Some of the best in SUP descended upon Hood River, Oregon last weekend for the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge. The two-day event featured heavy competition with a course race, downwinder distance race, team relay and a fun paddle. As the weekend culminated, it was clear that two-time World Champion Kai Lenny and the ever-dominant Candice Appleby were on fire as they paddled to wins in both the course race and distance downwinder.
The weekend kicked off with an extremely tight course race where elite paddlers competed for nearly 5 miles around a multi-lap course. The top finishers battled it out for the number one spot, but in the end, the young Hawaiian waterman, Kai Lenny, snagged the win. Jamie Mitchell, Chase Kosterlitz and Slater Trout crossed the line only seconds after Lenny, with Connor Baxter on their heels to round out the top five finishes.
Candice Appleby added yet another victory to her list as she dominated the course race on the women's side with over a minute to spare before Jenny Kalmbach came in at second place. Allison Riddle, Lina Augaitis and Karen Wrenn had great races as well, finishing respectively in third through fifth. “The race was super fun, but challenging because it was so windy,” Appleby said. “The course was somewhat of a diamond shape and you hit every angle of the wind, which worked all of your muscles and caused some muscle fatigue,” said Appleby, “but I got an early gap and increased it throughout the race, which is what I was aiming for.”
Sunday's downwind distance race was a grueling one with white caps dotting the river. Kai Lenny took the lead racing 14', edging out fellow Hawaiian and friend, Connor Baxter. Jamie Mitchell finished in third with Kaeo Abbey and Slater Trout taking the fourth and fifth places.
Racing 12'6, Candice Appleby took the win for the females again, with over a minute lead ahead of Jenny Kalmbach. “I fell toward the beginning and Jenny got ahead, but I hunted her down pretty quickly and then It was pretty much Talia and I from there,” Appleby said. Talia Gangini, who finished behind Appleby after a great race, was disqualified unfortunately, due to board regulations. Karen Wrenn, Fiona Wylde and Alyson Fromm finished strong to take the remaining top positions in third, fourth and fifth.
“It was a good race and I was stoked to win after not having much opportunity to do downwinders this season,” Appleby said. “Staying ahead of a Molokai [to Oahu] Champion was a great accomplishment and between this weekend and Tahoe, I feel like I’ve left a good mark before Battle of the Paddle,” Appleby added. – SC
For more info and full results, visit: GorgePaddleChallenge.com