As I was walking up the beach, immediately after the final show down between Francisco Goya and Kevin Pritchard, I fell in step with Kevin. I asked Kevin how this contest compared with all the others that he has competed in through all the years. "Pretty Epic" he replied. And that very well sums it up for me too. Competing, or shall I say, "participating" in this event - my first wave sailing contest - was an epic adventure that will be remembered for a long long time.
And not just as a competition, because this was way way more than simply that. This was the first wave sailing contest I've actually seen in person, meaning my first chance to see world class sailors compete in world class conditions. And this was also a gathering, a long overdue gathering at that, of the windsurfing clan. There were more than just the elite competitors here - we had everyone from 13 year old Fiona Wylde to long time masters like Dana Miller. We had Oregon coast locals like Jeff McVannel and James Lundin. Zane Schweiter, whose grand parents pretty much invented the modern sport of windsurfing, was there and was one of the most stoked kids I have ever seen. There were gorge locals like Royn Bartholdi and Sean Aiken, not to mention the long time Pistol River Wave Bash (PRWB) organizer Lars Bergstrom. The entire Hatch free style crew was out in force - Nick Allen, Wyatt Miller, Witt and Tyson Poor, Nathan Mershon, Brian Metcalf-Perez, Rob Warwick, Casey Hauser and Sven Esslinger. The Hookipa boys showed up - Francisco, Kevin, Kai Katchadorian, Bernd Roediger, Jesse Brown, Russ Ferrot, Rick Whidden, Zane and Conner Baxter. Some international sailors made the trip - Sam Neal and Tanya Saleh from GB, Timo Mullen from Ireland, Morgan Noireaux from France, and Diego Femenias from Chile, to name a few. The woman had, and I'll say it right here and now, the best all around female sailor in North America (woo-hoo!) Ingrid Larouche, along with Tanya Seleh, Fiona Wylde and gorge regular and new mom (another woo-hoo!) Christine Vogt.
There was also this one guy who had never ever sailed the Oregon coast, yet somehow ended up in the "masters" division. That would be me. Is there a special division for that please? Actually I was hoping there would be a grand master division, that is one for the really old guys, but that wasn't to be. Hmmm, maybe next year (I'll still be old)?
Anyway, by no means did I name everyone in the competition, I just wanted to provide a flavor of who was there. Besides that we had Keith Teboul as one of the judges, Bill Morrisey from DaKine giving instructions to sailors before each heat, Matt Pritchard organizing things and and running the skippers meetings, Robby Naish made a special appearance in the waves to show everyone how it's really done, and we had both windsurfing magazines represented - Josh Sampiero of Windsurfing (who was also the event MC) and Pete Dekay the Windsport editor.
But the greatest thing about this, the part that you really had to be there to experience, was how everyone basically hung out and lived the life for four days of epic sailing in this remote area of the Oregon coast. On the first night at the campground we all had a spaghetti dinner. Julia and I sat across from Zane and picked up his stoke for sailing in general and specifically for being in this event. Fiona had every competitor sign her t-shirt (wishing I had a picture of that now). Another day Julia and I were waking down the beach at Pistol River. Julia had collected a few sand dollars and approached a couple with a young girl and gave her one of the sand dollars. It was at this moment that I realized this girls's dad was Robby Naish, out walking with his family. So cool! I had to make a special request to Robby for a DVD release of the best windsurfing movie ever, besides of course "The Movie". That is RIP (Robby In Person). I also got the chance to discuss the quad fin "revolution" with Kai Katchadorian (pretty much all the top sailors had them), upcoming Goya gear with Francisco, and, well, so on and so on.
(Quick side note. I've noticed that most windsurfers are goal oriented people, and perhaps that's a requirement in general to be a windsurfer. Which is not a bad thing... )
You might have noticed it's taken me a long time to tell this story, and even now I have way more to say. This is the first post of a few that I plan to write to describe my own challenges and minor victories during the competition, as well as everything else going down that I can still remember. I also have a ton of pictures to share, despite the fact that my camera bit the dust (actually sand to be more precise) before the last day leaving me with just my cell phone. Fortunately a ton of other photographers picked up the slack. One of those was Kevin Pritchard, who provided both photos and several videos of the event. His first video below...
Finally I want to mention that the drive down to PR from HR has some spectacular views while the time to get there was greatly exaggerated. It took us only 6.25 hours with a quick rest stop thrown in. Check out the shots below that we took from our car on the drive to get an idea. And stay tuned for the next post (soon!) with stories and pictures from the competition itself.