Windsurfing, surfing, Maui, The Gorge, and random rants.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pistol River Wave Bash - Intro

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.

And now I have to give a special shout out to the person who is really responsible for getting all this to happen.  Robby told the story pretty well during the awards ceremony, so I'm going to repeat most of it here.  Basically, Sam Bittner landed on Maui a couple of years ago with a goal to learn how to windsurf. And not just to windsurf, but to master wave sailing.  At the time she could maybe water start but was not jibing.  Right off the bat that takes some determination but she pulled it off and soon we all saw her riding waves at Kanaha.  Now last winter we show up and she's also sailing out of Kuau, which has a wave that is comparable to Hookipa, especially on the bigger days.  This is a very tricky launch and tough place to play in. So again, big cajones involved here. And as Robby tells it, she then came to him and made a suggestion...  a major wave event in North America had to happen, and she in fact was going to make it happen!

A bit of history... after the last PRWB there had been no significant wave contests in North America for ten years.  Maui might have had an Aloha Classic during that time, but it was definitely not happening anymore.  So there we were, no wave contests in the country that essentially invented both modern windsurfing and wave sailing in particular.  Robby thought it was a great idea, but also a bit of a crazy idea, given that no one had pulled this off in so long.  But Sam did in fact pull it off, as she had with her windsurfing goals, and it came to be that on that night we were handing out awards for the Wave Bash. Amazing!  And trust me, there was a lot of work involved in this event.  Other significant contributers include Robby, Matt Pritchard, all the judges (Keith, Bill Kline, Gary Koop, Randy(?)), Bill Morrisey (DaKine), Josh Sampiero (MC) and everyone else who helped move tables, pick up trash, carry water and so on.  Not too mention all the competitors.

(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.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Time flies when you're having fun

A problem with living in the Gorge during the summer is you can get real busy. As in too busy to sit in front of a computer and write about it. But I suppose one could have worse problems. Now when I last posted we had just a taste of warm weather and were getting ready for the Pistol River Wave Bash.  So the PWRB was a huge success as many of you have no doubt heard and I have like 200 pictures to show and some stories to tell.  All coming soon!

But before  I do that I want to describe some of the other activities and events that are going down and around here.  And obviously there's been some windsurfing.  One of the nice things about windsurfing in the gorge is we're surrounded by spectacular scenery.   For instance, some things you might see at the Hatchery ...

In the last picture Julia is posing with Rossi (Michael Rossmeier) of Tricktionary fame  I hope everyone who reads this blog and windsurfs has picked up at least the Tricktionary book if not the DVD.  If not, what are you waiting for? This is not just for learning a Switch Chachoo (though I highly recommend the book if you are).  It covers all the basics from water starts to back side wave sailing, loops, pretty much everything.  So you need it!

Right after the Wave Bash we had the WindFest weekend hosted by the CGWA.  (Julia came up with the CGWA's original slogan "Stoke on the Water" but now they're just "Stoked" - I guess meaning like all the time).  The WindFest brought some very well known windsurfing legends to town along with their giant rigs...

And there were some cool clinics.  Wyatt Miller gave a loop clinic.  Above you see Zoe Najim explaining  how to throw a Vulcan as well as defending yourself from a man wearing a harness (grab the hook and throw).

Earlier in June the Mt Hood Cycling Classic came to town.  This has turned into a huge event, one of the biggest cycling races in the country. Julia and many other locals volunteered their time and efforts to make this a big success.  It's our own little Tour De Gorge...

Another biking event was recently in town - the Hood River Super D race on post canyon. You might think the gorge is nothing but wind and water sports, but you would be wrong. The mountain biking around here keeps expanding as more trails are added. Post canyon has become one of the premiere areas to ride in the NW if not the entire west coast.

One of my favorite rides is on the other side of the Gorge. Called "hospital hill", it takes you to a ridge that overlooks the Gorge with spectacular views that make the hard ride up worth it. When you get to the top you will see something like this...

Also there's been lots of parties and social events. Tons of people are just coming into town for the summer, and so the tribes have been gathering to share stories and have fun.  One of the more... different .. events we went to was essentially a costume party - the theme of which I'll leave it to you to guess.

Of course we have some more traditional social events around here, such as weddings.  Did you know that the Gorge is one of the top destinations for weddings? We went to an awesome wedding last weekend, just a few hours after I was sailing on a 3.7 and riding giant swell at "the wall".  The wedding was hosted by Eric Sanford in his house with an incredible view of the gorge.  His deck is built literally looking out over the Columbia River, directly across from Hood River with a clear view of Mt Hood and the entire Gorge.

The groom might be  familiar to those who know the history of windsurfing as he's a true legend of the sport.  No it's not James Bond, though he's often mistaken for 007.  It has been reported that he invented the carving jibe.  He used to compete with and occasionally beat Robby Naish.  Similar to Robby he got into kiting and (here's a big hint) currently is one of the key designers for North Kites.  As you can tell from the last picture, Julia and I are very excited to be part of this wedding - we're standing right where the bride and groom said "I do" moments earlier.  And then they donned their para-gliders and sailed to the other side for the reception.   It was very exciting!

