In its 13th consecutive year, Kiteboard 4 Cancer, which benefits Project Koru, once again brought participants and spectators from around the world to the shores of the Columbia in Hood River to celebrate the sport and “harness the power of the elements to benefit lives affected by cancer.” This year’s event saw non-stop winds gusting up the river like a beckoning call to the kiteboarding crowds; it was a good sign, and the event stayed true to it.
“It went great, I couldn’t have asked for better conditions,” said Tonia Farman, the event director. “We had great winds all weekend, the difference this year being the winds were consistently strong on Saturday for the derby. Usually we get highs and lows so people have to come in during the race or we have to pause. This year it went the whole day — probably our best year of wind so far.”
The event began on Friday with the “Kickoff Kite Demo” that ran throughout the day. Big kiteboarding brands like Slingshot, Airush, Duotone and FCD displayed their latest kites and gear. Then from 4:30-6:30 p.m. the athletes and volunteers, along with the general public, gathered for a waterfront dinner. The KB4C Kickoff Party followed and ran from 7-10 p.m.
It was an early morning for all on Saturday, with athletes able to register as early as 7:30 a.m. The main event — the Kite Derby Endurance Race — kicked off at 10:30 a.m. and ran a straight six hours. While dozens of participants were members of a relay team, which subbed racers out to conserve energy, many individual racers stayed on the water the entire time in a true testament to the physical and mental demands of the sport.
“We had about 220 total participants and a pretty large crowd on the beach watching them,” said Farman. “The team camaraderie was really special to see too.”
Results are listed below. While the racers tore laps around the river, spectators took in the beer garden, live music, rubber ducky derby and silent auction. It was a full day and a beautiful one at the river, with the sun taking the temperature into the 80s and the breeze taking the edge off the heat. The athletes and their family and friends came from all over the world, joining in Hood River to share in the joy of the sport and support a noble cause.
“We have people from five continents come to race: Australia, North America, South America, Africa and Europe,” said Farman. “People come because they hear it’s the kiteboarding event of the year, which is funny because it’s not a pro event. It’s for people to come and have fun and feel like a pro. We want to put on an event that is for the kiteboarding community, includes everyone and is family friendly.”
The event could not have gone better, and for Farman it was a great send-off; after 13 years as director, she will be stepping down, but remaining heavily involved in the event. Farman began the event inspired by her family’s own experience with cancer, but has since realized the nature of Kiteboard 4 Cancer has taken on a life of its own.
“It used to be about my story and starting the event from my experience, but it has grown and evolved to encompass other people’s experiences with cancer and how they accept or embrace or face their life,” said Farman. “I love to watch it evolve and bring in people from around the world. That’s one reason I chose to step down also; it needs to be let to grow and not be focused on one person.”
The new event director is Steve Fisher, a firefighter from Mosier who has been active with the event from its beginning and is a cancer survivor himself. Fisher could not be reached for comment by press time. Farman intends to continue attending the event and being involved, jokingly saying she will “be able to partake in more.”
Fingers are crossed that next year’s event can go as well as this year; with the strength of the kiteboarding community, there’s little doubt of that.
1st: Grom Gormley, 75 laps
2nd Place Tie: Justi Vonada & Sam Medysky, 74 laps
3rd Place: Jason Norwood, 73 laps
1st: Justi Vonada, 74 laps
2nd: Rachel Callahan, 64 laps
3rd: Carol Bolstad, 45 laps
1st: Team Slingshot, 75 laps
2nd: Cabrinha, 74 laps
3rd: Gorge Greenery, 73 laps