I had just finished the Junior Gorge Blow Out windsurf race and was hanging out on the shore savoring my first day of summer vacation, when Steve Gates told me that the Big Winds Junior Team was going to train for Stand Up Paddle Board races this year. I knew right there that I was going to have an amazing summer with Sofia, Fiona and Ben, my teammates.
The first training, at 6:45 in the morning, was really enlightening because I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had so much to learn! Most importantly, I needed to learn how to use my whole body to do a proper stroke, reach, reach, reach with my paddle, turn around, ride the waves, and cut across the river. We’ve had five practices, each with an emphasis on something new. My favorite part of this training took place last Sunday, on June 30th, when we went on a four mile downwinder from the point right above the Hatchery. The wind was blowing about 25mph and I could have been windsurfing on my 4.2 meter sail, but this looked like it was going to be an amazing adventure.
The launch was pretty much jumping off the rocks and hoping that you didn’t hit anything. Safely on the water, the four of us juniors, in neon yellow, Big Winds shirts, followed Steve like little ducklings all in single file. Steve had told us that we were going to get wet and it wasn’t a question. I thought I was going to be able to stay on my board the whole way though. Little did I know! We paddled for 20 minutes before we went through Swell City and the Hatchery and I was still on my board! Now, though, the waves were huge and there were windsurfers and kiteboarders all around us. The wind and the waves were making it hard to stay on our boards. It was insane! I have to admit that I fell off about five times, but it was worth it. We were trying to catch the head high swells. We were all cheering each other on as we caught incredible rides and had spectacular falls. Then when the time came to cross back over to the Oregon side of the river, Steve wasn’t kidding when he said, “ Paddle on the left side until the cows come home.” And that’s pretty much all I did and man did my left side hurt. It was a relief to finally paddle on the right. By the time we got back to the Event Site I was really tired. I think the whole team was exhausted, but it didn’t show one bit because our smiles were huge.
I can’t wait to do it again because it was one of those once in a life time experiences that you don’t get to do every day. After doing that adventure, I definitely feel like a real watergirl. It’s different from windsurfing, but the adrenaline rush is the same. Tomorrow is the big Stand Up for Cancer race from Viento to the Event Site. It will be a true test of our new skills. However, if it’s blowing 50mph, like it is today….it could be one WILD RIDE on SUP’s!
Photo: Mike Godsey