Staffers take on Columbia -- and lose

Whether you’re a long-time resident or a new fish, life in the Hood just wouldn’t be the same without the sport of windsurfing.

For those who have adopted it, sailing every day feels as natural as granola. But for water-weary land-lubbers like us, merely stepping onto a board requires plenty of courage, lots of neoprene and an overabundance of humility.

However, despite hours of mental preparation, neither of us could turn down a free lesson. Thanks to our friends at Octagon Marketing — the annual promoters of the Gorge Games, which arrive in Hood River July 13 — we were given a golden opportunity to make fools of ourselves in front of pro windsurfer Sean Aiken and the passers-by on Interstate 84.

After a brief on-shore demonstration, we were turned loose to the currents with only a board, a sail and a skin-tight wetsuit to keep us out of harm’s way.

Though both of us walked away with only minor injuries — bruised egos, mostly — we each had different experiences. And, while both of us feel we made progress, we can certifiably say that the Mighty Columbia got the better of us that day — and laughed in our face!


All I know is that if it weren’t for the beginner’s bay at the Hood River Inn, I may still be trying to turn around somewhere near The Dalles.

Once I finally figured out how to stand on the board, pull the sail out of the water, and let the wind do the work, I then had to remember everything Sean told me about how to turn myself around.

“Uh huh. Yup. I understand.”

Just like in high school, in one ear and out the other. Of course in high school, my health wasn’t at stake if I forgot a math formula. If I were out in the middle of the river and couldn’t remember Sean’s instructions, I may have had to hitchhike on an oil barge.

But common sense got the better of me and I was somehow able to drag my board and sail back to shore before being swept away by the swirling Gorge winds.

All in all, not a bad experience. If nothing else, a growing experince. I exited the water with the confidence that I could improve my next time out.

When that next time will be is uncertain, but I was able to take away one important lesson from my day on the river: Don’t underestimated the Columbia’s currents, and don’t underestimate yourself — even if you are a dry foot.

— Dave Leder


I’d like to make some witty observations about Dave’s attempts at learning to windsurf, thereby making my efforts seem positively masterful by comparison.

I’d like to do that, but since I spent most of the two-hour lesson with my head underwater, I didn’t see anything Dave was doing.

I suppose the first warning flag should have been raised when I put my wetsuit on backwards (perhaps I should note that Dave did this, too). Sean was very nice about containing his laughter, and said that this sort of thing happens all the time.

Backwards or forward, though, I can’t help but feel a little glad that our camera ran out of batteries during the land portion of the lesson, making it impossible to capture what I looked like encased in flesh-hugging neoprene.

I had tried windsurfing almost 10 years ago (right around the time I gave skiing a shot for the first and only time), but the wind had been curiously absent. Not so on this day. I was able to keep my balance fairly well, but my poor analysis of spatial relationships made it impossible to figure out how I should turn the sail in order to go in the direction I intended.

After a successful sail out to the buoy line and back, I had gained enough confidence to make one more trip.

But instead of sailing straight out, I drifted. And drifted. And drifted a little more, past the buoys. I climbed off my board and tried to swim against the current, but it seemed the river had other plans, and towards Mosier I went. I eventually gave up and muscled my way to shore to walk my board back.

Maybe next time I should try skiing again, instead.

— Erik Steighner

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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