What to bring, leave behind, and be aware of when kiteboarding in the Gorge

Kiteboarding in the Columbia Gorge is not easy. There is plenty of wind, but make sure you have plenty of common sense and safety knowledge when kiteboarding here. KB4C takes place at the Hood River Event Site, situated on the south shore of the Columbia River, in the Central Gorge.

Winds come from the west and pretty much funnel straight up river, with an occasional southerly mixing in with the west winds, making for a gusty WSW wind. Most of the summer, however, we get strong West winds, averaging about 15-27 right here in Hood River.

Here are a few tips that will make for a great kiteboarding experience here:

  • Watch out for river traffic: Barges, finishing boats, and sailboats can sneak up on you at anytime, so keep your eye out UPWIND for them. If you hear loud blasts upriver, it’s a barge. They are big and faster than they look, so get out of their way when you see them coming. Barge visibility is very limited from the pilot’s house, so they may not see you if you cross right in front of the barge. Barges do not stop for anyone.
  • For fun swell and big kickers, kite upwind to the White Salmon Bridge (on the Washington side)
  • For flatwater, ride downwind of the kite spit (sandbar) to the mouth of the Hood River. Do not go past (east) of the marina beach. The wind gets fluky and there’s a big bridge that is very difficult to rescue from.
  • To get away from the crowds, kite upwind to the north side of Well’s Island (you’ll see the island — it’s the only island in the river, toward the Oregon side). Kite between the island and the Washington side. Usually no crowds and fun swell to play in.
  • A good place to hang out and watch the scene: The grassy lawn at the Hood River Event Site or the sandbar with a couple of lawn chairs. There is shade at the Event Site. There is no shade on the sandbar.

What you need to bring:

  • A shorty wetsuit or full suit: Kiting all day in the endurance race can be tiresome and without proper fuel in your body… you will get chilled. Make sure you at least have a shorty with a long, insulated top and make sure you eat a good breakfast and hydrate throughout the day!
  • Sweatshirt and jeans: It can be in the 80s during the day, but sometimes in the upper 50s at night. Make sure you bring a little warmth for when the sun goes down.
  • Knowledge of your gear and how to self rescue: This is very important!
  • Sunscreen!

What to leave behind:

  • Board leashes: If you’re racing in the Kite Derby, that means you can go upwind. If you can ride upwind, you should be able to body-drag upwind. If you can do that, you don’t need a board leash. They are dangerous  and complicate your kiteboarding. And, if you do lose your board while racing in KB4C, we bet you some nice kiteboarder will bring it back to you, because that’s the kind of community we have here. Ok, we’ll let a few board leashes slide…
  • Egos: This is a FUNdraising event, where we stress the FUN. Don’t take it too seriously, because we won’t take you seriously. What is serious is the cause; that we’re all out to living life to the max so that others may live longer.

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