Category Archives: Instruction

Kiteboarding Tricktionary

We have a few copies of the new Kiteboarding Tricktionary Book left in stock. These sold fast over the holidays, and if you haven’t picked up yours, now is the time! We are super impressed by this book by Julian Hosp and Thomas Burblies. At first, we thought it was just going to cover the advanced and professional tricks (which it does), but it also starts off with 135 pages of the “Superbasics” covering the following:

  • basic kiteboarding knowledge
  • equipment
  • pumping/packing a kite
  • safe kiteboarding
  • launching and landing
  • (quick) releasing
  • relaunch
  • kite steering
  • body drag
  • waterstart
  • stopping
  • stance
  • jibes
  • grabs
  • jumps


Then, it’s onto the fun stuff: airstyle and newschool tricks!


Kiteboarding Tricktionary

Kiteboarding Tricktionary

The experienced professional athletes demonstrate simple to highly complete moves in a very precise and stylish manner. Learn from the best in the convenience of your own living room. Get the picture of your next move off the water before hitting the water. Every kiter should have a copy of Tricktionary on their coffee table. If twin-tip freestyle isn’t your style, the surfing edition is coming soon. This book retails for $79, and can be purchased at Big Winds. Call 888-509-4210 or order online.

Choosing Your New Stand Up Paddleboard

Choosing your next SUP can be a daunting task. For those of you new to the sport, the choices seem (and are) endless. At Big Winds, we have been into Stand Up Paddleboarding from the beginning, when the first production boards arrived in North America, eight years ago. Since then we have seen, and been a part of, the explosive growth of this great sport. We are fortunate to partner with the very best brands in SUP and have committed a ton of energy and resources to the sport. Where many shops have jumped on the bandwagon and are more than happy to sell you whatever they happen to have on the rack, here at Big Winds we want, first and foremost, to make sure you get the absolute right board. We want to make you smile every time you go out for a casual paddle, hard fitness workout, drop into a long point wave, or fly along on an exciting downwind run. We have a large staff (up to fifty in the summer and nine year round) most all of whom paddle and many of whom have gravitated to SUP as their primary sport. We do it all: race, surf, fitness, whitewater, and yes, even casual social paddling. We do downwinders every chance we get, which is often here in the Columbia River Gorge. We are confident we can steer you into a great board for your needs.

SUP LessonsBig Winds operates the largest Stand Up Paddleboard Lesson and Rental program on the west coast. We teach a ton of lessons each summer, from first timers to advanced stroke technique clinics. We have over seventy SUP boards of every variety at our exclusive, on-the-water location just five minutes from our shop in downtown Hood River, Oregon.

Big Winds JET Team

Big Winds JET Team

We also have proudly built the largest Junior SUP Race Program in the U.S., with Team Big Winds competing throughout the U.S., Mexico and Hawaii. At the recent 2013 Battle of the Paddle in California, the largest SUP race in the world, the Big Winds Junior Elite Team (JET) swept the podium in the 18 and under boys, taking 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. The JET girls matched the boys, going 2-3-4-5 in the 18 and under.

So, what does that mean for you, someone looking for a new (maybe your first) SUP board? Our depth of experience translates directly into our unique expertise in gear selection. We have a huge selection of SUP boards and paddles in stock. We know the gear because we use the gear. We test, analyze and criticize the choices so that we stock the correct variety of types, sizes and price levels of boards and paddles. We guarantee your satisfaction with the products we sell. If you are not 100% happy with whatever you buy from Big Winds, we’ll take it back and work to get you something else. We understand buying a new Stand Up Paddleboard is an investment and we will do whatever it takes to ensure you are totally stoked.

Here are some tips to help guide you into a smart buying decision:

Think of SUP boards in terms of two large categories: Round Nose boards and Pointed Nose boards. If you want to go surfing with your SUP, you need a round nose board. If you don’t intend to ride ocean waves, then we recommend you consider a pointed nose board. Round nose boards are more maneuverable and pointed nose boards glide better and paddle in a straight line (track) better.

