Surf wagons and SKSK

‘SKSK’ culture finds expression in surf wagons and their numerous accouterments as seen in summer of 2018 on the Hood River waterfront, and around town.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
‘SKSK’ culture finds expression in surf wagons and their numerous accouterments as seen in summer of 2018 on the Hood River waterfront, and around town.



Looking back on the busy, windy river summer of 2018, scores of locals and visitors flocked to the Event Site and other waterside locations to pursue some “stoke.”

The vehicles that took them there — we loosely term “surf wagons” — invoke the youthful spirit of water-borne thrill-seeking, of which the number of types just keeps increasing.

Shall we call give it the encompassing acronym of SKSK — for Surf/Kite/SUP/Kayak?

For windsport culture, in all its forms, has come to largely define this place.

Paid parking starting this summer added a new layer to that definition, putting what some viewed as a damper on the freestyle vibe long-associated with the Hood River Waterfront. The Portway zone has grown in popularity and undergone rapid development in recent years, creating many changes to the windswept front porch of Hood River. A fun new phenomenon was the rise of the foils that seem to suspend the board rider three feet above the water.

All summer, we watched as a bit of ‘60s Beach Boys “Surfin’ Safari” ideal endured, at least in small ways.

“Early in the morning we’ll be startin’ out … We’re loading up our Woody with our boards inside, and headin’ out singing our song…”

If not a Woody, some vehicle befitting the whimsy and vigor of hitting the waves — or, in Gorge parlance, the swells — still helps carry the day.

(Though no one would rightfully sing the Beach Boys’ line, “Some honeys will be coming along.”)

Woodys and other surf wagons used to be wide and stubby, but increasingly, we see boards and gear aboard Sprinter vans and other sleek panel vehicles that are so angular, they look like they’d topple in a crosswind ‘round about Viento. Or maybe it’s that they slice through it like a sharp carbon fin. Things Brian Wilson never saw coming.

But many of these modern rigs retain the carefree, “Got the cooler? Let’s hit the road,” vibe of surf wagons of old, as you can see in the photos on this page. Some of the rigs are from here; many were here to visit this summer. One regret is that we never got a photo of a bright red converted school bus seen downtown, the one with the retractable sign changed from “Stop” to “Stoke.”

Next year, wind willing …

— Kirby Neumann-Rea

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