The Gorge Paddle Challenge is officially back, and in a big way. The vibes were high at this year’s event and attendance was up by 30% since last year. Over 300 athletes signed up, including some of the biggest names in the sport: Conner Baxter, Candace Applebee, Fiona Wylde, Arthur Arutkin, Itzel Delgado, and SIC’s three-time world champion, Seychelle. Attendance reached pre-COVID levels, making the Gorge Paddle Challenge the U.S. event of the year.
This year, wing and SUP foiling doubled in participation, with 65 wing foilers and 52 SUP foilers being added to the start list. The foiling category also included standout athletes like kitesurfing Champion Johnny Heineken and Pro wing foil racer Joey Pasquali.
The Gorge Paddle Challenge was hosted in Hood River, which offers some of the best downwind paddling in the United States. The event kicked off with the Kid’s Friday Funday event, co-hosted by Fiona Wylde and Team SIC. Thanks to Tao Surf Air inflatables, a Mothership, and a few Starboard inflatables, 75 kids were introduced to the joy of paddling.
GPC Day 1
On day one, the weather was perfect. Temperatures sat comfortably in the mid-80s throughout the day, with 20-knot winds, making for pristine conditions for the downwind races. The athletes welcomed the moderate winds after last year’s nuking 40-knot winds.
As usual, SIC’s Youth Developmental Team was in top form, with 15-year-old Youth Developmental Team Athlete Soryn Preston finishing in 1st, Youth Developmental Team Athlete Alex Ostrowski in 3rd and her brother Trace Ostrowski 1st for Junior Boys. For the elite women, Global Team Athlete Seychelle solidified her successful return to racing with a solid performance, finishing in 3rd. Last year’s winner, Global Team Athlete Jade Howson followed closely behind, finishing in 4th. For the elite men, Global Team Athlete Campbell Carter finished the race in 5th, an impressive finish against a stacked field of international and world champion paddlers. Canada SIC Team Athlete Tommy Buday rounded out the men in 7th.
“This was my first time at the SIC Gorge Paddle Challenge since 2019. This event was a great test of where I am at in my training after coming off a really long pause to start a family. It felt awesome to be there and to push myself against the other top women. I had so much fun and was able to learn a lot about where I am and where to focus moving forward.”
One of the highlights of the event was watching US Wing Foil Athlete Ras Sayre compete in the downwind foil division. Despite the tough competition, Sayre finish in 5th, attributing his win to SIC’s new Raptor Wing V3. Wing foiling has exploded in popularity in recent years and Hood River was the perfect arena for showcasing SIC’s new wing.
“Wing foil racing is something that is very new to me, and it was cool to see how the compilation of my past racing experience came flooding back and gave me a real advantage. I’m happy with how I performed tactically, as having good starts and sailing the least amount of distance was paramount in the course racing. It was really rewarding to finish in third place and keep up with a talented field of wing foil athletes, many of whom I have looked up to as I have progressed in the sport.
The new SIC raptor gear has been awesome. The low aspect ratio Raptor V3 wing allowed me to race on a slightly bigger sail than I normally would. The new mini boom handles were the key to staying in control, while the updated center strut allowed me to control power very well. I was really psyched to feel like I was on some of the fastest gear on the water.”
GPC Day 2
Day two was the course race day and the weather was not as cooperative as on day one. The wind picked up on day two, making for challenging conditions as the athletes navigated extended upwind features and side wind buoy turns.
SIC’s Youth Developmental Team proved that they are a force to be reckoned with, entering the youth, open, and elite divisions. For the junior girls, SIC Youth Developmental Team Athlete Soryn Preston shined once again, winning her event. Local SIC Athlete Christiana Truebenbach finished in 6th. For the boys, Youth Developmental Team Athlete Trace Ostrowski also took home a 1st place finish for team SIC.
For the elite men, Global SIC Team Athlete Campbell Carter finished in 5th and Canada SIC Team Athlete Tommy Buday finished in 7th. For the elite women, Global SIC Team Athlete Seychelle finished in 4th, followed by Youth Developmental Team Athlete Alex Ostrowski (5th), Youth Developmental Team Athlete Soryn Preston (6th), and Global Team Athlete Jade Howson (7th). For the open men, US SIC Team Athlete Eric Carter represented SIC, finishing in 4th. In the pro wing foiling division, Ras Sayre secured a 3rd place finish after an amazing comeback from a bad start in the first of 3-races for combined results.
“The Gorge Paddle Challenge is so unique because you never have the same conditions and there is always a challenge that you will encounter. You are not able to predict the wind, current, etc., no matter how many reports that you look at! I was so delighted with all my results and how the whole event went down.”