Ways of the Wind: Catch Windfest this weekend

A summer series with Greg Stiegel, Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Association

The sun has been shining and the wind has been blowing in the Gorge for months now, but Friday marked the official start of summer. Unlike the last few years, this spring Gorge residents were blessed with an early start to the windy season, and there’s no better way to whip yourself into shape for the summer than sailing, kiteboarding or stand-up paddling in 30 mph wind and school bus-sized swell … right?

These last few weeks of spring have been outstanding, and with school recently out, Hood River’s summer scene is abuzz with excitement and activity. So, with summer officially upon us, what’s the outlook for the wind and watersports season?

First of all, we seem to have avoided the intense early season river conditions we saw in the last couple of years. The water level is at a very reasonable level and the Hood River delta already in full use, allowing safe and easy kite launching from there and leaving the Event Site clear for windsurfing and the general public. With water temperatures over 60 degrees and currents at a very manageable pace, even the mighty Columbia River knows that summer is here.

With the arrival of summer, the Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Association has all sorts of fun events and activities in store. Coming up this weekend is the annual Gorge Windfest (June 29-30) at the Hood River Event Site. This event is a fun, family-friendly affair for all, with a plethora of gear vendors offering unlimited demos of the latest windsurf and SUP gear. Gear demos are $5 for CGWA members and $10 for non-members. In addition, a stacked schedule of clinics is in store, including PWA sailors (Philip Soltysiak), AWT sailors (Kevin Pritchard) and of course all the great local pros (Tyson Poor, Bruce Peterson, Brian Schurton, Big Winds, etc.).

Add to the mix good food, local beer, music and friendly faces and a good time is almost guaranteed.

In conjunction with Windfest, the Blowout downwind race is back. After a brief hiatus, the Blowout will run on June 29, from Blackberry Beach in Cascade Locks to Hood River. A Mini Blowout and SUP race will be held the same day, from Viento State Park to Hood River. This is a fun, exciting event that is open to all windsurfers, so come test your skills and see if you can make it back to the Event Site.

You can pre-register online at gorgewindsurfing.org/events/blowout. Stay tuned to the same website for more event info, start times, etc.

It is good to have summer back in the Gorge. Stay tuned for the next Ways of the Wind column for updates on the fun in store for the rest of the summer. See you on the water!

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