For the past decade, our “home away from home” in Hood River has always been the Hood River Inn, a special gem situated along the wide and mighty Columbia River. Although we have stayed there in almost every season, this visit was the first time we arrived just as spring was bursting into full bloom.
Lush and Verdant
Even as we arrived and were simply walking to our hotel wing, the richness of the vegetation greeted us. We hurried to get settled and took a walk along the paved waterfront walkway to savor the flowers – colors and scents – along the way. We got back to our room to dress for dinner (Yum in the Riverside waterfront dining room) just in time to catch a view of the sunset from our deck. Over our days here we walked everywhere. On the route from Hood River Inn to the waterfront shops and access to the beach where watersport action abounds there are endless things to view in about a mile. And while the weather was overcast and even rainy at times, that combination simply added to the magic.
The osprey pictured above was perched at the very top of a tall evergreen right outside the window of the Riverside dining room. What was cool to notice was how excited diners were to observe the osprey soaring down to catch a fish then gobble it up on a favorite rock. When he arrived back on the tree of course people wanted to snap a photo. The ambiance in the Riverside is fine dining at its best. People respected this as they quietly made their way to the windows for a picture. But the wonder and awe that we felt being able to observe this cool creature was prevalent.
Yes, the weather phenomenon that is the Columbia Gorge is a natural generator of the wind that propels the sports we love. Ever since I first stepped foot in the Hood River wind sport hub – Big Winds – I knew I had found a wellspring of SUP,-Kite and Wing culture. Those first years were made wonderful as I returned to Hood River each year for the Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge and got to know founder Steve Gates better every year. Our hearts were broken when Steve Gates passed in 2019 after a most courageous battle with cancer. No one who participated in the Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge event missed the passion, heart and energy Steve poured into that – and into everything he did.
Once I was in the shop and saw all the options available for wings and foils I was full of questions. Fortunately, Alejandro and Sam were there to take the time and patiently give me a wealth of tips. They listened carefully to my current (age 73) goals and abilities, experience and potential. While there were many options for foil boards, we decided that for my first season at least, the Starboard 4 in 1 10’4″ inflatable board was a great choice. They showed me many wing options – I settled on the Starboard Freewing V2 in both the 4m and the 5 m
When I was talking with Sam and Alejandro, I think what really made up my mind was when they explained the “stability and control” I could have. There is no way I would take their word for it. Instead, I am making plans for regular trips back to Big Winds for a series of lessons. Between The Hook and the watersports center down by the river there will be lots of options for me to learn and build skills.
In every stage of life there is the opportunity to grow, explore, transition and retain a sense of wonder around the water sports that so positively impact our lives. Writing this in April of 2022, I am mentally preparing for the next birthday when I turn 73 in June.
73!!! That’s a number that scares me, but ABSOLUTELY does not define me. I bet there are plenty of you at various decades and ages from 30-80+ who feel the same way. One comes to mind and that this a woman I met a few years back while paddling the 8-mile down wind course in the mighty, churning Columbia River from Viento to Hood River. That woman, Seddon Wylde – grandmother to Fiona Wylde – just turned 80. She continues to charge and play as a powerful water woman.
All of the women mentioned in the article shared valuable gems of wisdom and insight. To me, the most profound was this from Seychelle, ““Be patient. Hold your vision but don’t be afraid to let it shift or change as you evolve as a woman. Life never seems to unfold as we expect it to. Women, especially, can be hard on themselves when we have a goal. But, when we take the pressure off is usually when we perform better. So, rediscover your joy! And just go have fun.”
So looking forward to the Summer I turn 73 I think my vision will shift a bit. From over a decade of SUP and surfing adventures, to the past few years windsurfing – I think flying with a wing on water is coming up. Living in the high desert of Central Oregon will make aspects of that vision challenging – but I am game!
How about you? How will you embrace your next stage of life or life situation? Envision YOUR evolution, your goals and, as Seychelle says, “Rediscover your joy.”