The Downwind Paddle Chaps
The Gorge Downwind Paddle Champs l is billed as 7 days of downwind paddling for Outrigger, Surfski and Stand Up paddlers. Starting off with 4 straight days of downwind ‘fun runs’ paddlers join friends on event shuttles taking them to any of the 3 put in spots, Stevenson, Home Valley or Drano. With 20+ miles of sleigh ride potential. With the added convenience of easy access, warm water and the most consistent wind in North America, The Gorge stacks up to be a win-win paddlers destination, why not go for a whole week and make it a downwind vacation?
You can even customize your downwind run. Try a 7 mile Stevenson to Home Valley run, a 10 mile Home Valley to Drano run, 8 miles from Drano to Hood River. Or why not link them all up if you don’t want the rides to end? With the river flowing to the West and the Wind blowing to the East it makes for an interesting and constantly shifting course that brings a sense of complexity and strategy unique to the Gorge. You might find yourself cursing the competition, as they fly by, just feet away. It’s a river. Deal with it. But not to worry your turn will come and payback is so sweet (check the footage of Kai Bartlett and Jimmy Austin battling).
The Downwind Paddle Champs features two premier racing events, the North American Downwind Championship and the Wildside Relay (editors note: relay discontinued in 2017). Paddlers have the opportunity to test themselves by racing top athletes in both SUP, Canoe and Kayak. In 2015 we had paddlers from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, and Hawaii. Kai Bartlett, Jimmy Austin, Johnny Puakea, Mike Giblin, Alan Lipp, Dave Kalama, Bret Cambell, Greg Barton, Sean Rice, Jasper Mocke, Michael Booth, Teneale Hatton, Michele Eray, Thomas Schilperoort, Kenny Rice and Austin Kieffer to name a few.
The run drops you off at the charming town of Hood River. A community that lives and breathes for water sports. Comprised of outdoor enthusiast, lumber jacks and brew connoisseurs, paddlers feel right at home and ready to celebrate the paddling way of life.
Rivers For Change
The Gorge Paddling Festival is a Rivers for Change Event, a nonprofit made up of a passionate group of river enthusiasts dedicated to changing the way people think about and interact with water. Check out the Gorge River Fact Sheet to learn about the river and discover how you can help.
Rivers For Change envisions a world where people and communities are active stewards of river systems with a holistic understanding of their interdependence.
Lucky We Paddle
So let’s see, a higher purpose (check), 7 days of downwind paddling (check), top athletes in the world and the best micro brews on the planet…(check, check) Oh yeah, it’s truly great to be part of such a solid community and be right here in the Columbia River Gorge!
A big mahalo to Carter Johnson, Judy Jensen and Danielle Katz who brought this event together. With the help of passionate volunteers and dedicated sponsors, the Inaugural Gorge Paddling Festival (now titled Gorge Downwind Championship) was a massive success and we look forward to the 2nd annual event in July 2016.