HOOD RIVER, Oregon - The 7th Annual Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge (CGPC), one of the world’s biggest and highest ranked stand up paddle boarding races, returns to Hood River and the Columbia River Gorge this weekend. Attracting some of the most elite, as well as recreational male and female paddle boarders from around the world, competitors travel from all over to experience the world-class downwind conditions that the Columbia River Gorge offers. Past years’ attendance has included paddlers from mainland U.S.A, Hawaii, Australia, Germany, France, Denmark, Netherlands, Canada, and even as far as Tahiti and New Zealand.
One of the biggest draws of the Naish CGPC is the downwind and double downwind races. Starting at Viento State Park, competitors paddle the famous Viento Downwind Run, an eight-mile, upriver run that tests both swell riding skills and endurance. This stretch is known for strong winds from the west, which oppose the current running from the east to create large river swells, sometimes well overhead. With easy river access, a unique setting, and consistent winds and river swell, which average 20-30 knots, the Viento Downwinder has quickly become a world-class downwind SUP run.
Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge 2016. | Photos by Gore US Photography
Still generating the most buzz in the SUP community is the return of the Downwind Double Down. In it’s fourth year, the Elite Class competitors will compete in the “Downwind Double Down” format, two back-to-back eight mile Viento runs. This provides a serious test of both skills and endurance. This race is open to competitors who are skilled in downwind conditions and in excellent physical condition. As in years past, the Open Class competitors will still paddle the famous Viento Downwind Run.
Though the course record for the Viento Run is just under an hour, most experienced competitors will take up to an hour and a half for each run. The wind velocity and the current both come into play in determining the time it takes to paddle the course. As in the past, the Downwind Races are scheduled for Saturday, but the schedule is subject to change and will be adjusted as necessary to provide the best conditions for these races.
Fiona Wylde leading the pack at the 2016 Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. | Photo by Gorge US Photography
Another highlight of the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge are the course races. This portion of the event provides an exciting race scene for the competitors and is a favorite for the spectators. The courses are set in close proximity to the shoreline and beach, taking the racers right into the bay at the Waterfront Park to execute a series of tight, challenging buoy turns only a few feet from the cheering crowd. In addition to the elite and open classes, the event has expanded over the years to also include age-based course races for kids under 18. The “Grom Races” are hugely popular and hotly contested among the best young paddlers from across the country.
When asked why do you choose to return year after year to the Gorge for this event, Connor Baxter, #1 Ranked Male Paddler in the World, as well as multi-time winner of the Naish CGPC shared that “The Gorge Event is always a must for me every year, because it is by far one of the best downwind runs around. Then with the combination of the course race - it really separates the men from the boys. Plus the community in Hood River is so nice and welcoming. Can't wait to get back and compete at the Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge again this summer!!”
Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge 2016. | Photos by Gorge US Photography
Local standup paddler, Fiona Wylde (currently #2 Ranked Female Paddler in the World) looks forward to this event every year. “Having all of my friends and fellow paddlers visiting from all over the world, enjoying amazing world-class paddle conditions is amazing to see! The event itself is one of the best run events and the downwind portion of the race makes it the most fun race of the year!!” -Fiona Wylde.
In addition to the event’s stand up paddle board (SUP) races, there will be free demos, live music, as well as various food vendors. It all takes place at the Hood River Waterfront Park, a wonderful, family friendly park, with an awesome beach, a great kids play area and up close viewing of the exciting races. Mark your calendars and come on down to check out this vibrant and spectator friendly event August 19-20, 2017.
Location: The Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge takes place at Hood River’s Waterfront Park. The park features a crescent-shaped beach for the starting and staging areas, great stadium style viewing area for spectators, large grass area for the vendor tents, onsite restrooms, and plenty of parking. It is also a great place for children, with a play site, marimba, and climbing wall, all within walking distance to downtown Hood River.
Photo by Gorge US Photography
About the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge
The Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge (CGPC) is a Festival celebrating the sport of Stand Up Paddling in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. Last year’s Paddle Challenge featured a Distance Downwind Race, a Course Race, and a Team Relay Race. There were SUP exhibits from many companies, free SUP lessons and demos and live music.
For more news on the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge click HERE.