If everything goes according to plan, the wind should be the star of the show at the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. In the week leading up to this year’s event, there was some concern when the wind laid down completely for a few days. Every paddler traveling from around the world was wondering: would it come back for race weekend?

They need not have worried. While wind is never a sure bet, Hood River’s famous westerly winds more often than not funnel through the Gorge at a ferocious clip through the summer time (and well beyond).

On Friday, race organizers made the call to run the downwind racing on Saturday and the course racing on Sunday. During the Paddle Challenge, pro racers do not one, but two, Viento runs up the Columbia River and their times are combined to determine the winners. And although the wind was howling it wasn’t easy.

Fiona Wylde, the hometown hero, who claimed her fourth Downwind victory at the Gorge Paddle Challenge and her third in a row by taking out both downwind runs by healthy margins, said that there was a lot of current and that it was flattening the bumps.

“Conditions were not easy today, it was kind of a grind all the way through,” she said. “But I love home and I’m very happy.”

Annie Starr Reickert, a 17-year-0ld Maui bump-chaser and surfer, came in second, putting her extensive knowledge of the Maliko Run to use in the Hood. Terrene Black continued her stellar year after winning her second Molokai 2 Oahu Championship a few weeks ago by taking third.

The biggest story of the weekend, though, was the startling sweep of the Double Downwinder by 16-year-old New Caledonian Noic Garioud. Garioud impressed us here last year but his win here in the most competitive downwind event of the year solidifies him as one of the world’s best bump riders.

“It was so much fun for the race,” Garioud said. “It was a bit hard at the start, everyone was in front of me. I just kept my power for the rest of the downwind.”

And Garioud’s not the only New Caledonian story: his fellow countryman and teenager Clément Colmas took second in the downwinders, bringing even more pedigree to the small island nation that international star Titouan Puyo put on the SUP map.

Last year’s champion Bernd Roediger, who’s spent extensive time chasing bumps in Hood River, rounded out the top three.

If Saturday’s action wasn’t enough, Sunday provided another surge of adrenaline. Pro racers had to compete in the “Hot Lap” format, where they can take a shortcut at one point during the race, at any time of their choosing. The course is not easy and the wind was blowing again, providing challenging upwind legs, speedy downwind slaloms and technical sidewind paddling.

Dana Point local Shae Foudy took her biggest win to date with a well-timed hot lap choice that put her ahead and kept her there. Floridian hammer Seychelle was able to take home second while Olivia Piana continued her most competitive year yet with a third.

On the men’s side, New Caledonia took another scalp, with Titouan Puyo in first place. Frenchman Arthur Arutkin took second and Kiwi Marcus Hansen took third.

Hood River is a magical place with a great community of paddlers and the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge shares that magic with the world. It’s worth a visit if you’ve never made it.

Thanks to The Paddle League for the coverage.

What it feels like to race at the Gorge Paddle Challenge.

Results:

Double Downwinder

Men

1st: @noicgarioud (1:58:33)
2nd: @clementcolmas (1:59:58)
3rd: @bernd_roediger (2:00:33)
4th: @titouanpuyo (2:00:38)
5th: @lincolndews (2:00:41)
6th: @travenormous (2:01:25)
7th @conbax (2:02:01)
8th: @matt_nottage (2:02:37)
9th: @marcushansen4321 (2:02:53)
10th: @arthurarutkin (2:04:42)
11th: @vinmartins (2:04:59)
12th: @jake_jensen (2:05:17)
13th: @tomauber (2:06:09)
14th: @gcronsteadt (2:06:45)
15th: @enzobennett (2:07:24)
16th: @alexandre_bicrel (2:07:30)
17th: @tyjudson_ (2:07:41)
18th: @martin_letourneur (2:07:59)
19th: @martin_vitry (2:08:16)
20th: @chase_koster (2:08:51)
21st: Josh Riccio (2:09:56)
22nd: Boris Jinvresse (2:10:58)
23rd: Slater Trout (2:11:15)
24th: Ben Tardrew (2:12:06)
25th: Benoit Riviere (2:12:14)
26th: Paul Jackson (2:13:18)
27th: Harry Maskell (2:13:19)
28th: Takuji Araki (2:13:54)
29th: Tyler Bashor (2:14:06)
30th: Leonard Nika (2:14:14)
31st: Tiavairau Chang (2:14:21)
32nd: Mo Freitas (2:15:28)
33rd: Garrett Fletcher (2:16:00)
34th: Itzel Delgado (2:16:25)
35th: Trent Carter (2:17:48)
36th: Steve Walker (2:19:23)
37th: Eri Tenorio (2:20:39)
38th: Fernando Stalla (2:20:50)
39th: Slater Fleck (2:20:52)
40th: Lois Chardebas (2:21:46)
41st: Tim Warner (2:22:28)
42nd: Sam English (2:22:52)
43rd: Rodney Ellis (2:23:21)
44th: Steve Miller (2:23:58)
45th: Christopher Norman (2:24:10)
46th: Keaton Rose (2:24:32)
47th: Elijah Schoenig (2:24:52)
48th: Zach Rounsaville (2:27:45)
49th: Zeke Rose (2:27:45)
50th: Barry Wicks (2:28:38)
51st: Belar Diaz (2:29:51)
52nd: Fielding Pagel (2:30:02)
53rd: Matthew Abbott (2:32:40)
54th: Martijn van Deth (2:37:37)
55th: Dan Miller (2:44:53)
56th: Kody Kerbox (one run)

