The Wind Riders of the
Columbia River Gorge

By Noah Nelson

The town of Hood River is situated right on the Columbia River Gorge and aside from an active beer and wine scene, this humble town boasts the impressive title of “the windsurfing capital of the world.” 

While there are a few places on earth that also lay claim to that disputed title, any professional windsurfer will tell you that Hood River is definitely a strong contender. The high cliff walls that snake around the gorge create extremely windy areas of water that become near perfect for windsurfing. 

The Columbia Gorge Wind & Water Association has taken advantage of these ideal conditions since 1987 when they were first founded as a non profit organization. Their mission is to “promote Columbia Gorge Wind & Water Sports and to improve and protect abundant & safe access to the river gorge we all love,” according to their website. 

Hood River’s placement on the Columbia River makes it a great spot for windsurfers of every level, and this is further supported by all of the educational opportunities provided by the Columbia Gorge Wind & Water Association. Their website states that they have helped create a generation of water sport enthusiasts who ended up turning Hood River into a global destination. 

However, a new generation of watersport athletes is making waves in the Gorge. While windsurfing is an older and more established sport with a professional scene and old champions, kitesurfing is a new up and coming variation. 

Windsurfing essentially attaches a sail to a surfboard with a mast, while kitesurfing straps the athlete into a wakeboard sized board and is powered by a hand-held kite that could be up to 100 feet in the air. Both sports have their advantages and disadvantages, but there is no doubt that kitesurfing is the new kid on the block.

All across the gorge, watersport athletes of all types can be seen surfing, shredding, paddling and more. Windsurfing and kitesurfing can both be a little bit intimidating if you are new to watersports in general, but the gorge is welcoming to everyone. Paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, and even jet skis are a common sight out on the water.

Only here in Oregon’s backyard can you find world-class windsurfing nestled in the heart of wine country and farmland.