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 www.bigwinds.com.

Big Winds SUP Lessons and Clinics

SUP School is in at Big Winds

Stand Up Paddleboarding is now one of the most popular watersports in the Gorge. What we love about SUP is that just about anyone can do it! And depending on your athletic ability, the sport has a variety of challenge levels. Big Winds has been active in paddling for over five years, and this fun sport has created a completely new way to get you out on the water. It has also opened up a whole new level of performance to the athletes in the area, so encourage your friends and family to get out there!

Big Winds SUP Lessons

Big Winds SUP Lessons

Big Winds’ instructors can teach basic and advanced Stand Up moves, including a variety of forward, backward and turning strokes to increase your maneuverability. You’ll also learn safety, proper paddle usage and board maneuvers including those speedy buoy turns the racers use.

You can find more information on our SUP Lessons page on our main website.

First-timers can benefit from our Intro to SUP class, and beginner/intermediates will take it further in our SUP Express. Private SUP Lessons are also available. Our Downwind Prep Class, Downwind SUP Clinics, or SUP Sailing classes will safely get paddlers into more high-performance Stand Up experiences.

Big Winds SUP Lessons

Online signups are available for Downwind SUP Clinics. Give us a call (888-509-4210) or shoot us an email to discuss further or to sign up SUP School.

SUP Rentals

Big Winds offers the area’s widest selection of SUP rental equipment at our Event Site Beach Center (open 10-6 daily). This equipment is available on a “first come / first served” policy. We also have two options for multipass rentals where you can save up to 20%.

Whether buying, renting or learning, Big Winds has all of your SUP needs covered. Call us, visit us online or stop by our shop at 207 Front St., Hood River. We hope to see you on the water soon!

Big Winds Downwinder

Big Winds Downwinder. Click to enlarge.

Big Winds Windsurfing Lessons, Clinics and Camps

Big Winds offers “Summer School”

We are proud and honored that Big Winds has ranked as a top windsurfing school (if not “the” top school) in the Gorge for over 25 years. We have teaching windsurfing down to a science, and in 2014 we have a menu of lessons, camps, and clinics for every level of student. We continue to get stoked when the wind picks up and we’re enthusiastic to share our expertise in getting people out and having fun on the water.

Big Winds windsurfing lessons

Big Winds windsurfing lessons.

Here’s a snapshot of our Windsurfing School line-up:

Full lesson descriptions and dates for Windsurf Lessons are available on our website.
To summarize, we offer Three-Day Introductory Lessons, a Learn to Windsurf Package, Intermediate and Advanced lessons. We have two Women’s Clinics scheduled for July 12-13 and August 2-3, and our ever-popular Kids Camps run Monday through Thursday throughout the season. We also have six weeks of Advanced Junior Camps.

Big Winds Women's Clinics

Big Winds Women’s Clinics. Click to enlarge.

Beginner lessons are held at our Adventure Center inside the Hook, which provides a sheltered, safe environment for learning. Intermediate lessons are usually at the Event Site Center and Advanced Lessons will take place where the wind and swell are optimal.

Online signups are available for Kids Camps and the Advanced Junior Camps. Give us a call (888-509-4210) or shoot us an email to discuss further or to sign up for any lesson option. In the meantime, enjoy this short clip about windsurfing lessons…

 

Rentals

If you are visiting without your gear, don’t have equipment or want to try something new, Big Winds offers a huge fleet of rental gear. Beginner equipment is available at the Hook and Intermediate/Advanced equipment can be rented at our Event Site Center (open 10-6 daily) or at our shop at 207 Front Street in Hood River. More information can be found on our main website.

Let us help guide you to the best lesson, camp or clinic for you and your family. We hope to see you out on the water soon!

Big Winds Kids Camps

Big Winds Kids Camps

2014 Mother’s Day

Mother's Day

Click to enlarge.

This weekend:

Free SUP rentals for all moms on Mother’s Day from 11-4
at the Big Winds Event Site Center!

10% off all in stock Women’s Fullsuits and Springsuits

$100 off these SUP boards:

Bark Appleby Race
Bark Appleby Crossover
Amundson 11’6 TR-X
Amundson 11’6 TR
Naish Alana 10’6
Starboard 12’6 Turtle Bay
Boardworks Sirena 10’6
Tahoe Bliss 11’6

10% off these paddles:

Quickblade Flyweight All Carbon
Quickblade Flyweight FG / CA
Quickblade Super Fly All Carbon 92 Superfly

$100 off these kiteboarding products:

2014 Cabrinha Siren
2014 Cabrinha Siren Control System
2014 Cabrinha XO Siren Board
2014 Naish Alana
2014 Naish Alana Control System
2014 Naish Alana Twin-Tip

Discount applied after checkout and verified on your shipping confirmation.

Youth Paddle Days, May 16-19, 2014

paddle-days-banner-748

In celebration of the worldwide Youth Paddle Days scheduled for May 16-19, 2014, Big Winds will be offering complimentary youth introduction to Stand Up Paddle Boarding lessons on Sunday, May 18th, 2014 from 1-4 PM at the Big Winds Event Site Center.

Big Winds will be offering complimentary introduction to Stand Up Paddle Boarding lessons on Sunday, May 18th from 1-4 PM at the Big Winds Event Site Center. These free lessons are paddle-days1-300available to youths 7 to 14 years of age. Children must know how to swim and parents must be present during entire lesson. Big Winds will be providing complimentary wetsuits and PFDs for all children who participate. The Big Winds Junior Elite Team (JET) will also be onsite helping with lessons. Big Winds will also be offering discounted Stand Up Paddle Boarding rentals for parents who bring their children to this event.

