A great athlete is more than just the sum of their attributes. A great athlete brings something beyond the average to their sport. Not too long ago I wrote an article about Steve Gates Of Big Winds, a top notch shop in Hood River , Oregon. Established in the Columbia River Gorge in Hood River, Oregon in 1987, Big Winds is one of the largest windsurfing, kiteboarding and stand up paddleboarding product and accessory stores in the United States. Their staff members are experienced players who are passionate about their sports and equipment and ready to offer expert advice. In addition to an enormous rental/demo fleet for all skill levels, ourwindsurfing and stand up paddleboarding school is one of the best in the Pacific Northwest and our lesson programs include kids camps, junior camps, and private and group lessons for men and women of all ages.
One thing not mentioned in a description of Big Winds is the passionate and inspiring, Steve Gates. There were many incredible moments at the 2012 Columbia River Gorge Challenge, but among my favorites were moments watching Steve interact with his JET- Junior Elite Team members. Even though circumstances kept Steve on shore instead of out on the river for the event, he was an integral part of every aspect from start to finish. Each time I spotted on of the JET signature orange shirt (see picture at right) Steve was usually who they sought out.
One of the jet athletes in particular had just finished the course race on Saturday. He raced from the water and through the finish line, made a hard left and jogged down to the beach where Steve was watching the event. High fives and smiles, hands actively pointing out something on the course, the two were immersed in an exciting recount of an event that was obviously cool and meaningful to both. This sort of connection was clear throughout the entire event. Steve’s commitment to the teens’ development through SUP was heart warming to observe.
If you didn’t know who Steve was as he quietly supported every aspect of the event through both days, you might have missed him as he wasn’t decked in the bright orange of his team.
Steve Gates who realized an idea for the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge into a great happening is a terrific example of an elite athlete in the sport. No matter what his expertise and abilities have generated as far as his own athletic accomplishments, his commitment to developing the youth of Hood River toward their best potential inspires the word, “elite” as one description of Steve.
We’ve written before about the “grinnin’ and giving” among SUP leaders, Steve is right there with them. His ready smile and endless bounty of commitment to the sport we love inspires.
What inspires Steve you might ask, “I am inspired by everyone who is trying to make our planet a better place for everybody.”
Teach a newbie to SUP if you have a chance, notice who’s giving time and coaching to your local younger athletes. There’s something for all of us to contribute toward making our planet a better place – one gesture at a time.