Category Archives: Events

Fiona Wylde: 2014 Overall Surftech Shootout Women’s Champion

Big Winds team rider Fiona Wylde brought us up-to-date on her latest exploits:

It Wasn’t A Win Without A Fight

Every contest has a different aspect; a different way of achieving an outcome; a different way of ending a contest. Sometimes I end contests earlier than I want to by not making it through a heat or placing as high in a race, but never am I going to give up and stop pushing my abilities to the highest place they can go on that day of competition.

fiona-cruz2I was invited to the Surftech Shootout back in January to surf the prestigious wave at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, California. My Quatro teammate, Bernd Roediger flew in from Maui to meet me and my dad who drove down from Hood River, Oregon. With the van packed with multiple surf and race boards we were ready for whatever the conditions gave us over the weekend.

As most of you know, Santa Cruz is a surfing Mecca where much of surfing innovation began. Twenty-eight years ago the Santa Cruz Kayak Fest, now Paddle Fest, was created. Over the last couple years the Paddle Fest organizers have opened up the event to include stand up paddlers, which we are extremely grateful for.

fiona-cruz4The contest began on Friday, the 28th, with preliminary stand up surfing heats. Both Bernd and I surfed smart heats, catching head high set waves at the Point and riding them through to Indicators, which granted us wins. On Saturday we raced in the six-mile elite stand up race, leaving from Cowells Beach. I had a good start and lead the women and hung with Bernd until the first buoy, which was a mile into the race. Then Morgan Hoesterey, an extremely strong, incredible paddler came up and passed me. I did my best to hang with her, but she pulled away. Windy, choppy water and beach runs made the race more fun and interesting for all the competitors. I maintained second place, finishing fifty-nine minutes after I started. Bernd finished middle of the fleet, which is really good for the guys division considering he hasn’t raced in a flat-water race in over two years.

fiona-cruz1That afternoon the south wind kicked up even more and the waves were pretty small. I was a little skeptical paddling out to my second heat that afternoon, but my mood changed as soon as the horn sounded. Fun-size waves were coming through and it was way better than I imagined. I won that heat to secure my spot in the final. Bernd did the same with his quarterfinal heat and we were both looking forward to surfing the next day.

fiona-cruz3True to the swell forecast, Sunday delivered. We arrived at The Lane to eight foot, glassy faces, and were happier than two kids in a candy shop; only the candy was the waves. Bernd got to surf his semifinal heat in the glassy conditions where he put on a clinic. By the time the women’s final came around later that afternoon, the wind had picked up a bit, but the sets were bigger! I took my 7’8″ Quatro Step-up gun, rather than my shortboard, for stability in the wind and to get into the waves easier. I was frothing! Sitting in the channel I couldn’t wait to get my heat underway. The horn sounded to end the heat before me, so I had one minute to get in position. As soon as I was at the peak where the waves had consistently been breaking, a massive set came through that peaked way outside. I started paddling frantically. I thought that maybe by the time I got to the first one the heat would be underway, but I was four seconds too early. It would have been a late drop either way, so I paddled over and was confronted with an even bigger wave. Scratching to get over it in time, I rejected that opportunity when it peaked up even more and broke on my head. I had no option but to dive as deep as I could under the wave. As soon as I dove, I felt a pull then a release… my leash had broken. As soon I popped up, I signaled and yelled for the Jet Ski. They came in, pulled me up on the sled and drove me into the break to look for my board. For those that aren’t familiar with Steamer Lane, the “beach” consists of rocks and cliff. I did not want my board to get destroyed, and I still wanted to surf this heat. We drove through Indicators, just in time to see a California State Lifeguard pop over a wave paddling my board to safety. It was like a miracle! He handed me the board and an extremely generous water safety patrol surfer from the Santa Cruz Lifeguard took his leash off of his foot and gave it to me. I was ready for action! By the time I made it back out to the peak, I only had twelve minutes left. The heats were nineteen minutes, and since this was part of a kayak competition, they counted three waves instead of the normal two. I got lucky and a good set came through and I picked one off. Four minutes later I was back at the peak, ready for another. I caught another set wave and was making my way back out when another big set came through that broke way outside. Since I didn’t have much time left and I still needed another wave, I decided to go for it. I picked the second wave of the set and took off right as it broke. I made the drop, but when the whitewater exploded, I got worked. No sets came through in the last two minutes. The horn blew, and my contest was over.

