Cali Paddler is proud that its borders extend well beyond state lines. Much like water, we meander throughout the world looking for fun events, challenging races, and scenic places to be on the water. And so this past week, we were stoked to have the chance to see what all the fuss is about regarding "The Gorge". So check out our little recap about why this event, venue and scene is unlike any other, and why we can't wait to attend in years to come!
Some Unique Take-Aways From Cali Paddler's Gorge Experience...
1. Paddlers always helped each other.
Carrying or lifting (or even just holding craft) when the gusts come up was super challenging. That said, nobody was ever on their own. Landing at the site with wind was often tricky, but I saw folks by the minute head down the ramp with enthusiasm to help a stranger. Race day was no exception. Paddlers would finish their race, and then jump down to the water to help get crafts from other racers safely up on the beach and out of the way of other paddlers coming in. Total aloha spirit. If anyone did end up solo carrying a craft when the wind was up, it was after politely declining someone's offer to help so they could help the next person.
2. The elite mingling with the everyday Joe.
The week leading up the race, you never knew who you might bump into. And here is the cool thing, everyone was friendly. Even the super elite. Perfect examples: local SUP phenom Fiona Wylde walking up at the launch spot to say hi and ask how our paddle was so far and chat about the conditions up river. Multiple Molokai Channel winner Oscar Chalupsky cracking jokes with us from the next table over. Everywhere you look, from Team Red Bull to Kai Bartlett and Danny Ching. Courtney Hamchuk to the Paddle California duo of Maggie Hogan and Michele Eray, the stars of our sport were out and super friendly.
3. Efficient, safe and fun.
Hats off to Carter Johnson and his team for a great week. From organized shuttles, to clear communications about the race logistics, paddlers of all levels could enjoy the gorge. I would like to point out two things specifically. This race is logistically a challenge because it is a point to point. So when you throw in very crazy conditions which the race can have, safety and communication is more difficult than ever. The website, Facebook page, email list, and on-site announcements were always helpful and helped provide a safe and organized experience for racers.
4. The scene.
With an awesome town and restaurants walking distance away, the backdrop is the prettiest you could ask for. Gorgeous mountains, lush green trees, and waterfalls by the dozen. Oh, and great breweries, wineries and coffee roasters. For those who didn't want to stray out of the main village, there was a food truck, clean restrooms, beer garden, friendly vendors, and all the paddle friends you could ever hope to meet.
5. The down-wind bliss conditions.
One week prior, paddlers suffered hot temps and flat water. But we got lucky and each day we saw a little more of what the river could offer! With different sections of the river for different comfort levels to enjoy, it was like a ski resort of ski runs to explore and learn. Hard to imagine a better down wind experience to learn, improve, and charge.
If you haven't paddled the gorge, be it this race, another, or simply on a trip with friends, we highly recommend it. Cool fresh water, green trees, awesome people, and amazing runs of paddles-up stoke!
Photo Credit and gratitude to Peter Johnson and the Gorge Downwind Champs Team for their permission. And to all the rock-star paddlers featured in the photos.
Team Writer Clarke Graves - If there is water, he will paddle it (regardless of craft). Clarke is a surfer turned paddler who grew up in San Diego but has traveled every corner of California enjoying its beauty and appeal. He has had the privilege of racing OC6, OC2, OC1, SUP, prone, dragon boat and surf-ski.
One of Clarke's goals is to paddle as much shoreline in California as he can, with as many paddling friends who are willing to join him. If you have an idea for Clarke to write about or any questions, send it our way and we will pass it along!