It was long awaited and highly anticipated, and this past weekend, the SIC Gorge Paddle Challenge returned to Hood River for its ninth year of a weekend filled with great weather, exciting competition and incredible endurance from racers of all ages and ethnicities. The event had more than a dozen race divisions to award and a waterfront venue packed with people.
The event consists of two races — Downwind and Course — with variations in each; this year there was an elite Double Downwind Race for example, which true to its name was twice the length of the standard Downwind race. For a full list of results, visit paddleguru.com and search “Gorge Paddle Challenge.” Below are some feature finishes.
Hood River’s own Fiona Wylde claimed victory in the Double Downwind Race, competing in the Elite Women division. Wylde, well-known in the SUP world and particularly at the Gorge Paddle Challenge (having won the event four times prior), breezed past the competition in each of the two eight mile legs; she bested second place Annie Reickert by nearly three minutes in the first race and two minutes in the second. For reference, second, third and fourth place in each race were within 45-60 seconds of each other.
Wylde’s times were 1:01:18 and 1:01:24, respectively, combining for 2:02:42, a huge personal best. As mentioned, Reickert took second place in the Double Downwind with times of 1:04:02 and 1:03:13 for a combined 2:07:15, also a significant PR. In third place was April Zilg who recorded near identical times of 1:04:14.52 and 1:04:14.63 for a total time of 2:08:29.15.
In the Elite Men division, Connor Baxter finished first in each leg with impressive times of 54:46 and 55:13 for a total of 1:49:59. Behind him was Noic Garioud, entered in the 17U age group, who recorded times of 55:18 and 54:58 for a total of 1:50:16.
Garioud was one of five 17U competitors among a field of 30, the vast majority of which were in the 18-39 age group. In third place was Clement Colmas with a 55:34 in the first race and 55:39 in the second for a total of 1:51:13.
While Baxter bested Garioud in the Downwind race, the latter took home the gold in the Elite Men Course Race, finishing in a blistering 23:31. Baxter took second with a time of 24:54, narrowly edging out Josh Riccio in third place at 24:58.
On the Elite Women’s side, it was Zilg who took the top spot in a time of 29:48. She was followed by Sey Chelle in 30:08 and Amandine Chazot in 30:15. Wylde competed in the Course Race as well, finishing fourth in a time of 30:45.
The Open Divisions saw some fast finishes as well in both the Course and Downwind races. In the former for women, it was Alyson Fromm taking first in 22:48, with Kristin Thomas behind her in 23:55 and Chloe Blampied in third in 24:33. For the men, Tuhiti Tirao in first place with a time of 17:59, followed by Mamadou Romuald in 18:46 and Vincent Goyat in 19:12. The top male finisher in the downwind race was Bojan Bernard in 1:05:33, and the top female finisher was Fromm in 1:12:21.
The event has already confirmed its return next year, the 10th annual Gorge Paddle Challenge, taking place Aug. 14-16.