Photo courtesy of the Port of Arlington
THE PORT OF ARLINGTON’S LAUNCH on the Columbia River — a popular spot for windsurfers and kiteboarders seeking swells — got a major makeover this winter to improve access. People have been using the new launch for the past few months, but it will see its first event of the season June 17 with the A-Town Throwdown kite, windsurf, and SUP festival. The Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Association, which is based in Hood River, donated funds to help with the project.
As of Friday, June 9, 2017
After years of scrambling over algae-covered boulders and dealing with choppy waters, windsurfers, kiteboarders and intrepid stand-up paddle boarders (SUP) have been enjoying the improved launch site at Earl Snell Memorial Park in Arlington and will christen it next weekend with a brand-new event.
The first-ever A-Town Throwdown — a freestyle strapless kiteboarding, freestyle windsurfing, and downwind SUP event — will be June 17 (backup wind day is June 18) at the aforementioned park as a way to showcase the Port of Arlington’s improved launch site.
• June 17, all day, Earl Snell Memorial Park, Arlington
• Freestyle windsurfing and strapless kiteboarding contests, nine-mile SUP downwinder; both are open to all ages; top three male and female competitors get prizes
• Live music, beer, food, demos (public welcome)
• Tickets include race entries, a lunch ticket, two beer tickets, and dry camping Friday and Saturday (cost $80.12, must be purchased by June 12)
•More information and registration at atownthrowdown2017.eventbrite.com
Arlington, located 75 miles east of Hood River, has long been frequented by local (and non-local) windsport enthusiasts for its deep water and consistent wind that make it a prime location for swells, explained Peter Mitchell, the port’s manager and economic development officer.
However, what hasn’t been so popular is the launch site. Bart Vervloet, executive director of the Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Agency, which donated funds to help with the improvements, said the former iteration launch site was “nasty and dangerous,” and impacted heavily by storms or high-wind that eroded the beach. Tony Price, an Arlington local who has been promoting the event (he also used to run a Portland board shop in the days prior to windsurfing even existing, he says), said those wanting to launch had to tread carefully over slippery, algae-covered boulders, and the choppy waters made it difficult to get going.
Andrew Jansky of Flowing Solutions designed the new Arlington launch; the same firm also designed the improvements made at the Hook in Hood River a few years ago. Work began in the winter and concluded in March. The site was graded, and “groins” were added to the launch — essentially two jetties that create a small harbor in order to protect kiters and windsurfers before they set out for a fun session on the Columbia, as well as protecting the beach from eroding.
“It makes it a lot easier to access… it guides them down to the water,” Mitchell explained of the launch.
So far, the feedback has reportedly been positive.
“It’s really nice,” Vervloet said. “They did a good job.”
“Before it was just boulders and one of the worst locations on the river,” Price said. “Now, it’s one of the best.”
People will be able to judge for themselves at the A-Town Throwdown, with events going on all throughout the day Saturday. The kiteboarding and freestyle competitions are open to all ages, with prizes going to the top male and female competitors. The same goes for the SUP competition, which will be a nine-mile downwinder from Blalock Canyon to Arlington (SUP competitors must have PFDs and invasive species permits; leases are “highly recommended”). In addition to the competitions, there will also be food, live music, a beer garden, and demos.
Tickets cost $80.12 (that price includes fees) and includes race entry, a lunch ticket, two beer tickets, and access to dry camping Friday and Saturday. Registration closes June 12; for more information and to register, go to atownthrowdown2017.eventbrite.com.