If it was easy, they'd call it kitesurfing, right? But it's windsurfing. Here is the report from our third day in the Gorge:
The forecast was great, the wind reading in the morning even better: 20 to 31 mph in Rowena, very nice and steady. We downsized our boards accordingly. Nina went for a 69 liter JP Wave, I picked up a Starboard 81 l Quad. I like most twin-fin boards I ever sailed better than single-fin boards, so 4 fins must be even better, right? I had read some reports that the quads are for expert wave surfers who want the ultimate in responsiveness in the waves, but still - when you have the chance to demo the newest thingies, why not take it? The guys working at Big Winds who helped us did not say anything that would have discouraged me, either (but then, the are 30 years younger and pro windsurfers...).
First run out at Rowena was ok. Rowena is a beautiful place, the wind was good, the chop & swell smaller than what we had encountered the last two days, and although I did have to adjust to the board, it was not to bad. Until I turned around, that is, and had to go somewhat against the waves. The fight of the day started, but I eventually made it back to shore. I was seriously thinking about exchanging the board for something a tad bigger and less radical, but the parking lot was filling up, and the exchange would have taken a couple of hours. So I gave the Quad 81 another try, which was similar to the first one.
After a longer break, I went for a third run, having upped my sail size from 4.2 to 4.7 (the wind had gone down a bit during the break, and had gotten a lot more gusty, as I learned a bit later). Going out was great - I started to get the board, and played around a bit in the swell. Yes, it's extremely turny - just thinking "go down that swell" would make it happen, even when a more conventional 85 l FSW would have said "too late - tell me 2 seconds earlier!". I started to have some fun - but unfortunately, I had to turn around. The run back started ok, until the gust hit me, and threw me off quite violently. One of these falls where it seemed the water entered through my nose and came out of my ears... Trying to get going again, the sail was ripped out of my hands after a second or two several times in a row. Looked like the wind had come back and brough some enforcements. After maybe 5 successive water starts, I discovered that I had drifted a few hunded yards downwind. The current was not nearly as strongs as in Maryhill, but probably still a few knots strong. I tried to fly the sail and butt sail a bit to get downwind and closer to the launch site, but the wind was too strong and gusty for that to work well. Somehow, I eventually got close to shore, and a couple of windsurfers in a private yard yelled down that I should take a break in their yard, which I did. I took a few minutes off, listened to encouraging stories that apparently every Gorge sailor has plenty off, thightened the downhaul and uphaul, and out I went again. My only goal was to get back to the lauch site, maybe 300 meters downwind. After a few deep downwind runs, without using the straps and the harness, I eventually made it back. Quite an interesting feeling to sail in an almost 90 degree angle to anyone else, planing on a small board while ging downwind.
Nina had watched part of my fight, but could not see me anymore after a while, so she started to get rather concerned. I thinked she probably burned more calories worrying about me than I did sailing back without using the harness. Too bad, she had been doing well on the smallest board that Big Winds had available to rent. She did love how the 69 l wave board turned when trying to jibe, and almost made it though her first attempt. Funny to think that she can't rent a real sinker in the Gorge - 69 l is just about the total of her weight in a wet suit, plus the weight of the the board and a small (3.4 m) rig.
This could really be a frustrating windsurf vacation, since everyday seems to bring a new kind of fight. But the scenery here is just beautiful, the Bead & Breakfast we are staying in is just wonderful, the people we meet are very friendly and helpful, and the small town of Hood River has three brew pubs that offer excellent beer and food. Even the neighboring town of Mosier, with 430 inhabitants, has a brew pub - now that's culture!
First thing on the agenda tomorrow is to exchange the Quad 81 for something bigger and more conventional - the 94 l Kode seemed huge and easy in comparison. If I ever feel like wanting to turn a board with only my big toes, I'll try it again...
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