Saturday, July 12, 2008

Gorge Part Two

Saturday afternoon in Providence, stuck in town... Tomorrow I will get my feet wet for the first time since I returned from the Gorge...
As I was saying in my previous post, my first day of windsurf was on a 93L Angulo Super Gu and Ezzy Wave sails 4.7 and 5.5, in the Event Site, probably the friendliest spot on the river. Then, no wind but still mind blowing scenery (Mount Hood in the picture).
When the wind picked up, two days later, I was well rested, ready for more. This time the forecast was East ~20knts at Stevenson, probably the trickiest spot I've been to.
Stevenson is a small town 15 minutes east from Hood River (by the way, for those of you who asked about the distances, all the locations I visited are within 20 minutes drive, very accessible by car). Stevenson is a good spot for E wind. This winter had a ton of snow, which means river currents of ~7 knts that will push you west, this is not a big deal with W winds, and actually is what creates the lovely ramps that we all like to crash our gear against. But on east winds things change.
At the launch site in Stevenson the wind is stronger than in the middle of the river, which pushes us to think that it's a good idea to try that 75L board with that sweet 4.0 sail. When people get out, they face less wind than what they expected, that pushes them to make the second brilliant decision of the day, do a downwinder to get some speed and "recover" terrain once planing... well... that will never happen... what will happen is that once you decide to turn, you will realize that the current and the wind pushed you so far down wind that it will be impossible to go back. Plus, underpowered, waterstart becomes somewhat difficult... What's left is the most painful swim across the river, downstream. If you happen to be in the swimming olympic team, you might make it back, if not, you will end up in the middle of nowhere, exhausted and with post-traumatic stress disorder.
I am the typical guy that runs into these inconveniences while traveling to remote places (I'm the kind of guy that thinks it will be easy to find an ATM, and if not, at least one open bank on a Saturday morning... in Morocco...) if it wasn't for the people at Windance that gave me the following TIPS TO SAIL STEVENSON (which surprisingly can also be applied to my beloved Fogland...): Use a floaty board. I used a Super Gu 112. I know you want to try that awesome Goya 60L, there will be time for it, relax, you are on vacation... Rig big. When I asked for a 6.0 at the shop the locals looked at me like I was asking for a spinnaker... They call 5.5 big stuff (I asked myself what would Igor think about this ;)... Anyway, they found a 6.0 for me, and I went to Stevenson with that rig.

When I got there, it looked like it was blowing for 5.0, but I stuck to my plan and rigged big, which would have awful consequences in any other part of the Gorge... once I left the launching site, I pointed upwind as much as I could, and still got dragged downwind. I was able to make a couple of nice runs, but then I felt like I needed a hair more wind, which takes me the the third advice I got at the shop: when you feel like the wind is not enough, run to shore, because the wind dies in a matter of minutes. I made it back, with enough time to see two windsurfers way too far to make it back to the beach, being carried downwind... to Portland...

Conclusion: on marginal wind, be respectful of Stevenson. I don't mean to scare anyone, may be I am too prudent, and may be people will disagree with what I say, but this was my experience in ~18 knots. Again, this blog is meant for the intermediate windsurfer, who goes to the Gorge and wants to experience this mighty river... Robby, I have no good advice for you.

Coming next: The Hatchery, mast high swell and the best day of my life... hope you liked it...

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