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Ways of the Wind: It’s all good in the Hood

Are windsurfers and kiteboarders finally realizing they are doing virtually the same sport? The majority of wind sport enthusiasts have a good understanding of the similarities of their respective sports; the same elements and conditions apply and are sought after, similar access locations are desired, and many of the same companies manufacture equipment for both sports.

Yes, there are some nuances that make each sport unique; for example, the twin tip kiteboarder can operate in very shallow water, the high-wind windsurfer has much quicker depower in high wind gusts, and when the wind totally shuts off, it is the stand-up paddler who is the most efficient of us all.

None of these differences really matter at the end of the day, and we are lucky to live in a place where all of these sports can be enjoyed equally.

In recent years we have seen the Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Association and the Columbia Gorge Kiteboarding Association work well together on a variety of projects, site access issues, work parties and more. The Port of Hood River has also made a commendable effort in accommodating both sports at one of the most heavily-used launch sites in the country, the Event Site.

Further signs of the cooperation between windsurfers and kiteboards can be seen in the 2014 events. The CGWA was poised to help run a “Never Ever Windsurfed Before Race” as part of Kiteboard 4 Cancer, which was, unfortunately, canceled due to weather. This race promised to be one of the most entertaining spectacles of the summer. Imagine a bunch of people who have never held a windsurfing rig before getting a crash course on how to windsurf and then being sent out on a race course to fend for themselves.

Another example can be seen in this weekend’s Bridge of the Gods Kite Fest, which is, for the first time ever, incorporating windsurfers into their blowout downwind race from Stevenson to Hood River. While there are individual titles for the fastest finishers, there is also a team component to the race, and this year windsurfers and kiteboarders will be put on teams together to compete in the best overall team performance.

The Blowout is an event that has been going on in the Gorge longer than any other. Windsurfers have been doing the Stevenson to Hood River run for over 30 years.

“The heyday of the Blowout was 1987-89 when … the entry list included 50-60 pro racers and 150-180 amateur racers,” says Bruce Peterson, who has been racing the race since 1984. “The starts were epic.” When kiting started to become popular, they obviously wanted to have a Blowout race and the Bridge of the Gods Kite Fest has been organizing it the past several years.

This is a prime example of a race that is equally challenging for both kiteboarders and windsurfers. There is no reason the two sports shouldn’t race together. No matter which method one uses to complete the 17-mile downwind course, the post-race beer tastes just as good. Keep an eye out for the fastest windsurfers and kiteboarders coming into the Event Site sometime in the early afternoon of July 27.

It is exciting to see the development of both windsurfing and kiting in the Gorge, and now, with the growth of stand-up paddling, there’s never a day you can’t get out and enjoy the Columbia River this summer. For anyone who recreates in the river and has not tried one of these other sports, I suggest grabbing a buddy or book a lesson and give it a try.

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