I didn’t know if my two waves and drop were enough for me to take the win. The other girls caught plenty of waves from start to finish and were shredding! What I was happy about was that given the scenario, I did the most that I could to surf my best and make and use the twelve minutes to my full potential.

Bernd’s final followed shortly after mine. Sitting on the cliff, watching him, I felt like I was watching an ASP Professional Surfer that somehow got a paddle stuck in his hand. Bernd caught four waves in his heat, but he didn’t catch just four waves, he caught the best four waves. There were no doubts in our mind, and pretty much everybody’s on the cliff, that Bernd had won and owned the final.

fiona-cruz5My worries ceased when the announcer welcomed me to the stage to congratulate me for my Sup surfing Women’s Surftech Shootout victory! And my happiness went through the roof when they announced me as the 2014 Overall Surftech Shootout Women’s Champion from my race and surf result! With Bernd winning the men’s overall sup surfing, me winning the women’s and the women’s overall Surftech Shootout, it was an all around Quatro victory!

All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Jackson, the California State Lifeguard who jumped off the rocks to save my board and the water safety surfer for giving me his leash along with the Jet Ski Patrol. You guys made it possible for me to surf the rest of the heat! A big thank you goes to Duke Brower at Surftech and the Santa Cruz Paddle Fest for incorporating Stand Ups into your event. And of course thank you to Rahel, Lexi, Jessie, and Buck of the Lyons family for hosting us and making us feel at home! To all of the surfers of Santa Cruz thank you for graciously sharing your wave and allowing stand up paddlers and kayakers to surf Steamer Lane for the weekend.

This event comes to a close on a high note. With both Bernd and me winning, both on Quatro, both loving our boards and enjoying Santa Cruz, we will always remember this event with positive memories. Not all events end this way, so when they do, we need to remember them and enjoy this moment! Cheers to fun times!


Fiona Wylde: Big Winds Team Rider Rocks at Turtle Bay

Superstar waterwoman and Big Winds Team Rider, Fiona Wylde, brought us up-to-date on her competition in Hawaii:

Heading over to Oahu last week, I didn’t have any expectations. Yes, I wanted to make it through a couple heats, and yes I wanted to perform at my best. If I did that, I knew would be surfing to my best ability and enjoying it.

Fiona at Turtle Bay
The Women’s Pro Stand Up World Tour had its first stop at the infamous Turtle Bay Resort. Twenty-Four girls filled out the heats to create a solid bracket for the women’s comp. The conditions were tough on the first day, with lots of wind and some good size waves coming in that broke outside and mush-burgered to the inside. I caught enough waves and completed enough turns to secure a second place position to advance straight to the third round.
On the second day of the contest, blue skies and clean waves showed promise for an all time afternoon of competition. After making it through round three, I started my quarterfinal heat off with a solid 6-point ride and was looking for a second. Just a minute later I caught another wave in that range and was feeling good. Towards the end of the heat, the sets became farther apart and I got a bit frantic. There weren’t any good waves to better my early high scores, so I had to hope that the first two waves were enough. When the heat came to an end, I had a feeling I might have made it through, and did so with second place. Next up were the Semis. By mid-afternoon the forecast had been proven correct… the swell was building. At Turtle Bay, the big sets break outside the bay on the outer reef and wash through the bay. It makes it harder to catch the inside reform as well as the outside because it has already broken once. My strategy was to wait patiently on the outside and catch the set waves and only the set waves. I did this and caught three contestable waves, but my turns were not as critical as I was planning. I was a bit conservative in the semi final, because I was so worried about staying on my board, which was a mistake. I have learned now that during a competition, I have to give it %110 all the time and every turn, and just go for it!  And that way, even if I don’t make, I was trying. I am not disappointed with my results because a fifth place finish for my first world tour event is pretty good, but I did learn a lot and am looking forward to competing again.

Fiona at Turtle Bay
Fortunately I will have the opportunity real soon. I am en-route to the Dominican Republic as I write this for a contest called Master of the Ocean. This contest is a windsurf, kite surf, stand up surf and surf contest where I will be competing in all the disciplines. Wish me luck!


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Big Winds JET Rider Fiona Wylde Wins the Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge

Fiona Wylde is the 2013 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge overall Elite Water Woman. Here is the race recap from her perspective.

