The fifth annual Naish Columbia River Gorge Paddle Challenge kicks off today with the Course Race, followed by Sunday

The fifth annual Naish Columbia River Gorge Paddle Challenge kicks off today with the Course Race, followed by Sunday’s highly anticipated Double Downwind Race. Photo: Columbia River Gorge Paddle Challenge Facebook

2015 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge Preview

After a year of surprises, progressive performances and an inevitable dose of drama, the 2015 standup paddle racing season is finally on its home stretch, gearing up for October’s epic grand finale. But the season wouldn’t be complete without the Naish Columbia River Gorge Paddle Challenge--one of the most popular, prestigious and action-packed SUP events on the agenda.

For its fifth consecutive year, the event in Hood River, Oregon--a favored destination among elite wind warriors, bump junkies and speed specialists--returns to the famed Columbia River Gorge with a weekend of paddle racing, on-water demos, live music, delicious food and craft brew from one of the most densely endowed artisanal brewing regions on earth. Much like its neighboring river event--Idaho's Payette River Games--the Gorge event takes on a scale far grander than SUP racing. Sure, standup is the beloved common thread that bands the people together, and sure, the racing is undoubtedly world-class, but the event is generally more about having fun than anything else. The way it should be.

Confirmed attendees at the Gorge Challenge include a stacked list of the world’s elite racers. The men’s side will include Connor Baxter, Danny Ching, Kai Lenny, Travis Grant, Mo Freitas, Jake Jensen, Georges Cronsteadt, Titouan Puyo, Beau O'Brian, Kelly Margetts, Vinnicius Martins, Slater Trout, Kody Kerbox, Paul Jackson, James Casey, Niuhiti Buillard, Martin Letourneur, Kenny Kaneko, Josh Riccio and Noa Ginella, to name a few.

In the women’s arena, top-tier talent like Annabel Anderson, Fiona Wylde, Angie Jackson, Terrene Black, Andrea Moller, Shae Foudy, Manca Notar and Morgan Hoesterey comprise just a portion of the registration list. Needless to say, competition is expected to be stiff.

The racing portion of the Gorge Paddle Challenge consists of two main race categories: the Course Race (today) and the Double Downwinder (Sunday). The Course Race consists of a one-mile course off Waterfront Beach Park, where the Elite division will complete five laps, the Open will complete four and the Groms two. Sunday’s downwinder, the event’s highly anticipated race that showcases the Gorge’s phenomenal wind, will consist of an 8-mile downwind run from Viento State Park to Waterfront State Park. The wind howls west to east on this section, directly against the current, which acts to create giant wind swell--often well overhead--from which the Gorge earns its fabled reputation as a downwinding mecca.

Check back in with for updates, recap and results from the 2015 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge.