Alongside being one of the largest windsurfing, kiteboarding, and stand up paddling product and accessory stores across the United States, Big Winds is one of SIC Maui’s 5 Star Glide Centers. They are located in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge in Hood River, Oregon and are stacked with highly experienced staff members and a fleet of SIC Maui boards for visitors to test and demo. Visiting Big Winds is a special treat in and of itself, but their ideal location offers visitors an opportunity to experience all of Hood River while they are there. Big Winds Marketing Manager Eddy Patricelli shares some information to help you make the most of your Hood River trip below.
A tiny town alongside a river, a big sandbar, and a strong summer breeze—those are Hood River’s broad strokes. For a city of approximately 7,600 residents, its fame in the kiteboarding world is staggering. It’s the oldest mainland kiting destination in the US. Its backdrop, the cascading canyons of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, both funnel the wind, and serve as a world-class playground for activities far beyond the water. As for its sandbar, it’s a 26-acre accident, the result of a landslide that just happened to deposit swaths of kite-friendly launching, landing, and learning space alongside the Gorge’s most posh waterfront access point, the Event Site. All of it lies within walking distance of downtown Hood River.
Yes, there’s a lot to love about the town, located just 59 miles east of Portland International Airport, though its reliable 10-35 knot breezes from June through August are just the tip of the iceberg. Pack your 5, 7, 9m kites and for those rare light wind days, 12-meter kites. Twin tips are the call for the Event Site, but a few tacks upwind and kitesurf boards are preferred for surfing river swells, which grow to head high, thanks to the Columbia River’s unique dynamic of opposing wind and river currents.
WHEN TO GO
June through August
WEATHER AND WATER
Wind Range:10-30 knots
Water Temperature: average of 62-68°F
Typical Conditions: Flat butter (downwind of sandbar), river swell (upwind of sandbar)
In the spring and fall, kiteboarders and paddlers may launch and land from the Event Site lawn. During summer months, however, the lawn is only for pumping and drying kites. The Sandbar is the go-to launch and landing area. Also, be mindful of the river current (flows west), as well as barges, which can sneak up on riders and cannot stop quickly.
Photo courtesy: Big Winds
The Columbia River Gorge offers some of the most premiere downwind conditions on the planet. The logistics of downwind paddling can often be complicated and time consuming, but without a doubt the logistics of downwinding in the Gorge are some of the most organized and efficient out there. From start to finish, the process of arranging your downwinder is streamlined, thanks in big part to Big Winds and their convenient Downwind Shuttle Services. The shuttle service operates 7 days a week and offers an opportunity for experienced water sport enthusiasts to enjoy a downwind experience in the Gorge. Big Winds also offers a variety of SUP rentals as well as used and new boards for purchase. And as an SIC Glide Center (the original Glide Center in fact), Big Winds opens its doors to people looking to test-drive SIC boards so you can try it before you buy it.
Photo courtesy: Gorge Performance
For paddlers also looking to paddle in Portland and nearby areas, Gorge Performance in Portland provides gear, expertise, and services to get you outside and on the water. Located centrally between some of the best paddle destinations in Oregon, Gorge Performance offers a large selection of stand up paddle boards for rent and purchase. You can also schedule SUP lessons with their expert crew. If you’re planning to paddle in or around Portland, be sure to stop in and take advantage of their in-store perks including price matching, free leashes with board purchases, and more.
Photo courtesy: Stoke on the Water
For downwind lessons, look no further than Stoke on the Water downwind SUP clinics in Hood River. Lead by SIC ambassadors and downwind aficionados Joel Yang and Russel Peart, these clinics will help you master the art of downwind paddling. Whether you’re new to downwinding or already have significant experience, they offer clinics for people of all skill levels that are interested in improving their capabilities. Their offerings include downwind prep classes, Viento clinics, and a full progression package.
Airport: The closest airport to Hood River is Portland International Airport (PDX) which is 50 minutes away.
Rental Cars: You will need to rent a car to take full advantage of all that Hood River has to offer. Rental cars are $58 a day.
Parking per day at the Event Site is $7
WHAT TO DO
Downwinding from Viento to Hood River
Skiing Mt. Hood in July
Mountain biking Post Canyon
Rafting the White Salmon
Hiking under a waterfall
E-biking the Mosier Tunnel Trail
Foiling on light wind days
Airbnb: Options are abundant, though book early for summer season. Same goes for reserving camp sites at parks such as Viento, Tucker and Memaloose (from $20 per night).
The Hood River Hostel: Offers clean, furnished private rooms and shared bathrooms starting at $50 per night.
The Hood River Hotel: The hotel sits in the heart of downtown Hood River, a half mile walk to the Sandbar, with rooms from $90 per night.
The Hampton Inn & Suites: The hotel is perched on the water, a two minute stroll to Sandbar starting at $150 per night.
Columbia Gorge Hotel: Famous for its Sunday buffet and iconic views of the river, the historic hotel resides atop a staggering cliff, with nightly room rates of $285 - $350 during the summer season.
Breweries (most per capita in state of Oregon): pFriem Family Brewers and Full Sail Brewing Company are worth a visit.
Wineries: One to check out is Marchesis.
Restaurants: Three Rivers Grill, fine dining with a view of the Columbia River.
Next time you head to Hood River, be sure to stop by Big Winds to test out an SIC Maui board!
Photo courtesy: Big Winds
ABOUT BIG WINDS GLIDE CENTER
Big Winds is proud to be the SIC destination guide center for one of planet Earth’s premium downwind venues, the spectacular (and windy!) Columbia River Gorge. We offer the full range of premium SIC open water and downwind race boards. Our center is located right on the south bank of the Columbia River at the “take-out” of the Viento Downwind run, our signature 8 mile downwinder. With summer winds typically exceeding 30 knots, generating massive freight-train swells, the Columbia challenges even the most skilled paddlers.
"Just a beautiful and scenic one hour drive from the Portland International Airport, our Big Winds SIC Glide Center offers unparalleled convenience for being able to test drive the awesome line-up of SIC boards. Our $12 shuttle service to Viento takes the logistics out of the picture, boards load up at 12:30 at the Big Winds Event Site Center, the van leaves at 1:00."
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