Category Archives: Sessions

Women’s Clinics


The Decision

Anyone who windsurfs knows firsthand the dedication and tenacity it takes to learn and develop windsurfing skills. It’s the favorite sport for many — not only for the thrill — but the sheer sense of empowerment and accomplishment.


I’m always inspired to see talented windsurfers on the water. The truth is, sometimes we feel stuck, reaching for the next level and not making it as quickly as we’d like. And let’s face it: women are a minority in this sport. We push ourselves for the love of it, and benefit from inspiration in women around us.

When one of my friends recovered from a bad skiing injury and felt timid about getting back on her board, I thought the best thing I could do to help was sign us up for Big Winds’ Women’s Clinic. There might have been a smidge of self-interest, but it was a great excuse. (Plus a pretty simple task — a single phone call or website click.)

BW.WC.Heidi.Rigging BW.hookingin

We are students!

The first morning, eight women abuzz with nerves met (goddess) Heidi Chappel and her assistant Milena. Introductory conversations outside Big Winds helped us get to know each other, where each was in her windsurfing journey, and even share any fears we had. (Why not throw in some group therapy too?) Experience levels varied. Some sought confidence in the footstraps and harness, while others strived to jibe, or finesse a bomb-proof jibe.

After checking wind reports, Heidi announced we’d caravan to Viento, where the wind was promising and people sparse.

There we watched Heidi on the dryland simulator while she imparted her wisdom. (In “real” life, Heidi teaches high school English — no doubt the kids love her!) Then she distilled what most women were there to work on: the carving step jibe. Everyone had a turn on the simulator to practice Heidi’s stages for the “set-up,” “the carve,” and “the transition. Each part of the jibe had several steps yet within a short amount of time we had them drilled in our heads. It was obvious many ladies learned new pieces that might hold keys to their success.

Preparing our own equipment, Heidi imparted some excellent rigging tips, and key things to look for in a properly (or poorly) rigged sail.

On the water, one instructor sailed with us and the other stood hip-deep near shore, calling out feedback as warranted, and offering heavy doses of praise and encouragement. It’s hard to describe the sensations, surrounded by women sailors in a wave of camaraderie. All of us with the same chant in our heads: “slide, release, mast, boom, boom.”


Day Two – We Want More!

The next day, pumped for more fun, the wind called for another day at Viento, which excited us all.

Two solid days of practice with the right guidance works wonders. It was amazing how each person’s skills improved. Some relearning jibe steps in line with Heidi’s methods. Some who never jibed in their lives occasionally nailed them, gifted by hoots and hollers from camp mates.

At the end, none wanted it to be over. We exchanged email addresses and promises to sail together again. And we hung out with our picnics well past the end of the camp.

For those who have thought about trying Big Winds’ Women’s Clinic, I heartily recommend it. You’ll learn from amazing teachers. You’ll have fun. You’ll make new friends. Most of all, you’ll be empowered, all in the company of inspiring females.


Free Stand Up Demo

Test the newest race and tour boards in Hood River this weekend!


No registration required.
Just show up!

When: Sunday, 4/19, 1-3pm
Where: Hood River, Event Site

Will will have various performance paddles for you to try as well as some, if not all, of the following boards:

TR-12’6 x 29

TR-12’6 x 27
TR-T 14′
TR -X 14′
TR- 11’6″ 

X-Pro 14′


Elite Tour 12’6
All-Star 12’6 x 24

Elite Tour 11’6
Javelin 14′ X 26 LE


Downwind 14’
Contender 12’6
Appleby Race 12’6

Glide 12’6 x 30 GS


SUP: Premier Eastern Gorge Downwinder

blalock1exit129The Blalock Canyon to Arlington downwind run is the premier eastern Gorge downwinder. When the conditions set up for a run out east, this is the one to do. It’s a spectacular ten mile run through a very wide open stretch of the Columbia, with a long fetch and no canyon walls to disrupt the wind. When the wind is on out east, the swells are big and smooth and there’s less cross chop than in the central and western Gorge.

Here’s the setup. Take the Blalock Canyon exit (129) and go under I-84 towards the river. When you get to the railroad tracks, turn right and go down to the little old boat ramp. Put in there

Blalock paddling out

Paddling out. Click to enlarge.

and paddle east in the little lagoon till you come to the culvert that goes under the railroad tracks. Paddle through that and voila! you are in the Columbia and if it’s cranking, you are in for a heck of a ride.

Blalock downwinder

Click to enlarge.

The takeout is not very straight forward the first time you do it. Arlington (on the Oregon side) is about ten miles up river and is visible by the grain silos. There is a rock jetty sticking out into the river and if it’s really windy, there will be waves breaking into it, throwing huge spray and looking a little intimidating.

Blalock run: paddling in

Click to enlarge.

You need to paddle around the jetty and then hook a hard right into the entrance to the lagoon. Continue paddling east, go right under the railroad tracks and then up to a nice lawn area at the Arlington beach park.

Pat yourself on your back and high five your buddies. Hopefully you just had an epic eastern Gorge downwinder. Want more? Call us at 888-509-4210, visit us in Hood River at 207 Front St. or drop by online at

Naish Chopper update From The Hatchery 7/1/2012

After a brief taste of summer back in March when we got to test some gear in Maui, it finally felt like summer in the Gorge last Sunday! Windy, warm, and a good crew of people sailing at the Hatchery. I couldn’t wait to take my new Naish Chopper for a spin. I rigged up the Small and headed out. For the next 90 minutes, I was pretty much smiling nonstop. My session was elevated even further when my dad joined me on the water (on a matching Chopper, of course). Despite the gusty conditions (with some pretty large lulls), we were planing nearly the entire time due to the Chopper’s wide range and stability. As I carried my rig up the rocks, I felt satisfied. Perhaps my satisfaction was due to the fact that I hadn’t sailed in over two weeks—but I have a sneaking suspicion it could be due to my new favorite sail: the Chopper.

Erin and Steve Gates take their new Naish Choppers to the Hatch. Thanks to Trudy Lary for the photo

TJ’s 4/21 session

TJ’s Kite Session:
Wednesday, 4/21/10 @ 4:30PM
Location: Event Site
Wind: 10-35, average: 20
Board: 5’5″ North Pacific Waterbug
Kite: 2010 Naish Cult 7.5
Not the best wind, but the Cult makes it enjoyable. We are finding the Geo-Tech Stability very beneficial for absorbing gusts. Being able to turn the kite when the bar is at full depower really helps, too!
I didn’t pull the depower strap more than 5″ and combined with a little Waterbug, even these cold gusty winds made my session a blast.