I should move there next summer!
It has become a tradition. Each year in July and/or August, I head to Hood River to catch the guaranteed wind and warm weather. The area of the Columbia River is called The Gorge; wind funnels up the Columbia River from the coast, which brings wind almost everyday. The westerlies are the best and rarely have a day without wind; I must even force myself to take a break. I call those rare no-wind days “mandatory rest days” and use them to explore the multiple breweries, wineries, go for some mountain biking, hiking, fruit picking, or make a trip to Portland or the coast.
Hood River kite set up: The Event Site
Hood River is popular for its sandbar, which makes a great launching and landing area. The way to go is to pump your kites on the grass at the event site and walk our equipment down to the sandbar. I usually leave my kite bags on the grass and I never had problems with something being stolen or damaged. If you ever forget or lose something, there is a Lost and Found close to the washrooms. Each night, an employee looks for items left behind after everyone is gone.
The walk to the sandbar is very short, and the size of the sandbar varies during summer.
I must admit, it can be crowded, and I recommend being able to go upwind. For beginners, you can hang out downwind of the sandbar in the shallow water, which makes it a perfect spot to practice your water start. Click here for the Sandbar Guidelines and access map.
On the downside, expect some gusty and very strong winds, and some big swell (which can be a good thing for surf riders). Be very careful with the barges going up and down the river. Watch for them and get out of the way. The current goes upwind, so board retrieval can be a challenge. Despite these inconveniences, there are a lot of great things to say about kiting there.
Why I love it so much?
First, you will probably end up meeting some pro-riders such as Collen Carol, Craig Cunningham, or Eric Rienstra, who spend most of their summer there enjoying the Slider Park. If you are advanced and brave enough, you should try that Slider Park; it is very well maintained and a lot of fun! Make sure to bring a helmet to be safe!
Downwind of the Sandbar, you can enjoy some shallow (but cold) water in the pounds; it’s my ideal spot to practice unhooked tricks. If you like waves, go upwind to the Hatchery for some big swell. Passed the island (behind it) is where schools bring their students as it’s uncrowded and flatter water – I also go there all the time to practice some new tricks. My husband loves the 3 phase session: long upwind, kite behind the island, long downwind in the waves.
There are multiple kiting events and kite demos throughout the summer. Unexpected kite demos at the sandbar are the best because you never expect them; I get lazy and don’t pump kites. I just take whatever companies have set up and demo it for the day. As the wind starts around noon, I usually start with a foiling session early in the morning and switch for my twin tip after. When people get tired, around 4-5pm, locals arrive and catch the sunset session. Keep some energy to ride with them, it’s often the best time of the day. Note that there are other launch areas around Hood River – I’ll talk about the ones I have tried in another write-up.
The town of Hood River is very laid back. It gets busy and crowded during the summer months, which makes it fun and very entertaining. If you go alone to Hood River, you will most likely make tons of friends and have something to do every night. Locals and riders will often go for a drink or two at Double Mountains brewery, while tourists will head to Phriem (my pic) or Solstice and cheaper tourists will hit the Mexican restaurants.
Where to stay: Tucker Park Campground
GPS Coordinates: 45.715776, -121.512676
Main Kite School: Cascade Kiteboarding
Morning coffee & Internet: Stoked Coffee
Wind forecast: The Gorge is my Gym