What about Inflatable SUP Boards?

Inflatable SUPs

Inflatable SUPs

The quality and performance of Inflatable SUP Boards has improved dramatically in the past three years, and so have the choices. As a rule, rigid boards will still offer a bit better performance in terms of glide and efficiency. However, inflatables can be the right choice for certain situations. They pack down into a large duffel style bag. This makes them relatively easy to travel with and store in your garage or home. However, it is generally impractical to pump and deflate your SUP each time you want to go paddling! It takes a fair bit of effort to inflate them properly, unless you have one of the spiffy new electric pumps, which we sell at Big Winds. If you’re considering an inflatable SUP, give us a call and we can talk you through all the choices and help you decide if this is the right way to go for you.

Round Nose boards can further be broken down into:

Rounded Nose

Rounded Nose

1. All Around Boards. The All Around boards will generally be over 10’ long and at least 30” wide. They will paddle fairly well in flat water, gliding and tracking fine, and be quite stable. In this category we suggest you consider: Amundson Source, Amundson Cross, Starboard Drive, Starboard Blend, Starboard Atlas, Naish Nalu, and Surftech Generator.

2. Easy Surfing. These boards are designed for the novice and intermediate SUP surfer. They will be shorter than the All Around boards, usually between 9’ and 10’6”, and fairly wide (30”+) for stability. If Easy Surfing looks like your thing, consider the Naish Mana, Naish Nalu, Lopez Sweetie Pie, Starboard Whopper and the Starboard Wide Point.

3. Performance Surfing. If you want to crank off the bottom and smack the lip, these are for you. These boards are designed to perform. They will generally be under 9’6” and narrower than 30”. The Naish Hokua, Starboard Airborn and the Starboard Pro Series will satisfy the hard core SUP surfer.

4. Inflatables. The choices in quality inflatable SUP boards has increased exponentially in the past two years and at Big Winds we have stayed on top of it, relentlessly testing new models. Here are our favorites: Naish Mana Air 10’, Naish Nalu Air 11’, Naish Alana Air 10’6” (Women’s Specific), Starboard Astro Blend, Starboard Astro Whopper, Aqua Glide Cascade 10’ and 10’6”.

Pointed Nose Boards can further be broken down into:

Pointed Nose

Pointed Nose

 1. Touring. These are the cruisers that everyone will enjoy in smooth and bumpy water. They are user friendly, track and glide well and are suitable for distance, fitness and social paddling. They are usually over 10’6”, around 30” wide and stable. Lighter paddlers can have more fun on the smaller models in this category, while heavier paddlers should migrate towards the larger volume choices. Great choices for the lighter paddlers are the Tahoe SUP Bliss, Amundson 11’6” TR and TR-X, Starboard Freeride, Bark Appleby 11’ Cross and the Raven 10’6 and 11’6”. For heavier paddlers we recommend the Naish Glide 12’6”, Tahoe SUP Zephyr, Starboard Freeride XL, Amundson 12’6” TR and TR-X, Amundson 14’ TR-X and TR-T, SIC Bullet 12’6” and 14’ and the Odyssey.

2. Racing. If you want to experience really efficient gliding and tracking, you should consider a model from this category. Several of us here at Big Winds have been racing and coaching SUP for a number of years now and we pride ourselves on being up on the latest, fastest boards available. Some of these models are accessible to a fairly broad skill level and some require a significant level of expertise to enjoy. We break these down into two main sizes: 12’6” and 14’, since those are the two most popular race classes. We’ve personally tested almost every one of these boards, so please CALL US! Choosing the right race board requires more than just reading a website or a catalog. In season, we have a ton of demos available, so if you are in the Northwest, it’s worth a trip to our shop and Demo Center in Hood River.

Here are our favorite choices to consider:

  • In the 12’6” size, the Naish Javelin and Javelin LE. Starboard All Star, Bark Phantom and Bark Appleby.
  • In the 14’ size, the Naish Javelin and Javelin LE, Starboard All Star, Bark Dominator and Bark Phantom, and Amundson 14’0” TR-X.

