I spent the last week going back and forth between Bend and the Gorge for The Gorge Outrigger Race (which has been going on for well over 20 years), and The Gorge Downwind Champs, where solo outriggers, surfski and SUPs race in a downwind course. The race conditions could not have been more opposite for the two events. The Gorge is an amazing and beautiful place but just like all things Mother Nature offers up, she can throw you some curve balls.
The Gorge Outrigger Race was flat and hot this year with shades of, "Hey, are we in Kona?" running through our heads as we were discussing where the end was.
(SIDE NOTE: When it's hot, learn how to splash your teammates without losing a stroke. Those in front of you will forever be indebted. )
Below is a short video from one of the safety boats. This shows you how very forgiving the Columbia River can be when the wind is not blowing.
Fast forward four days and the Columbia is a whole different beast. With winds blowing in the 30's, for those with the skills, it's a great ride. For those not as experienced, well.... Fortunately there were a lot of outrigger and surfski paddlers this year who pulled out of the race understanding that their skill sets were not not a match for the epic wind of this year's race. But no worries because they still experienced a week of shuttles and clinics and practice, meeting up with old friends and making new friends. Plus great beer and great food from the Pacific Northwest makes for a great week.
Check out this fun video to see what it can be like when the wind is blowing and you're getting free rides down the river on your outrigger canoe.
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