“At the start of this past weekend I had absolutely no idea how I was going to end up. The top elite women of stand up paddling were coming into town for the 2013 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge presented by O’Neill. The field was stacked including SUP legends like Jenny Kalmbach, Candice Appleby, Andrea Moller, Mariko Strickland Lum, Karen Wrenn and Nikki Gregg, just to name a few. I have been competing in a lot of races this year, and doing pretty well, but I had not yet raced against the top Elite of the sport. The downwinder was scheduled to run on Saturday with the course race and relay race on Sunday.


“When they called ten minutes to the start of the downwind race, a wave of nervousness flooded me. I tried to put that behind me and just stick to my game plan. I didn’t have anything to loose in this race, so my goal was to paddle my best and catch the best glides I could on the eight mile stretch of river from Viento State Park to Hood River. As soon as the air horn blew, I pushed off the rock I was standing on, jumped straight to my feet and began a high cadence sprint stroke. I was out in front leading the elite women to the first mark. The first mark was about a mile downwind and on the far side of the river. About twenty yards before the mark, Andrea Moller pulled ahead and was first to round. Myself, Jenny Kalmbach and Candice Appleby were neck and neck, jockeying for second.


“Once I rounded the mark, I caught a lucky bump and created a significant gap between Candice and Jenny. I held this gap until about the half way mark, when Mariko Strickland and Candice caught up to me. Once again there were three of us gunning for second place. We were trading positions for about five minutes when I caught the best swell of my life! I flew ahead and put a 200 yard gap on Candice and Mariko. After that, I continued to catch big glides and increase the gap between myself and third place. Once I knew I had a secure gap on third, I was focusing on Andrea who was still about 150 yards ahead of me. I put my head down and paddled with everything I had left. I closed the gap by a significant amount, but I was still a bit behind her. About a quarter of a mile before the finish, I could see the big yellow Naish buoy marking the entrance to the finish line. As I drew closer, I could hear people cheering for me. Coming into the finish line I had the biggest smile on my face I have ever worn. When I ran up the beach, I was in awe of the fact that I placed second in an Elite Women’s race behind Andrea Moller and ahead of third place finisher Candice Appleby.


My coach Steve Gates, my mom, and my aunt were there open armed to greet me at the finish. I was so excited where I finished, but more than that I was so stoked about how excellent the conditions were and the fact that I had the best downwind run I have had yet, and I beat all my training times.


“The following morning was the course race. This was not your ideal course race conditions. There was not a glassy patch of water anywhere on the river. It was blowing twenty and the course was set with up wind and downwind sections. I had to tell myself, “you train in wind, just pretend this is a training session on steroids.” As soon as the air horn blew, I jumped straight to my feet and once again was leading the pack to the first mark. I rounded the mark first, then choked up on my paddle and prepared for the long upwind leg. Jenny Kalmbach was hammering and passed me half way up the first leg. At the upwind buoy, Candice and I were neck and neck for second. On the downwind leg of the first lap, I pulled ahead of Candice and completed the first lap in second. The course was a five lap course, each lap being about a mile long. By lap 3 I was still in second, but Candice caught up to me and passed me on the second upwind leg. All I was doing for the last two laps was holding my position. I finished the race in third place behind second place Jenny Kalmbach and course race winner Candice Appleby! I am extremely overjoyed to have done well in both the downwind race and the course race.


IMG_5296 IMG_5283

“After finishing third in the elite women’s course race and second in the downwind race, I knew I was in the running for the overall water woman award. The overall water women award is awarded to the woman with the fastest combined time from the course race and the downwind race. My dad timed the difference between Candide and I after she finished her race and when I finished. We were the two that were in the running for the award. My dad timed it so I lost the award by two seconds. Well, when they were awarding the Water Woman award, Steve Gates announced the difference was 14 seconds! I thought Candice had it hands down! Then he announced my name and I have never been so surprised, excited, stoked, and honored in my life before!! I am very happy to announce that I am the 2013 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge overall Elite Water Woman!!


“This past weekend has been a complete honor and an amazing experience. I really enjoyed competing at an elite race right here in Hood River, my home town, and having my team mates here competing along side me. I am already looking forward to next year, but for right now I am preparing for the O’Neill Fall Classic in Lake Tahoe, where I will be paddling 22 miles across the lake.”



2013 Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge from Fiona Wylde on Vimeo.



KalamaKamp is coming to the Gorge

World class waterman, Dave Kalama, is bringing his downwind camp to the Gorge. The four day camp, starting August 12, precedes the Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge, allowing you to hone your skills for the Viento to Hood River downwind race.

