The 10th annual Gorge Paddle Challenge that took place at Hood River, Oregon this past weekend was action-packed with riders competing in the famous river ‘Double Downwinder’ races in 25+ knots of wind, an exciting course race with super lap format and the first-ever wingfoil course race event in the Gorge. Our Starboard Dream Team rider and Hood River local SUP-star, Fiona Wylde, bagged a win in both the long-distance and course races to take the overall win at the 2021 Gorge Paddle Challenge.
With the passing of head coach Steve Gates earlier this year, it made for an emotional but memorable event for the Oregon based waterwomen:
“The 10th annual Gorge Paddle Challenge was an emotional weekend creating so many new memories honoring the one who got this whole thing started, Steve Gates.
Personally, I had the best weekend I could have possibly had. I got to watch all of the JET kids race their hearts out in 25+ knots. I took over the position of Head Coach of the Big Winds JET Team in 2019 when Steves health began to deteriorate. This was my first year running the proper program – as we weren’t able to in 2020 – and I am so proud of how well every kid has done and how disciplined the kids are to arrive at 6:30 am for training. We’ve been training all summer and all 24 kids finished the course. Not only do they work hard, but they have also become really great paddlers!
In the main events, the Open Men and Open Women were charging like no other year and the elite race was filled with excitement as the hot lap returned in the course race to fuel a super spectator event.
I am so happy to have won my first ever Gorge Paddle Challenge course race! It took me 10 years to do so, but it was so worth the wait. In doing so, I have now won the overall Gorge Paddle Challenge 6 times, five times in a row. It’s an honor to hold this many CPC titles and I attribute every one of them to Steve and what he taught me about determination.”
Fionna also won the first-ever wingfoil course race at the Gorge Paddle Challenge, making it a trifecta win and a spectacular weekend of competition.
“Winning the wing foil course race made this weekend a trifecta for me – first a win in the SUP Double Downwinders, followed by a win in the SUP course race, and then a win in the wing foil course race!
There is so much more I could say, but all in all, a special weekend thanks to the Gates Family. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
Fiona’s Paddleboard Race Setup used at Gorge Paddle Challenge:
- Board: Starboard All Star 14 x 22.5 in Carbon Sandwich
- Paddle: Starboard Lima in Prepreg Carbon
- Fin: Black Project SUP Condor
Photo Credits: Aidan Nicholas (@ao__productions) and Jennifer Gulizia (@gorgeusphoto)