Women

1st: @fiona_wylde (2:15:38)
2nd: @annie__starr (2:19:10)
3rd: @terrene_black (2:20:37)
4th: @amandine_chazot (2:21:38)
5th: @aprilzilg (2:22:04)
6th: @seychellesup (2:22:25)
7th: @angiesup (2:22:34)
8th: @shaefoudy (2:25:16)
9th: @oliviapiana (2:28:07)
10th: @jadehowson (2:28:54)
11th: @yu_ka.17 (2:30:04)
12th: @applesteeze (2:31:07)
13th: @hannah__hill (2:31:16)
14th: @stephanie_shideler (2:32:51)
15th: @ksb56 (2:34:52)
16th: @shannonbell10 (2:35:19)
17th: @lalaclaydon (2:36:52)
18th: @sarahsandstrom (2:38:34)
19th: @erikabenitezz (2:38:52)
20th: @susannelier22 (2:39:07)
21st: @madeline_miller4 (2:40:02)
22nd: @abbyybbaker (2:40:11)
23rd @jennjlee (2:41:34)
24th: @kristymorr (2:44:19)
25th: @aquaholicv (2:45:27)
26th: Alyssa Joy (2:46:15)
27th: @_airmare (2:50:48)
28th: Karen Kennedy (2:56:20)
29th: Adel Umannova (2:58:06)
Special mention: @kira.buchanan (one run)

Hot Lap

Men

1st: @titouanpuyo (0:25:57)
2nd: @arthurarutkin (0:26:06)
3rd: @marcushansen4321 (0:26:39)
4th: @enzobennett (0:26:58)
5th: @_mofreitas (0:27:04)
6th: @martin_vitry (0:27:10)
7th: @clementcolmas (0:27:15)
8th: @tyjudson_ (0:27:22)
9th: @noicgarioud (0:27:46)
10th: @tomauber (0:27:57)
11th: @gcronsteadt (0:28:06)
12th: @joshriccio (0:28:09)
13th: @lincolndews (0:28:49)
14th: @itzel_delgado1 (0:28:54)
15th: @leonardnika (0:29:15)
16th: @slatertrout (0:29:51)
17th: @kodykerbox (0:30:24)
18th: @matt_nottage (0:30:58)
19th: @fernandostalla (0:31:21)
20th: @conbax (0:31:22)

Women

1st: @shaefoudy (0:32:34)
2nd: @seychellesup (0:33:02)
3rd: @oliviapiana (0:33:24)
4th: @fiona_wylde (0:33:29)
5th: @yu_ka.17 (0:33:36)
6th: @angiesup (0:34:13)
7th: @aprilzilg (0:34:36)
8th: @applesteeze (0:34:48)
9th: @terrene_black (0:36:20)
10th: @jennjlee (0:36:26)
11th: @shannonbell10 (0:36:49)
12th: @jadehowson (0:37:12)
13th: @madeline_miller4 (0:37:19)
14th: @ksb56 (0:37:26)
15th: @stephanie_shideler (0:37:34)
16th: @sarahsandstrom (0:38:23)
17th: @erikabenitezz (0:39:32)
18th: @abbyybbaker (0:39:46)
19th: @lalaclaydon (0:40:35)
20th: @karenkennedyfit (0:47:36)
21st: @adelka_fit (0:51:01)