Gorge Downwind Champs

1 week 1 day ago #38758 by mickeyA
I just looked at the overall results for the Gorge race run on Thursday. Who finished in the top 15 of this huge field?  None other than our own Zach Handler, 2 spots ahead of Greg Barton.  Way to go, great race!  There were probably more posters with high finishes, but I cannot match real names with handles.  Anybody that went to this, could you describe what the overall week was like?  I attended the last 3 years they had it and I understand this year they moved the “base camp” and altered the practice run course, as well as reversing the shuttle run (loading at take out vs put in).  Curious of the overall vibe vs years past. Was this year a more, or less, preferred setup?  What were the conditions like all week?  Thanks

KR McGregor Rhythm, V10Sport, Swordfish S, Fenn Tarpon S, Fenn XT, Twogood Chalupski, Findeisen Stinger spec. Had: V12, Stellar SE, Huki S1-X, Burton wedge2, Fenn Tarpon

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

1 week 21 hours ago #38760 by downwinda
Replied by downwinda on topic Gorge Downwind Champs
It was a fun week.  Stevenson to Home Valley, while not having the bigger bumps of the narrows and swell city/hatchery, also doesn't have the flat sections of the doldrums and the slog finish into Hood River.  I like it better because it's short, quick, and if it's windy it's good the whole way.  Average run time, including paddling, loading and returning to Stevenson was 1:10 for me.  6 mile run (10K) including paddle out from the Fairground lagoon.

The ability to camp right at Skamania Fairgrounds, along with ample parking and areas of trees with shade makes it, in my opinion, a much better venue than Hood River.  I, along with numerous others, were lobbying Carter to run it from Stevenson again next year.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

1 week 17 hours ago #38762 by tve
Replied by tve on topic Gorge Downwind Champs
Thanks for the report! I passed this year 'cause of the location, seems like there's nothing to do for my spouse...

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

1 week 14 hours ago #38764 by MCImes
Replied by MCImes on topic Gorge Downwind Champs
A big Congrats to Zach who really put it down this year! Incredibly impressive showing for a guy with a full time job and family! Omar also did very well at ~35 or 45th overall

We stayed in an airbnb in downtown hood river and ran our own 9 boat/3 car house shuttle along the traditional Viento to Hood River route. Awesome to have access to a 12 boat trailer. Thanks Jeff! (hes also the central US dealer for Ozone, epic, and stellar and a great guy)

I did 2 runs Mon, Tues, and Fri and 1 run on Wed plus the race Thursday. Thats about 72 miles total at ~8 miles per run. Averaged between 1:04 and 1:10 per run and spent a decent amount of time not trying to go fast (waiting, playing, etc)

The wind built Mon-Wed. Monday was ~15 Gusting to 25. Tues was 20/30. Wed was 25/35 and bombing. Every morning M-W we woke up to whitecaps and howling wind and it went strong all day.

Wednesday was off the chain.
Like, I can die happy now.
It was 8 straight miles of surfing. Like, Millers Run quality. Probably better because the waves are so linear, catchable, and linkable.
It was easily, without question the funnest downwind I have ever done by far (and that's after Mon was 8/10 and Tues was 9/10).
Wednesday Swell city was a legit 5', pushing 6' (almost double overhead!). The entire run was 2-3'+ with long streches in the 4-5' range. Some quick scrolling through my gopro I found multiple 10-15 second runs without paddling and recorded a very believeable top speed of 13.5 (plus 2-3mph current means I was likely doing around 16mph/26kmh on the fastest wave trains through swell city. I believe the ~16mph number as I was pulling the paddle nearly as fast as I could and know what 13 feels like. This was faster. The cool part is the biggest waves were also the fastest and also the most ridable and linkable. It was an insane combination of ideal conditions in terms of wave size/shape/interval/linking.

On wednesday i I stuck high on the wave and waited for it to run away as it would on normal water but the wave pocket just kept opening up in front of me! with minimal paddling I was able to sit atop screaming along and just wait for it to flatten out a bit. When it merged with the next wave and flattened out perfectly you could jump the next wave with only a couple-few hard hits.

At one point I jumped like 10 waves over 3 feet high in a row and maniacally laughed as i felt like superman. Swell City on a bombing day (like >30mph and >4') is possibly the funnest mile in all of downwind.

I linked more waves and longer sets last week than I have in the last 18 months and set a new personal best in my Ski-Fun-Factor that I will reflect on for years.

Also, I decided to sell my Fenn SF-S and buy a Vega Flex from one of the group (he's just going to buy a new one next year, so he still loves it too). The SFS is an excellent surfing boat, in the top tier without question, but the Flex tops it downwind. I only had 2 runs on the flex with limited upwind and flat water paddling so still need to evaluate it as an overall boat. But when it comes to downwind, the Vega and Vega Flex are in a category of their own in terms of steering, wave jumping, and keeping you on the money part of the wave (not pushing you down too soon and nose diving into the wave in front of you. The SFS is more prone to this while the vega has an extremely low volume tail which I think lets it sit higher on a wave without pushing you down hill. More investigation is needed to confirm, but 16 miles implies this IME)

I was pretty happy with the race as I shaved 14 minutes off my 2019 time in the same boat and I intentionally capsized in the first mile to avoid a collision so lost a minute to that as well. In spite of that I finished 77/280 which Im happy with.

Here's some gopro footage from our group. He'll probably post more in the next week or 2 including the Bombing wednesday run.
www.youtube.com/user/omarchacon

Anyways, good race, great people, hood river is my happy place.