3. Women Specific Touring. About half of the staff at Big Winds is female, so we are totally plugged in to the specific requirements many of our lady customers are looking for. Women's Specific SUPIn addition, Big Winds has offered our Ladies SUPer Club sessions for five years running, introducing literally hundreds of women to SUPing. We suggest that ladies look for boards that are sized for them, be it petit or larger. There are a few boards that really stand out as great choices for ladies due to their very lightweight and slightly smaller dimensions. These include the Amundson 11’6” TR and TR-X, the Tahoe Bliss, Bark Appleby and the Naish Alana series.

4. Downwind/Open Water. This is a category close to our hearts here at Big Winds. As mentioned previously, we are smack dab in the middle of the most consistent, windiest spot in North America.

Downwind / Open Water

Downwind / Open Water

Our prevailing summer 25-35 knot west winds oppose the current of the mighty Columbia River boosting the river swells to often overhead in size. I can say with confidence our staff has more experience paddling downwind and has tested more downwind, open water boards than any staff at any shop in North America. With our Guided Downwind Tours and Shuttle Service, we have a unique opportunity to see what boards work best for varying sizes and skill levels. We stock the very best of the boards in this category, including the Naish Glides, SIC Bullets and F-16, Kalama Connectors among others.

If you’re in the market for a Downwind board, call us! We are your downwind SUP experts!

5. Kids Specific. We are into kids. Kids specific boardsAt Big Winds we created the largest and most successful Junior SUP program in the country and we are proud to offer some high performance boards for the smaller kids. These include the Starboard Astro Jr. Racer (Inflatable), the Bark Challenger and Hero, and the Starboard All Star Jr. If you want to get a cool board for your kid, call us! We are your Kids SUP experts!

6. Inflatables. The choices in Pointed Nose inflatables have also gone through the roof in the past year. Now we offer high performance Touring and yes, even Race inflatable boards. If you are in the market for an inflatable Touring or Race board take a look at the following models: Naish ONE 12’6”, Starboard Astro Tour 12’6” and 14’, Starboard Astro Race 12’6” and 14’, Aqua Glide Cascade 12’6” Touring.

Choosing Your New Paddle

There are several variables to consider when choosing your new paddle: your height, your fitness level, the type of paddling you expect to do, and of course, your budget. Answering those questions will help guide you to a paddle that will provide you with the right amount of power, be the right size for you, be as light as possible, have the correct flex, and be a paddle you can afford. Here’s some information I hope you find useful in choosing your new paddle.

choosing your paddle

Paddle length:

As a general rule, you’ll want a paddle that’s 8”-12” longer than your height. For surf riding, you’ll stay on the shorter end of the range and for racing on thicker boards you’ll be on the longer side. A good way to measure for most flat water paddling is to use the old classic way we used to measure ski length: standing with your arm extended upward and your wrist bent at 90 degrees, have the paddle come to the base of your wrist. I’m 5’10” (70”) and I use paddles between 80” and 82” while on my race boards, which tend to be about 6” thick. If I were in the surf more frequently, I’d have a 78” just for wave riding.

Blade Size:

Choosing the appropriate blade size is at least as important as having the correct length paddle. A blade too big may cause shoulder discomfort and early fatigue. A blade too small may not deliver the power you’re looking for. As a rule, smaller less burly folks will want a blade between 85 and 100 sq inches. This will provide good power, allow for a high cadence stroke, and minimize the risk of injury. I’m 150 lbs, fit but not burly, and effectively use a blade sizes of 85”to 100”. Though I had been primarily using a 100 sq. in. blade for the past year, lately I’ve gone to smaller blades (Ke Nalu Wiki and Quickblade Elite Racer 90) and am loving the quick but powerful stroke they allow. I have at times used larger blades, like the Kialoa Toro (107 sq in), in races and have been surprised that it felt good.

