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.
Just this past week was my first time back in Big Winds since the 2019 paddle challenge.. I was in the market for a wing and a wing board. After much insight from TJ Guiliza, I was so very excited to choose my equipment. (Do yourself a favor and check out TJ’s tips and lessons here online.)
Big Winds – Big Help
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.
LESSONS? Yes Please! Who knows? Before the summer is out I may have had some wing foil lessons. Both private and semi private lessons are available – I can’t wait!