Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
Eighth annual Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge was held last weekend at the Hood River waterfront. A total of 340 athletes from around the world competed in at least one of the 19-total competitions last weekend. The Elite Women’s Course Race stood out in last weekend’s competition as the top-four finishers were all within one-minute of one another. Shae Foudy (pictured, left) finished in first-place in the elite women’s course race with a final time of 32 minutes and 34 seconds. Sey Chelle finished in second place (33:03), Olivia Piana (pictured, right) finished in third place (33:23) and Fiona Wylde (pictured, middle) finished in fourth (33:29).
As of Tuesday, August 21, 2018
In a field of 340 athletes from around the world, two hometown racers stood out in last weekend’s Naish StandUp Paddle Challenge on the Hood River waterfront. The event is part of the World Paddling League series, so the stakes were high, racers might have said in Dutch, German, Japanese, Spanish or French.
Hood River native Leif Bergstrom, 19, won the men’s open course race in a thrilling finish, and Fiona Wylde, 21, ranked third in the world in her sport, claimed both heats of the Viento-to-Hood River downwinder on Saturday to earn a first-place overall finish for a third-straight year in the elite women’s division; Wylde also placed fourth in the women’s Elite course event.
Wylde’s fourth-place finish in the grueling Elite earned her the “Waterwoman” award for best overall.
“It was exciting to see Leif win the men’s open course race,” said Paddle Challenge organizer Steve Gates. Bergstrom, a 2017 Hood River Valley High School graduate, was “neck-and-neck-and-neck” with two other paddlers in the last lap.
“Then the other guys kind of wobbled and Leif won it. It was super competitive, a fight to the finish,” said Gates, who coached Bergstrom a decade ago in the Junior Elite Team youth program.
Bergstrom’s final time of 30 minutes and 23 seconds out-lasted Thomas Nilsen (30:38) and Slater Fleck (30:53) for the win.
Wylde led the Elite race for the first two laps in a four-lap race that was as wind-chopped as it was strategic. Three other women kept in close contact, including winner Shae Foudy, who took her “hot lap” earlier than most of the field, giving her the overall lead, which Wylde and the second and third-place finishers, Sey Chelle and Olivia Piana could not make up. In SUP course competition, on one of the four laps a racer skips one buoy — the “hot lap”. You gain space at that time but other racers might regain it by taking the hot lap later. The key is to time that decision based on several factors; placement at that moment, location of other race leaders, wind direction, and water conditions.
Fatigue from Saturday, and vigorous wind and waves, led to Wylde relinquishing her early Elite course lead.
“Today was brutal,” she said Sunday at the finishing area at Hood River Waterfront Park. “I like it when it’s bumpy and choppy and I knew that it was like that going in, and I thought I could have it, but it was going to be rough,” Wylde said. “I was just pushing as hard as I could. But after Saturday, the fatigue, and actually I’m happy to be in fourth. Last year I got carted away in an ambulance,” she said. Wylde, who is diabetic, collapsed during last year’s race.
“I’m just happy to be home racing, with my family, and I’m so proud to sharing Hood River with all my friends who I train and compete with all over the world.
“My goal is to be consistently on the podium, and this year I’m back on. It’s been an amazing year,” said Wylde, who takes her third-place world status to Japan in September for the next Paddle League event (with a training session in Indonesia on the way) and then to California for the Finals.
A full-list of the 19-total races at this weekend’s Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge, including the men’s elite division double downwind race, can be found at paddleguru.com/races/NaishColumbiaGorgePaddleChallenge2018/results.