Before I leave the wedding topic, I should mention a friend owns the Vineyard View B&B.  It's a great place to get married, use as a base for a wine tour (did I mention that Hood River is in the center of an amazing wine region), or host your "2nd 25th birthday party".  I had one of those at the Vineyard View a few years back.  If you reach that point in your life, maybe it will look something like this...

Anyway, we will be attending another big 5.0 party this weekend, in another spectacular cliff side setting, this time on the HR side.  Should be fun.

Now did I mention something about a 3.7 day at the Wall with huge swells?  Yes I did, but first I need to talk about the weather. Basically, the NW has experienced the coolest and wettest June ever. And I mean EVER! Fortunately HR has not been that wet, though in early June we did have a few showers.  Normally it would be bone dry here for all of June (and the entire summer for that matter).  Anyway, to put it in perspective, for the entire year, Portland has had exactly four days above 80 - and that has been 81 (twice), 82, and 83.  And that's it!   Even more ridiculous is there were fours days in June where the so called high temp was in the 50s - including 59 on June 20, the frickin summer solstice.  Yikes!  As for July, not much better - 65, 64, 70, 67 so far.  Now HR has been a bit warmer but still, not by much.

So here's the weird thing... the HR forecast for the next week (July 6-11):

Tuesday: Sunny, with a high near 89. Calm wind becoming east between 5 and 8 mph.
Wednesday: Sunny, with a high near 94. East wind between 6 and 13 mph.
Thursday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 96.
Friday: Sunny and hot, with a high near 96.
Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 94.
Sunday: Sunny, with a high near 91.
Monday: Sunny, with a high near 90.

You got that!?  Every day pretty much 90+ for the entire next week! So we're going from the freezer to the frying pan as it were.  Now I just don't get this.  85 is a normal and expected high temperature here this time of year.  And we're going to go straight from <70 to 90+ with no days in the normal zone.  So what is up with this?  Global warming or global cooling?  Actually I'm jut going to blame the whole mess on the lack of sun spots.  That's right.  You read it here (almost) first.  The sun is going loco and the whole 2012 thing might be true after all.  See What's Wrong With the Sun, and Sun's Strange Behavior Baffles Astronomers. My point is maybe the Mayans knew something about the Sun after all.  And maybe you should buy all that shiny new windsurfing gear and take vacations to the Gorge and Maui right now because... you never know.

So between this cold weather and the incoming hot high, we got a classic gorge pressure squeeze and it's been blowing like stink the past few days.  Meanwhile the Epic Sessions and ShadowBox crew (Jake Miller, David Troup, Casey Hauser) are in town recording the biggest and badest jumps which will culminate in a video and award ceremony this Saturday at the new Waucoma Club (formerly the RiverCity Saloon). (and of course we're double booked as usual and can't attend)   I don't know what the results are, but I know they got some big days.  Last week we were all at Arlington when we ended up with solid 4.0 conditions. Here's the video of that session (I appear very briefly on the yellow North sail) ...

And then last Sunday the Wall went off in a way that hasn't been seen in a long time. Here's the wind chart...

As you can see, the wind just kept on ramping up as the day progressed.  I was there from 12 until about 3 at which time we had to take for the 007 wedding.  But I was already wiped out and ready to go.  At 12 there were only about 5 sailors out, and the swell looked big and smooth.  I ended up rigging a 3.7 and was immediately and totally powered up.  Those familiar with the Wall know sometimes it can be very gusty (or its evil twin, holey).  Well not this day!  The wind was solid and the swell... huge!  And then it got super huge.  At first I was able to land some decent port loops, but towards the end the wind and the waves combined to make hiding in the swell a much better option.  But it was a very fun option so no complaints!  I'm sure the Epic Session guys got some great photos and videos and when they pop up I'll post the links here.

By the way...

There will be a Pistol Wave Bash report... soon.  It was epic. Also I should mention that both Julia and I are sporting bum knees.  Julia tweaked hers a few weeks ago, just before the PRWB, so she couldn't compete :(.   The good news is it looks like a Stage II MCL tear, which will heal, it just takes time.  I landed a port loop a bit awkward today and re-injured my own MCL (originally tweaked last fall in the big waves at Kanaha).  Mine is pretty minor but we both need some time off the water.  Looks like no wind in the Gorge for the next week anyway (though the coast should be firing).  Besides that my big camera bit the dust at Pistol River (literally!) - I think sand gummed the zoom - otherwise I would have some pictures from the Wall. Sorry!  Perhaps I should test the WalMart 30 day policy with a new model while the old one is repaired and let the best camera win. Aloha!
Copyright © 2011 Jamin Jones, All rights reserved.