New Elite Event at The Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge
This weekend's 4th Annual Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge in Hood River, Ore., is an event that can't be missed. With heavy competition in both the elite and open divisions, as well as free clinics and demos, thousands of spectators, and $20,000 up for grabs, the Hood River Waterfront Park will be buzzing with excitement. And, this year, as part of the Champions Tour, the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge will also feature a new race format for elite paddlers.
There will be lots of action at the Hood River Waterfront Park as elite and recreational paddlers compete in multiple events offered throughout the weekend. Elite paddlers will be racing a new race format for the distance race, the Downwind Double Down, where they'll compete in two timed runs down the famous 8-mile Viento Downwind Run, with results based on competitors' combined run times. After the first run, competitors in the Downwind Double Down will shuttle back to the starting line at Viento State Park for their second run on the course.
The Downwind Double Down will not offer age divisions, but will offer Men's and Women's classes with a cash purse up for grabs. The men will be restricted to a board length maximum of 14' and a fixed fin, while the women will be restricted to a board length maximum of 12'6, with a fixed fin.
Sticking to the same race as in year's past, the Open class will also paddle the eight-mile Viento Downwind Run, where competitors' skills and endurance will be tested with howling winds and big river swells. The Open class will not be competing for cash prizes.
A spectator-favorite, the Courses Race, will once again be set in close proximity to the shoreline and beach, taking the racers into the bay at the Waterfront Park to execute a series of tight and challenging buoy turns just feet from the cheering crowd. While technically an elite event, the Courses race is open to recreational paddlers that want to compete at a high level for cash prizes.
The Men's class in the Courses Race will be restricted to a maximum board length of 14' and a fixed fin, while the Women's class will be restricted to a maximum board length of 12'6 and a fixed fin also. Competitors are free to use different boards for the Downwind Race (including the Double Down) and the Course Race. New this year, the event will also feature a special "Groms" race for kids under 14, along with a Junior category for kids under 18.
All participants are encouraged to compete in the fun Team Relay, which will offer friendly competition for competitors of all skill levels. The relay will be held on a short course in front of the spectator viewing area at the Waterfront. Each team must have at least one athlete under 16 and one female. The Race Director will place elite athletes onto teams, and all teams will compete on Naish One boards, which will be supplied. Elite athletes going for the Overall Waterman and Waterwoman Awards must compete in the relay to be eligible for the overall title.
Schedule of Events
Make sure to visit SUPtheMag.com for post-event highlights.