Currently paddling a Kai Wa'a Vega Flex in Southern California's ocean waters
Past Boats: Epic V10g1, Stellar SRg1, Fenn XTg1, Swordfish S
"When you've done something right, they wont know you've done anything at all"

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

6 days 8 hours ago #38770 by zachhandler
Replied by zachhandler on topic Gorge Downwind Champs
Thanks for the shout out MickeyA!  I had a good race. The first 3 or 4 miles of the race were some of the best runs I have paddled anywhere. Those narrows after home valley can really get big and steep!  As far as my race against Greg Barton it was really quite fun trading waves with him for the last 5 miles. But in the end, besides being 20 years younger than him, I benefitted from a motivation differential: I was highly motivated to see if I could beat Greg Barton, whereas I doubt he felt anywhere near that same fire to beat the famous Zach Handler. 

Conditions all week were amazing. Every day was as good or better than the best day most years. I do wonder if the Stevenson to Homevalley run would be a bit tame in a more typical year. One of my friends put a rudder through the hull hitting a rock up there. But he enjoyed the paddling there otherwise and it sounds like most people did.  My group stayed in Hood River and self shuttled Vento runs all week. I go out every summer with my wife and kids, and for us there is just a lot more to do in hood river than at the fairgrounds. So my vote would be for Hood River, but in fairness I never actually did one of the stevenson runs. 

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

5 days 17 hours ago #38775 by grasshopper
Replied by grasshopper on topic Gorge Downwind Champs
From the photos Austin Kieffer was on a Fennix Elite S and I think Ana Swetish paddles a Fenn Surge.
Would be good to hear from anyone that has paddled the Fennix Elite S and the Vega to get their thoughts on which is the better downwind boat?

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

5 days 5 hours ago #38777 by Arcturus
Replied by Arcturus on topic Gorge Downwind Champs
Thanks to all who reported on their experience, and congratulations to Zach.

What is the seasonal window for good downwinding in that area? (Keep in mind I’m a newbie, so what’s mild to you will be interesting to me.) I would like to attend the event and maybe spend a bit more time there before or afterward, or as a separate trip. Do any instructors operate there? Hood River has long attracted windsurfers and brought associated outfits to Hood River but I don’t know if there’s any similar thing for surf ski paddlers.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

5 days ago #38778 by MCImes
Replied by MCImes on topic Gorge Downwind Champs
Yes, from what I understand the winds blow most of the summer.
There is a good website with day to day wind forecasts specific to the best area of the gorge for paddling, from Stevenson to Hood River - thegorgeismygym.com/
or specifically
thegorgeismygym.com/forecast/

Read her notes under the forecast for a few days and you can get a good idea of what conditions brew good wind. Basically its pressure differential

I'm not sure exactly when the strongest winds are most common, but you could probably show up any time mid-summer and have good conditions.

There are several locals who we could get you in touch with to do some downwind 'lessons'. Im not sure if they are really instructors, but they would likely do a couple runs with you and give good pointers. Don Keisling of DK rudders is local, and there are a couple other regulars that would probably take you out.

Currently paddling a Kai Wa'a Vega Flex in Southern California's ocean waters
Past Boats: Epic V10g1, Stellar SRg1, Fenn XTg1, Swordfish S
"When you've done something right, they wont know you've done anything at all"
The following user(s) said Thank You: Arcturus

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

2 days 1 hour ago #38789 by SamTaylor
Replied by SamTaylor on topic Gorge Downwind Champs
Gorge DW season runs roughly April-October, though the early season (April-May) and late season (October into early November) are less reliable and can be affected by high current early, and more wind variability later. You can sometimes get great East wind runs into November- early December but it gets cold and is not dependable.

Prime time is mid June-August; current drops, is blowing most days (sometimes we get a lull for a week or so, but more often then not there’s wind), water temp is ~70 or so… paradise. This years festival was defiantly near perfect in terms of wind conditions but for any given week it’s reasonable to think 4-5 days will probably be good at some point. In addition to Temira iKite or iWindsurf apps have good forecasts for a monthly or annual fee, probably worth it if you’re in town for a couple weeks.

Home Valley run out of Stevenson (the shuttle for this week’s festival) is a perfect novice run; a little shorter and never jacks up like Swell City, but doesn’t always fill in. Corridor (Drano or Viento) is the best water under most conditions, there’s a few great runs to the east as well though you’d want to do those with a local.

I know Carter does do runs in his double with folks, not sure about any other instructors. Search for the Hood River Small Boat group on facebook to connect with the local crowd- great, welcoming folks and someone is always paddling if it’s blowing so it’s usually possible to connect with shuttles/local knowledge.

Good luck!
Sam (Portland area paddler)
The following user(s) said Thank You: Arcturus

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

1 day 23 hours ago #38790 by Arcturus
Replied by Arcturus on topic Gorge Downwind Champs
Thanks for the info. It’s nice to hear that conditions are reasonably consistent for a pretty long stretch of the year. Based on my time in the PNW (lived in NW WA a few yrs), violent convective storms are unusual, too—which makes planning a trip easier.

Next spring I will have had two years of surf ski paddling under my belt, so I look forward to making good use of the opportunities in that section of the Columbia.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

1 day 22 hours ago #38791 by MCImes
Replied by MCImes on topic Gorge Downwind Champs
You should totally come next year. I promise you won't regret it.

Pay attention to when sign-up is. It often sells out in a few hours so set an alarm.

The Gorge is the funnest week of paddling around 

Currently paddling a Kai Wa'a Vega Flex in Southern California's ocean waters
Past Boats: Epic V10g1, Stellar SRg1, Fenn XTg1, Swordfish S
"When you've done something right, they wont know you've done anything at all"

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

Latest Forum Topics

Well, I am back...sort of :) (3 Posts)

5 hours 16 minutes ago

Non Chinese boats (6 Posts)

1 day 19 hours ago
Protected by R Antispam