Dave Kalama

Dave Kalama in the 2011 Gorge Paddle Challenge. Photo: Gorge-Us Photography.

Dave, and fellow instructors John Denney and Brody Welte will bring you up-to-date on the latest techniques, giving your paddling enjoyment a huge lift. Details and sign-up information are on the KalamaKamp website.

Dave Kalama

Dave Kalama in the 2011 Gorge Paddle Challenge. Photo: Gorge-Us Photography.

Children of the Wind

COTW posert

At Andrew’s Pizza Skylight Theater, July 18th, 7:30PM.

Children of the Wind tells the story of two brothers and a cousin who journey from poor fishing families on a tiny Caribbean island to become three of the best freestyle windsurfers in history.

Children of the WindThis event is being handled by Please help spread the word. 55 tickets must be sold by July 11th for the movie to be shown.

Don’t worry! If the threshold isn’t reached, the event will be called off and no one will be charged for their ticket purchase.

Here’s where to order.

Children of the WindSet against the backdrop of the 2011 Windsurfing World Cup on Bonaire, the film follows the boys over 15 years as they transform not only their island but the face of the sport worldwide.

Children of the WindThe film focuses on brothers Tonky and Taty Frans and their cousin Kiri who come from a poor fishing family and began windsurfing before the age of ten, using whatever broken or discarded equipment they could scrounge, and who are now, twenty years later, global superstars.

Children of the WindTonky, Taty and Kiri burst onto the international scene in 2001 when, along with thirty or so other Bonaire sailors, they attended windsurfing’s North American Championship in Florida. Given the island’s economic status, just getting to Florida was an achievement in itself. Once there, they caused a sensation, taking home twenty trophies between them. Given that Bonaire has a population of under 15,000 and had, at the time, no way to fund formal training facilities, provide equipment or pay for travel to events, this accomplishment was simply astonishing.

Children of the WindThe Frans brothers and Kiri are now among the top five freestyle windsurfers in the world and have become local heroes on their island. More remarkable: Bonaire continues to produce young champions at every age category of the ProKids World Championship, which started on the island. Set against the backdrop of the 2011 Freestyle Windsurfing World Cup on Bonaire, Children of the Wind is an exciting tale of kids who refused to be defined by the limits of their circumstance, and consequently transformed a sport.


Race the Lake of the Sky: Bobbie Gardner

Big Winds has a new power team rider: Bobbie Gardner. Bobbie checked in with this report from the 2013 Race the Lake of the Sky.

This was a great experience. I learned a lot and know what I need to work on. 14.4 miles is a long way — grueling.

Race the Lake of the Sky

Race the Lake of the Sky

The weather was perfect. The hardest part of the race was dealing with the boat chop. Since it was such a nice day all the boats where out in full force and, of course, Emerald Bay is the destination of choice, so there was a lot of mixed up water. I was chasing two women the entire race, determined to catch them. I caught them about 9 miles into the race. The boat chop was bad, but I think my downwinding experience from La Ventana helped in handling it. I paddled right through it and stayed up on my board.

Bobbie's rig

Bobbie’s rig

Beach setup

Beach setup

I also did my first buoy race . That was 2.8 miles of full-on sprint!  I would have come in first place in my age category but they put me in with the young ones — no age break, just board type! Not fair! But I did really well and I had a blast. I realized that I need to work on my starts and turns. My left turns were great, my right turns need help.

Course race

Course race

The race had 8 buoys with 3 laps around for a total of 2.8 miles. The 82 competitors in the race made for a crazy beach start. At times there was a head wind so I used your technique of squatting low and gripping down on the paddle. That worked great! I passed a few people with that tip. Now I am determined to get stronger and go faster.

See you on the water, amigo! Again, thanks for you great tips!  


podium photo bobbie2

Windfest Weekend!

Today it’s windy! A perfect day to come to the Hood River Event Site and demo all the trick new windsurfing gear at Windfest.

Today, the Big Winds Shuttle Service is in full operation. With winds in the corridor forecast to be 20-25 all afternoon, it’s the perfect downwind setup. First shuttles leaves from the BW Event Site Center at 1:00. Call Big Winds (541-386-6086) for a spot.

Tomorrow will be SUP heaven in Hood River. Come to the Hood River Event Site to demo all the new SUP boards available at Big Winds. Also, there will be a fun and FREE SUP relay race at noon at the Event Site. All gear will be provided. This FUN race is for everyone, even first timers!