choosing your paddle

Materials/ Construction:

Materials used in the construction of paddles determine overall weight, flexibility, durability and cost. There are basically five types of materials currently being used in shafts and blades: aluminum, wood, plastic, fiberglass and carbon. Aluminum is strong and cheap, but heavy and fairly inflexible. Wood is strong and pretty, but again on the heavy side. Plastic is durable and cheap, but is heavy and offers little in the way of performance. Fiberglass provides a pretty good balance of durability, moderate weight, flexibility and affordability. Carbon is the best performing material of the group, allowing for varying flexes, excellent strength and the lightest weight. It is also the most expensive material.


As a rule, lighter weight, less strong paddlers will want a shaft that is somewhat flexible to reduce the risk of injury. Bigger, stronger folks will appreciate a stiffer shaft to transmit more energy directly into power.

The Big Winds staff is filled with athletes who love to paddle. Some of us are recreational paddlers who go out for fun and the social aspect of the sport, and some of us (like myself) are WAY into it and paddle all the time for fitness and race training, and racing. We are a staff made up of all ages (14-61) and about half guys and half girls. We have an extensive SUP lesson program and a huge SUP demo and rental fleet at our waterfront location in Hood River.

We’d love the opportunity to share our enthusiasm and experience and help you get set up with gear that will maximize your fun on the water, not matter what your level of involvement.

So give us a call. We’re your SUP experts!




Hangin’ with Heidi


Legendary Big Winds instructor, Heidi Chappel, will be at Rowena, Saturday, July 27th. She will be leading a short rigging clinic at 11:30 and then will be available for one or two hour private lessons from noon to 5PM. This event is wind dependent and will be called on or off that morning. You are encouraged to call ahead to book a lesson, but walk-ins will be accepted if space allows. The cost for a private lesson is $99 for one hour and $179 for two hours. Gear is not included but check with our rentals department for availability. Payments and waivers can be handled at Rowena.

Call our Lessons and Rentals Department at 888-509-4210 or 541-386-6086 to sign up.

Women's Clinics

Heidi will also be putting on one of her classic Women’s Clinics, August 10-11, 2013. The details are on our website.


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.

Big Winds / Jeremy Riggs SIC Glide Clinic

After a land-based clinic by Jeremy Riggs, twenty-five paddlers shuttled up to Viento Sunday, June 16th, and paddled downwind, up river back to the Big Winds Event Site Center.

Mitchell Point

Heading to Mitchell Point on the way to Hood River.

We’ve posted an album of the adventure on the revamped Flickr. Let’s just see how this new site works. Here’s the album of full resolution images. Enjoy!

Women’s Sunday Morning SUP Sessions

This year Big Winds is offering Sunday Morning SUP Sessions, just for the ladies. Every Sunday morning in July, from 10 to 11, Big Winds will put on an “Introduction to SUP” clinic down at the Big Winds Event Site Center. No need to come to the shop; just meet down there.

Women's SUP Sessions

The cost for the clinic is $10 per session and includes the board, paddle, PFD and permit. You may participate in multiple sessions if space allows. Please bring your own wetsuit or proper water attire.

Women's SUP Sessions

Participants must sign up in advance by sending an email to or calling us at either 888-509-4210 or 541-386-6086. Each Sunday session is limited to the first 20 women to sign up. The minimum age requirement is 14.

Women's SUP Sessions

So, sign up, come on down and learn about the fastest growing water sport in the world!

The Conversion Epidemic

Facing down fears and peers, Matt Luchsinger (AKA Suds), world renown kiteboarder, has taken on the challenge of,


wait for it,





Big Winds’ teacher extraordinaire, Ondine, took a deep breath and the task of doing the unthinkable.


Suds: “You want me to do what?”

Ondine: “You want me to do what?”


“This is nuts.”


“Aircraft Carrier. Can’t be that hard.”



So easy, I can do it with my eyes closed.


Oh, ya. In your face. What’s next?


Suds before the Ondine treatment.


