Windsurfing the Gorge

It’s 6 a.m. and I’m on the top bunk in the motorhome as we’re driving over to the Hatch, a small fish hatchery known for its large swells along the Washington side of the Columbia River. So what are we doing up so early on our family vacation? Well, if you remember the size of our motorhome in my last post, you’ll understand why we need to get anywhere early to find decent parking where it’s windy!

DSC_0945
The Blue Hour at Rufus. This photo was taken on a giant pile of rocks in 2012.

If that sounded a bit strange, tracking down where it’s windy, it definitely is a bit strange to your average person. But to anyone living or visiting the Gorge (along the Columbia River), it’s pretty commonplace to the large community of windsurfers and kite boarders.

Nowadays, everyone flocks to the people with wind report apps, like iWindsurf. But back in the day, everyone would tune into Bart’s Best Bet, the local windsurf shop owner and radio guest who would predict where the wind would be the most consistent for windsurfers. He’s basically a local celebrity, but with parents who have been going down to the Gorge since the late ’80s, he’s a family friend.

Dad and the bro riding in the back of Bart's truck like a couple of Cali high schoolers from the '90s. Hang 10, bruh.
Dad and the bro riding in the back of Bart’s truck like a couple of Californian high school surfers from the ’90s. They look pretty cool with their new boards as we’re being driven through town to our motorhome down by the water. 

Once we get to the Hatch, we head down to the water with morning coffee in hand to see what everyone else is thinking about rigging. ‘Rigging,’ in a general sense, is windsurfer slang for deciding on a sail and board size and putting it together.

So for a sail, you have to thread one side with a mast to keep it upright and attach a boom, which is the horizontal piece that you hold onto and keeps the sail taut so it can harness the wind. The board is a bit easier, you just need to add a fin on the bottom.

In both cases, the sizes go up if the wind is weaker, and go down if the wind is stronger.

Surfer parts
I’m an *artist.*

So basically you’re judging people’s sail sizes and figuring out why they’re coming in:

“Not enough wind! Gonna go re-rig and head back out!”

“The wind’s dying, I was slogging (sh-logging) all the way in.”

“Wheuuuu! Going down to a 2.8 (two-eight), I was getting blown off the water!”

“The wind’s really up-and-down out there, gonna get a bigger board and bigger sail and hold on during the gusts!”

Then it’s your turn to take a guess, rig your sail and head out onto the water.

Jumper CU

So, this was my life every summer growing up: Eat-surf-sleep. Repeat. (Tongue twister!)

And as my brother and I grew up, my brother joined my parents out on the water at the Hatch and I stayed on shore, taking pictures and videos. (I’m not a big fan of falling into the water. Seaweed and up to 5-foot-long-sturgeon? No thanks.)

The whiskers. The whiskers!! Cringe.
The whiskers. The whiskers!! Cringe.

Staying on the shore and taking photos makes my version of Oregon is a bit different than the rest of my family’s. It’s mostly me trying to remember the colour of everyone’s sail, helmet and life jacket to find them on the water. Sometimes, it’s hard to see them from afar. And sometimes, you catch them doing something cool like a jump or something incredibly stupid.

I was filming a barge coming through the Hatch area when some idiot decided to cut in front of the large transport ship. When my mom came in shortly after, she was furious because my brother almost got hit by the barge. As it turns out, my brother was the idiot in my video clip.

“I wasn’t that close to it,” he said.

Well, keep in mind that the yellow part is the front end, and this is him entering the shot here.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 8.43.41 PM

Moral of the story kids: Windsurfing is fun, but watch out for the barges.

Does your family have any traditions they do every year? Let me know in the comment section below or on Facebook!

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