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


  1. Man you're a real pimp. That shaka at the hatch is about 4 inch in the air.

  2. Wow Anonymous hater, that's exactly what I was thinking when I was doing that shaka. "Man am I a pimp going 4 inches high off the backside of this shitty little piece of voodoo chop."

  3. Hey Mike, got any tips on learning shakas? For me, they look the best of all freestyle moves! I hear its good to have shuv-its down first. So....any tips for shuv-its i guess?

  4. Hey Tom,

    The Shaka is definitely my favorite move to do. When it's done right, it's the most effortless move you'll do, but getting there is going to take some practice. The shaka is also a really low risk move to learn as well. The first step on the way to the shaka is the shuvit. I've seen guys trying to learn a shuvit and none of them don't carve enough to get the sail backwinded. So my best tip to try and learn a shuv-it, is to really go for the shaka!

    You'll want to head straight along the wind as fast as you can. The ramp you'll want to go for in the beginning is the one just upwind of the ramp that you would hit for a normal chop hop. The entry into the move is the biggest factor. You'll need speed and a smooth section of water to carve the board. And I' don't mean carve the board like you're doing a jibe into the wind. It's gotta be a really, really tight, hard and sharp carve. When you watch guys that are good at doing shuv-it's and shakas, you'll barely notice that they carve into the move at all. You can check out one of the newer videos on the right side of this page and there will be shaka after shaka for you to study.

    So for the "basic" shuv-it carve hard into the wind, and oversheet with the backhand, while driving you're weight down through your front arm and onto the leading edge of the sail. If you keep your weight forward and you're far enough into the wind, you'll get the elevator ride straight up! You don't need to pop the board for these moves. Most people concentrate too much on trying to pop the board out of the water instead of using the sail to lift you up. The sail will generate enough lift to launch you into the air without you needing to pop the board as long as you're using a piece of chop.

    Once you're in the air, you'll be laid out over the sail in quite a different position than you've ever been in before. To get the rig back upright, you need to sweep the entire rig forward. Most people make the mistake of only pushing on the back hand. This will make you crash! So just sweep it forward toward the nose of the board and the rig will pop up nicely and you'll land nice and smooth.

    A quick note on how far upwind you need to carve. If you can't get the rig back up after you lay it down, you're not far enough into the wind. If you're getting blown up backwards, you heading up too far. Trust me, you're not going to have the problem of blowing up backwinded until after you've landed a few. I've never seen anyone learning carve hard enough in the beginning to actually be able to get the rig back up. You really have to crank it into the wind! And the piece of advise for getting further into the wind that helped me the most came from Kiri a few winters ago in Bonaire. He said" you just keep carving the board upwind in the air man." I know it sound crazy, but yes we can apparently use the board to carve through air too.

  5. Thanks for the info Mike, its nice how you explain each part of the move in detail.

    I've watched your video and i can really see how you're getting all your weight forward really fast. Looks like the carve up wind is very important, when i watch you do it it almost looks like the board is just shooting out from under you.

    Awesome! Now i just need to get out there and practice, practice, practice! Thanks again!

  6. Hey Tom,

    After you try a few, let me know how they turn out and how you end up crashing. I can help fix what you're doing wrong by the way you are crashing. Good luck, and don't give up on it. There's no other move in windsurfing thta feels as good as a shaka.


  7. love that place..Doug's is an amazing launch..did you eat tacos from a truck?

  8. Hey Mike,

    So the wind in Ontario isn't the best but finally it came and i could actually go for some shuv-its.

    Here is a video of one of my attempts:

    It looks like a mess, i don't think im bringing my weight forward and it feels like im not turning up wind enough. Let me know what you think im doing wrong and how i can change it. I heard that to fix the weight forward is by trying to jump off my toes at the end. Thanks.

  9. No, didn't have the truck tacos. Did have some really good trailer Thai food though that was really good.

  10. Hi Tom,

    Looks like you're really going for it! As I'm sure you've figured out, you have to fully commit. In that video, you it would definitely help you to go upwind more. After you can control yourself in the air, you can start baring off the wind, but in the beginning, the harder and further you carve upwind before you hit the chop, the better your chances are of landing it. Also, try to get the sail down sooner. You need to time the "backwinding" of the sail with the second you leave the water. If you time it right there will be plenty of power from the backside of the sail to put you in the air. Then since you're already in the backwinded position, all you'll need to do is seep the sail forward to land it.

    So 1: more upwind, 2: sail down earlier.

    It helps to bend at the hips as you carve kinda like stopping yourself healside on a snowboard down a really steep run if you happen to snowboard.

    Good luck with the next attempts! keep me up to date on your progress. That attempt you floated it a bit, so it shouldn't be log until you're landing them!


  11. Once you're in the air, you'll be laid out over the sail in quite a different position than you've ever been in before. To get the rig back upright, you need to sweep the entire rig forward. Most people make the mistake of only pushing on the back hand. This will make you crash! So just sweep it forward toward the nose of the board and the rig will pop up nicely and you'll land nice and smooth.
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