This past weekend, the Gorge Paddle Challenge celebrated its 12th year. Since the beginning, the Gorge Paddle Challenge has always been about competitive racing, community engagement, youth progression, and having fun celebrating the world-class conditions of Hood River, Oregon.
Steve Gates, the owner of Big Winds, and the Head Coach on the Big Winds JET Team, organized and planned this race. The idea was to always combine a downwind race on the world-famous Viento Downwind Run with a course race. Professional paddlers from every corner of the globe descended on Hood River for more than just a weekend of racing, they came here for an experience.
Fast forward to the Gorge Paddle Challenge in 2023, times have changed, and the event has morphed, and now includes a kids clinic hosted by Wylde Wind and Water, and also wingfoil racing in both a donwwinder and technical course race formats.
“Since Wing Foiling has exploded, naturally the Gorge Paddle Challenge adapted to include Wing Foiling, with both a downwind and course race division. I wasn’t able to compete in the downwind race on saturday because of the SUP race, but I could compete in the course race! We raced three windward-leeward course races which consisted of three laps each race. The first start was a bit chaotic, but afterwards everybody settled in and we understood the system. I am super pleased with the way I sailed and ended up winning all three Wing Foil Course Races and the Wing Foil Pro Course race title.”
Bob Stawiki / Iwasphotographed Photo