The Columbia River Gorge on the Oregon/Washington state line is the Shangri-La for World class fun if you’re an outdoor enthusiast. From year round skiing on Mt. Hood, mountain biking, road biking, trail running and off course the legendary whitewater of the White Salmon, Little White Salmon, Hood, Wise, etc. It’s also one of the Nations wind surfing and kite boarding meccas. This place has it all!
It’s also poised to become one of the Worlds best surfski locations. With predictable winds roaring thru the gorge and sandwiched between the walls of the gorge, the Columbia River Gorge as been described as the “most consistently windy place in America” during the Summer months. The wind rips up stream against the persistent current of the Columbia River traveling downstream at thousands of cubic feet per second, to produce incredible downwind but upstream surfing conditions almost every Summer day. But even in the unlikely event the wind doesn’t show up, you can also head down to Cascade Locks and surf the wake behind a stern wheeler.
Starting in Stevenson, WA just upstream of Cascade Locks, the wind starts to get compressed between the flanks of two volcanoes, Mount Hood to the south and Mount Adams to the north. As you travel upstream the gorge continues to narrow, compressing the wind and picking up steam. By the time you get to Drano Lake at the confluence with the Little White Salmon it’s normally game on all the way to Hood River with the high light being the aptly named Swell City where you will need to negotiate the gauntlet of windsurfers and kite boarders.
The Wildside Relay has pioneered surfski competition in the Gorge. This 40km race from Stevenson to Bingen WA continues to evolve from strength to strength and now repeatedly attracts international icons including 12 x World Champion Oscar Chalupsky and current World Champion Sean Rice.
In 2015 the Columbia River Gorge will host the first Gorge Paddling Festival and will include the North American Surfski Championships (which will be a stop on the 2015 Surfski World Championship Series) and of course the Wildside Relay. This week of incredible competition, clinics and community will really secure the Columbia River Gorges place as a World class location for surfski paddling. I can’t wait and I will see you there!