Call us at 888-509-4210 or 541-386-6086 to reserve a spot!

paddle-days2-748

Review: Imagine Connector SUP

When Hawaiian waterman Dave Kalama teamed up with Imagine Paddle Surf, we knew there was something in the works for the ultimate downwind SUP. Leave it to one of the guys who started it all to shape a fun, forgiving and fast downwind board. The 2014 Imagine Connector is a very worthy SUP and should be a winning shape for 2014.

Available in 2 sizes, the 14′x 27″ and 14′x 29.5″, the Imagine Connector looks different than any other downwind board we’ve carried here at Big Winds, with lots of volume up front and thinned out through the tail. This works so well in the swell and has been tested in some of the

Imagine Connector

Imagine Connector. Click to enlarge.

biggest swell the Gorge has to offer. No matter how deep the bow wants to penetrate, the high volume, sleek piercing nose prevents the board from pearling. It allows you to really want to punch into the bump ahead of the trough you are gliding in and keeps you committed with little to no worries of diving the nose deep. The thinned out tail makes sense, as there is nothing for the wind or side swell to push on laterally throwing you off balance from behind. Foot steering is also super responsive due to the low volume tail section. Once committed to the glide, the board really accelerates to the next bump and “connects” with ease.

The 2014 Imagine Connector is available in one construction, but relatively light for a non-carbon board. The 27″ wide comes in at 28 pounds and the 29.5″ wide comes in at 29 pounds. They are quite the value at only $1899 and worth every penny for the fun factor they provide. Come by the shop and check out the new 2014 Imagine Connector, or head down to the Big Winds Beach Center at the Event Site to sign up for a test drive!

Review: Firewire Kiteboards

Over the past two weeks we have had the opportunity to try the Vanguard 5’0 and 5’2 FST, as well as the Hellfire 5’6 TimberTek. Testing has taken place in a wide range of conditions, including light wind and high wind, Gorge flat water and swell and overhead ocean surf. The testing has gone great and we are pleased to introduce the Firewire lineup now available at Big Winds.

The Vanguard is a complete redesign on the modern surfboard. Other brands have copied its innovative design, but there is nothing like the original. The shape was designed around modern freestyle surfing, which transfers seamlessly over to kiteboarding. The short shape is suited very well for Gorge swell riding and strapless jumping (this board does not have foot strap inserts), while the sustained width and dynamic bottom contour make the board have the stability and ease of planning of a board 8-10″ larger. All in all, it is a very efficient design that makes landing the latest strapless tricks a breeze. Its easy planing and stability also make it a great option for a wide range of abilities. While the board maintains much of its width from nose to tail, it is not super wide (17.5″ on the 5’2 and 17″ for the 5’0), meaning it is still very responsive from rail to rail. After comparing the 5’0 and the 5’2, I would recommend a 5’2 for most mid-sized folks looking for a great strapless board for both inland waters and small to medium sized ocean waves. The 5’0 is a great option for smaller riders, or as a Gorge, high-wind specific slayer. Larger sizes (5’4 and 5’6) will be available soon and should be more suited for larger folks, lighter winds and medium plus surf.

Firewire Hellfire

Hellfire. Click to enlarge.

The Hellfire is a performance hybrid. What this means is that the outline, length to width ratio and rocker profile blend elements of modern high performance surfboards with a more user friendly “hybrid” or fish style shape. The goal of this shape is to blend top end performance with ease of use. The Hellfire dialed this. The Hellfire 5’6 TimberTek was ridden in overhead surf at the Florence south jetty in gusty six meter conditions. Our first impression pulling it out of the box was “damn, this is a beautiful board!” The Hellfire is not just pretty to look at, but a real pleasure to ride as well. The board was very stable at 19″ wide, but the diamond tail and step down tail rail reduce volume and make the tail plenty loose for easy, controlled turns. A deep double concave created plenty of drive while charging down the line. The mellow entry rocker is still enough to let you get very vertical, while not compromising control and speed. All in all, a very well balanced board that will excel in small to larger surf and good swell days as well.

Both boards come deck only, meaning you will need to purchase pads, foot straps (for the Hellfire FST only) and fins. The boards both have a 5-fin box configuration, so you can choose if you would like to ride them as a thruster or a quad. We have found both boards work great as either a thruster or quad set up, so it really comes down to personal preference in that department.

Come check the boards out at our shop, or on our website. We have the Vanguard 5’0 and the Hellfire 5’6 available to demo now as well, so come try one out today!

Wells Island

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

Review: Dakine Maniac Spreader Bar

This past weekend was a great opportunity to try out a new harness product, the greatly improved 2014 Dakine Maniac sliding spreader bar. The 2014 Pyro Maniac waist harness comes complete with the Maniac spreader bar or you can purchase the bar alone in either 10″ (with 8″ of travel) or 12″ (with 10″ of travel) for $60. This spreader bar allows for more freedom of movement, most noticeable when riding toeside on a directional or twin-tip. The Maniac spreader bar will work great for those needing this freedom, especially when riding with a seat or shorts harness. It also works great with the grippy waist harnesses.

maniac spreader bar

After your first use, you should tighten the webbing as it will loosen up once it gets wet and stretches. This adjustment is done easily behind the bar itself. If the webbing ever needs replacing, Dakine offers the webbing to be purchased for only $7.

Pyro Maniac

Pyro Maniac. Click to enlarge.

–TJ

888-509-4210

www.bigwinds.com