Cascade Kiteboarding, Gorge Kiteboard and New Wind, providing kiteboarding, windsurfing, and SUP instruction and rentals. Two food vendors, the Sandbar Café and The Local Grind, shared the lower cruise ship dock and worked well together. Grant Myrdal Photography set up shop as a new vendor this year at the Event Site, photographing activity on the water. With the excellent wind conditions this summer, all concessions reported great business.
There were total of six events scheduled at the Event Site, of which three (see list below) were exclusive-use.
Kiteboarding for Cancer: Despite having no wind until the last three hours on Sunday (the final day), KB4C raised $104,000 from auctions, pledges, fundraising, and donation jars. The money will go toward the Camp Koru Survivorship Program which empowers young Cancer fighters and survivors to find healing through active outdoor experiences in the ocean and the mountains.
Gorge Cup Windsurfing: This race series held at the Event Site turned out to be one of the best seasons of slalom racing the Gorge has seen in over 20 years. The six-race series attracted racers from Canada, Texas, California and Washington to join the strong contingent of Portland area and local Hood River racers. 52 competitors participated in the series overall.
Gorge Windfest: The event was a success, with a full day of wind on Saturday, allowing windsurfers to demo the latest gear. The heat moved in on Sunday, but there was plenty to keep busy with SUP demos, relay races, and clinics from pro riders. The CGWA was excited 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.
Site Improvements: Access was improved from the Event Site to Slackwater Beach along the Nichols Basin by widening the path and removing debris at the water’s edge. The cleared launch was used by school concessions and SUPs to access the water more easily.
Usage: For the summer of 2013, Big Winds, Brian’s, and New Wind continued extensive use of the Nichols Basin for their SUP programs. In addition to expanded rentals and lessons, activities included Junior SUP Race Team training, Women’s Clinics and a Big Brothers Big Sisters event.
The Columbia Gorge Kayak School, located on the west shore of the Nichols Basin, saw growth in both paddle boarding and kayaking. Customers are appreciating paddling in a safe environment sheltered from the river current and wind.
Usage: Kite the Gorge and Gorge Kiteboard continued to operate from their school concessions located in the parking area.
Site Improvements: Two projects were completed this year to improve access at the Spit. The path was widened to allow easier launching for kites and chip rock was added to the parking area to mitigate dust. Users have expressed appreciation for the improvements.
Events: Emergency Response Training for kite and windsurfing schools provided an opportunity for owners and instructors to work with the Hood River Fire Department learning best practices for responding to accidents. The Fourth of July Fireworks display by the Lions Club was another beautiful show. According to organizers, it was first time the crew didn’t have to re-set or re-fire any shells. The evening went smoothly with no major incidents for Port maintenance staff.
Usage: Two school concessions operated from the Hook during the 2013 season. Big Winds and Hood River Waterplay offered windsurfing lessons and kids camps. CGWA Gorge Groms also operated from the Hook and provided windsurfing rentals for kids.
Events: King of the Hook 2013 had a good showing of 30-40 competitors wearing crazy costumes and busting out the finest in old-school windsurfing gear. Barb Ayers and the Gorge Surf Hounds won the coveted “Flair Award.”
Site improvements: The 2013 electrical upgrade completed at the marina resulted in improved safety and functionality. Receptacles located at each slip allow for fair allocation of power costs. Moorage tenants are pleased with the changes, especially the new lighting.
Events: Gorge Junior Sailing had a busy summer filled with classes for kids, teens, and adults. The Roy Webster Cross Channel Swim had 500 swimmers participating who enjoyed the beautiful day and warm water for the 1.1-mile swim. Participants boarded the Sternwheeler Columbia Gorge in the marina basin and crossed to Bingen, where they jumped off 10 at a time and swam to the Hood River Inn beach.
The fall cruise ships are scheduled to visit the Port through October, making a total of (11) stops.
Usage: Due to the shortage of field space in Hood River County, the Port Marina Green has become a popular option for practices and games. The Community Education youth lacrosse program reserved the field on a weekly basis from March through May, and again in September and October.
Events: The Columbia Gorge Marathon locates its finish line and celebration at the Marina Green.