Monday, August 8, 2011

Gorge: Full Power

I've been windsurfing for well longer than 1/2 my life. I've been traveling on windsurfing vacations for the past 15 years. Naturally people just assume I've been to the Gorge. When I tell them I've never been, I always get a glance followed by, "Yooouuu've never been to the Gooorge?" Sorry to say I have not. It's not that I didn't want to try it out, it's just that the stars never aligned.

While we were on our spring trip to Hatteras, the chatter started about a possible summer trip to the Gorge. Chachi was with us on the trip and all he kept talking about was how much fun the Gorge was and how windy it was in the summer. A time of year when a windy day is really hard to come by in the North East. Especially this year. So the thought was placed in my head, and as the windless June carried on, serious talks about the Gorge began. Ryan and Kerry were first to jump on board with the trip. That was enough for me. Our Jet Blue tickets were in my e-mail the next day!

On the flight Christina and I were filled with great expectations from all the hype at home. I caught a few z's on the plane while thinking of the huge jumps I'd take at the Hatchery that I've heard so much about. Since we arrived during the night we didn't get to see the beautiful ladscape that surrounded Hood River, the town we were staying in, and the US Mecca of windsurfing. Ryan and Kerry already flew in the night before, so Ryan was eager to show me around town. There are more windsurf shops per square block in Hood River than there are Delis in Brooklyn. It was like waking up in a candy store. the second I walked out of the Hood river Hotel, I could already see Big Winds, and The Gorge Surf shop. Up the hill was Windance and a million other places to spend all the money I had. Seeing the look on my face, Christina decided to hold onto my wallet for the remainder of the trip.

The plan for the first day was to try out the event site for some freestyle , then sail upwind to the hatch. I was told it's an easy sail about a mile upwind. It turns out it was a very easy sail about a mile upwind. The problem was that the wind came up another notch and my 4.2 was becoming a bit of a handful. Combine that with a strong current that runs against the wind, and going downwind in the Gorge is waaayyyyy harder than going upwind. It's the first place I've ben where the walk of shame starts upwind every time!

Day 2 we decided to go straight for the Hatch. The launch there was a little tricky as you had to walk down slippery rocks and hop a fishing net after you were on the board. Tyson showed up a little after we did and the place turned into a freestyle arena! Tyson would throw a loop, so I would try to go bigger! Then a shaka, so I would try again to go bigger! I couldn't really say that I did, but we were both going huge! Then there it was, the perfect ramp for the biggest shaka I've ever done. A little over head high and coming at a slight angle. Perfect! I hit the ramp with full speed, launched way into the air. High enough to watch someone's headcap sail by below me. Everything was perfect, then as I was floating down from the heavens, the wind decided to take a time out. Just for a split second, but it was long enough for me to get too far over the rig and now I was no longer floating down from the heavens, but falling like a meteor. I braced for impact and there it middle panel in teh 4.7 that is. I was fine, but my favorite sail ever was in desperate need of repair. no big deal. I knew exactly where to bring it. The same place I would be picking up my 4.2 from the previous day. Good old Olaf to the rescue! He does some nice sail repair work!

In all honesty, I didn't really care for the sailing at the Hatch. We sailed there 3 times and all 3 days it was just overcrowded, voodoo chop central. far and few real ramps for jumping, and just an absolute mess of chop. Picture the heckscher chop, with mid summer boa traffic, that's about 2 feet taller. I'm not planning on going there again unless it's the only place there's wind.

After the session at the hatch, it was out to Doug's Beach. This place was BY FAR my favorite spot. It had stronger wind like at the Hatch, but also had smooth water for freestyle on either side of the river. For the last few days, I didn't even bother going anywhere else, even though the wind was stronger elsewhere. It was just day after day of the same thing. It's the only trip I've been on where we weren't alway rushing to the water at teh first sign of a whitecap. We knew it would be there later. All in all, we sailed 9 of the 10 days we were there, all on 4.7 or less. The plans for Gorge trip next summer are in the works.

We also had a blast white water rafting while we were there, and horseback riding, where Chrissy's horse was spooked by a bear. Yes everything in the Gorge is Full Power!

Flaka :Full Power!

White water rafting for beginners in the Gorge. That's my red paddle on the far right trying to breathe.

Shaka at Doug's. 3.7 Full Power!

Spocking my way though the jibatorium at the Hatch

Shaka at the hatch

Rocky launch at the hatch

Me and Ryan stoked after a full day of sailing

here's your sign