Suds after the Ondine treatment.

Big Winds: Aiding cross-overs since 1987.

SUP Downwind Safety Guidelines

SUP Downwinding Safety Guidelines

Steve Gates

(with help from my friends)

Big Winds


Here in the Gorge, and elsewhere, SUP downwinding is on fire. Everyone wants to go. On a warm, sunny day in a 15-20 mph breeze, it’s a walk in the park for most skilled paddlers. On a 25-35 mph cranker with a ton of current, huge swells and cold water, it’s a whole different ball game. We’ve had both types of experiences and everything in between in the Gorge, on Maui, and the Oregon coast and have had a pile of truly memorable runs. However, we have also had some pretty scary things happen, hence this list of guidelines to help us all get home safely.


Assess the conditions. If it’s not safe don’t go. It may be safe for some and not for others, or you. Remember that the conditions change fast, and vary as you travel along–particularly on the river. Your friends might look out for you, but it’s a big place. You have to know that you’ll be able to handle everything you encounter, by yourself.


Comply with Oregon law. You must have a PFD, a whistle and an Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) permit. You may not agree with this, but the Marine Sheriff won’t care. The fines are stiff. Attach your whistle on the strap of your hydration pack so you can access it quickly and easily in case of an emergency.


Wear appropriate rubber. Assume you will break down, or someone else will and you’ll be in the water for some time. You can become hypothermic, even in relatively mild temperatures.


Wear a BRIGHT rash guard or jersey! It’s hard to see you out there!


Hydration! The Viento Run can take an experienced, strong paddler almost two hours when the current is ripping. You most assuredly become dehydrated in that time without water. Wear a hydration pack. You won’t regret it. For any outing over an hour, I suggest hydration.


Leashes! When the current is strong and the wind is pushing your board upriver your board zooms away from you. You almost certainly can’t catch it by swimming after it. Make sure you have a STRONG leash! Make sure your leash tether is super strong and knotted so it will NOT come undone. Consider adding a second tether tied loosely, so if the first fails the second keeps you attached. If you fall in and your leash gets tangled, Do NOT take your leash off! Bad things will happen. This is the voice of experience talking.


Booties. Everyone hates booties till something weird happens and you are halfway between Viento and Hood River and you have to climb up the rip rap, through the blackberries, hauling your fourteen footer onto I-84. Booties look pretty good then.


Helmets. Everyone hates helmets, too. However, when it’s blowing 25+ knots, a fourteen foot SUP becomes a lethal weapon in the air. I just barely missed being getting clobbered by one while in the middle of Malaaea Bay on a 30-40+ day. Getting knocked out by a flying board will most certainly ruin your day. On really windy days, a brain bucket is recommended.


Look out for each other! This trumps all else. If you blast off and are a few hundred yards away, you may not see your paddling partner in distress, or be able to get there quickly to render aid.


Establish a plan in advance on who’s looking out for whom, determine who’s paddling sweep.


Be aware of changing conditions. Is the wind increasing or dying? Is the current ripping or mellow? Ask someone in the know if you don’t. Allow plenty of time to complete the run before darkness sets in.


Someone in the group should have a waterproof cell phone in case of emergency.


Have a bailout plan. Make sure the less skilled paddlers are aware of what to do (get to your knees) or where to go (next to the Oregon shore) if they are struggling in the swells and current.


Know how to use your PFD, and if it’s inflatable, try it out. You don’t want to learn about problems in the middle of Swell City.


Speaking of Swell City and the Hatchery, on windy days these are first and foremost high performance, crowded windsurfing and kiteboarding spots. Taking your SUP through there on a Sunday afternoon with 300 people ripping along at 30 mph ninety degrees to your path is asking for trouble. They probably won’t even see you before they take you completely out. If you want to ride big swells at the Hatch on your SUP, get out during dawn patrol.


Have fun, and be careful. The Columbia is an amazing resource for downwinding. Let’s keep it safe and sane. It’s challenging enough without adding unnecessary risks.