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Demo gear lines the waterfront.

As one big beach event leaves Hood River, another picks up its paddles this weekend.

The ninth Annual SIC Gorge Paddle Challenge returns to the Hood River Waterfront Park Aug. 16-18 for two action-packed days of standup paddleboard (SUP) racing, plus an inaugural Kids Event featuring instruction and inspiration from the pros.

Association of Wind and Water Sports Industries (AWSI) held its annual expo in Hood River at the Event Site Aug. 12-16, filling the beach with sails and boards and the people who make, ride, and sell them.

“Expression Sessions” happen weekdays at 5 p.m. through Aug. 15, with pro riders in town to demo new kites, boards and gear by showing their massive skills on the river, just off the Event Site.

Event Site grounds themselves are open only to exhibitors and participants, but the Sandbar and Shoreline Trail remain open to the public.

‘Paddle Challenge’ next

At Waterfront Park starting Friday, the SIC Gorge Paddle Challenge hosts two full days of competitions for all ages and race classes and this year will also feature a Kids Event on Friday. The Kids Event, for ages 6 and up, will be held from 2-4 p.m. and will feature professional SUP athletes, including Hood River’s own Fiona Wylde and members of Team SIC. All levels are welcome, including first-timers. “We are excited to introduce more kids to the sport of Standup Paddling and we feel fortunate to be able to offer this event for 2019,” said Erin Gates, a partner in the SIC Gorge Paddle Challenge.

The weekend will feature two days of racing: The Downwind Race and the Course Race. The Downwind and iconic Downwind Double Down race are the highlight of the event for many competitors, as the 8-mile downwind run from Viento to Hood River is one of the most exciting downwind runs anywhere in the world. The SIC Gorge Paddle Challenge offers many race classes for this event, including SUP Foils and Small Boats (OC-1, OC-2, and Surf Ski), as well as Open and Elite classes for SUP.

Action takes place in full view of the Hood River Waterfront Park. This year, the Course Race day will feature sprint-length course races and a Pro/Grom relay where the top SUP athletes in the world will team up with kids in a friendly race designed to build camaraderie and encourage teamwork.

More than just a race, the SIC Gorge Paddle Challenge is a festival featuring the event’s sponsors, who will be showcasing their latest gear. The SIC Gorge Paddle Challenge features local food carts, a beer and wine garden, live announcing throughout the event and live music on Saturday from 5-7 p.m. The event will kick off each morning with yoga classes that are also open to the public.

Other activities planned for the days leading up to the event include Sponsor Spotlight happy hours and downwind shuttles as well as the Kickstand Kickoff party on Friday, Aug. 16, at Kickstand Coffee and Kitchen, with live music and no-host bar and food. Anyone is welcome and encouraged to attend these events.

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