If you’re unfamiliar with the Pacific Northwest, you probably won’t know that besides its noteworthy scenery, the Columbia River Gorge gets a curtsey for something else: wind. Differences in atmospheric pressure on the west and east sides of the river respectively make this important river a veritable wind tunnel at times, particularly gusty around the town of Hood River, now the ranking “capital” of the wind surfing world. Kite boarders love the area too, but so do a growing number of outdoor sports enthusiasts drawn to the area not just by breezes. Thanks to Hood River’s proximity to Mount Hood, there’s also easy access to snow skiing or snow boarding in winter, hiking and mountain biking in summer. Enough action, in other words, to keep athletes in town year-round.
But back to those winds. Best in the afternoon, Hood River is one of the top wind surfing spots thanks to geography. Here, the Columbia River Gorge narrows, which means that when summer sunshine heats up the semi-arid desert on either side of the river, pulling cool air up from the Pacific, the ensuing breezes are particularly powerful. Think plenty of frothy white caps and wind speeds of around 35 miles per hour, and you’ve got yourself the makings of a wind sports mecca.
Not surprisingly, there are a number of outfitters in Hood River well-equipped to handle the demand for kites, sails, boards and a little hand up, as needed. If you’re new to wind sports, it’s not a bad idea to consider signing up for a few lessons to go with your rental gear, or at the very least get your feet wet in slightly protected waters, like The Hook. Importantly, remember that kites and sails are to be kept separate to avoid unnecessary mishap. Which is why you’ll find windsurfers only at hot spots like the Event Site, by the Port of Hood River, and cavorting kiteboarders only at The Spit, where the Hood River meets the Columbia. Gone with the wind? Yes, regularly.