Thoughts on first ever Gorge Downwind Champs

I decided early this year to attend the Gorge Downwind Champs to really get a feel for surfski downwinding.  Summer in San Diego is not a downwind paradise to say the least.  We do get regular onshore winds (12-15 MPH) with mostly mixed-up bump.  This means a grind into the wind for a semi rewarding return trip to the beach.  Fun but not epic.

I have experienced some good to very good downwind conditions in my prone past.  Two Molokai crossings, Maliko gulch week doing shuttles, Davenport and Malibu downwinders as well as a smattering of decent San Diego downwinders all prone.  While the open ocean is fun, the way that the Gorge lines up is awesome and something that anyone that likes to downwind needs to put on their bucket list.

I headed up the Gorge alone for a 20 hour drive, my brother and a good friend would join me later in the week.  When I arrived, I was a little nervous that the sustained 30+ MPH wind would be over my ability and would I be able to find a buddy to make the runs without embarrassing myself.  It turns out that walking to the start area and chatting you can find a buddy easily AND make some new friends!  The surfski / paddle community is so awesome and welcoming.

I headed out for my first run shortly after arriving and paddled into the wind to get around the rocks heading for the middle of the river.  At the time, I didn’t know that this was the most challenging part of the run and my nerves were a bit frazzled.  The four of us were together and made the turn downwind, almost immediately I had a gigantic smile on my face.  The Gorge is just so lined up and perfect that even with big wind and big waves you get over the “can I do this?” and move to the “I got this, and I want to go faster” mentality very quickly.

I spent the week just getting better and refining how to move the surfski to maintain position  on bumps and jump on the next runner.  This is one of the best trips - exercise, camaraderie and cheap really good beer.

My brother and friend both brought prone boards for downwinding, but wanted a chance on the surfski.  They were hooked and stated that they were bringing a virus (love of the surfski) back to San Diego!

On a final note, I need to thank Carter Johnson for a super event.  Having put on one day point to point events in the past I understand the difficulty in coordinating volunteers and vendors for one day.  I can’t imagine doing this for a whole week!  Thank you so much Carter, I’m coming back every year!