The 2019 Gorge Paddle Challenge was an exciting race with many of the top paddleboard athletes from around the world battling it out for top podium spots and a very well supported open division. As normal, it was a two-day event that consisted of a Double Downwinder on Saturday and a Technical Course race on Sunday. The wind was cranking both days, which was incredible for the double downwinder, but absolutely painful for the course race.

Starboard Team riders put in phenomenal performances all-round throughout the weekend, which saw the Tiki team riders filling many of the top podium positions. Long-time team riders Connor Baxter and Fiona Wylde flexed their top-notch downwinder skills to win both their respective men’s and women’s Double Downwinder titles. You can read the in-depth SUP Racer recap here. However, it was the new kids on the block that raised an eyebrow, stepping the pace and leaving their more senior competitors in their wake.  Keep your eye out for these new kids on the block ~ Clemént Colmas (New Caledonia), Sam McCullough (Australia) and Keoni Sulpice (Tahiti).

 

Team Starboard SUP Paddleboard Race Triumphant at 2019 Gorge Paddle Challenge, Hood River downwind connor baxter fiona wylde mens podium

 

Read on for more 2019 Gorge Paddle Games event recaps from the Starboard Dream team riders…

 

Team Starboard SUP Paddleboard Race Triumphant at 2019 Gorge Paddle Challenge, Hood River downwind connor baxter fiona wylde cover technical buoy turn

Connor:

“It kicked off Saturday with the double downwinder and my board of choice was the new and improved 2020 Starboard All Star. This board was definitely working to my favor out in the steep conditions, allowing me to have that Ace like feel, but still having the capabilities to surf it. The first run went good as the top three men, including myself, surfed back and forth for most of the race. I was able to sneak away at the end, with about a minute lead, to finish in first.

 

 

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The double downwinder is based on combining your times for the two runs – so every second counts. For the second run the bumps were still good, but the wind definitely slowed down a bit, so there were some slow areas. I managed to race hard, but was passed at the end by Noic. I made sure to have less than a minute between us so that I could claim the Overall Title. Taking the win for the double downwinder felt great and I was looking forward to the course race on Sunday.

The course race for the men’s elite started at 1:30, which was the windiest part of the day, but everyone had the same conditions, so I lined up and was able to get a great start and turn the first buoy in first. It was so windy if you stopped paddling or had any type of slip up you went backwards. So it was a ton of work upwind, but a little ride downwind, which was nice. I stayed in the top pack for the first three laps and on the fourth lap I started to push the pace in 4th place. Lucky for me 2nd and 3rd place went a little off course giving me a chance to jump up two spots. I was really stoked to have walked away with a first and second-place finish at this year’s event in Hood River.

I want to thank my major sponsors for all their support – Starboard, Salt Life, Harmless Harvest Coconut Water, Haleakala Solar. And my product sponsors Dakine, GoPro, OnIt Pro, Hi-Tech Sports.

Also a big Mahalo to all the event organizers and volunteers. ”

 

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Fiona:

“Just about everything happened this weekend at the 2019 Gorge Paddle Challenge; I won my 5th event title, hosted Friday Funday (a free SUP kids event), raced in epic Gorge downwinder conditions, got to spend the weekend with incredible friends from all over the world sharing Hood River, and if that wasn’t enough, my grandma paddled and raced in her first Viento run at age 77. She got 3rd in her age group and received a standing ovation on the podium.

 

 

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This event truly captures the community spirit of Hood River. Everybody is smiling, everybody is having fun and helping each other out and the worlds best get to battle it out! It’s such an honor to be part of it and to win in front of my family and hometown crowd is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Thanks to everybody who makes this event possible! It truly is special.”

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Clément:

“I placed 3rd overall in the double downwinder event with a 4th position in the technical race. It was the windiest Gorge Paddle Challenge event I have ever done – the bumps were crazy and the battle with friends was awesome.

This event is so special. Thanks so much to everyone made it possible for me to be able to compete here today!”

 

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Sam:

“It’s really great to be back in Hood River, we had such fun with epic conditions that remind me so much of home in Perth, Western Australia. It’s a really cool town filled with friendly people and strong winds blowing down the valley.

I am very happy to take out the 15-17y/o category in both the Downwind and Technical Course races, I also won the open in both races too.

As the Gorge boasts textbook downwind conditions, I opted to take the new 2020 Ace as this is the best board for catching those bumps and maintain long glides,  finishing in a time of 00:58:57.45. The conditions for the technical course race were a little different, so I pulled out the 2020 All Star which is great in these varied conditions  – going upwind well, handled the side chop with ease and down winded great too.

Thanks to everyone for their support and all those that made it a fun weekend of paddling!”

 


 

You can see the full 2019 Gorge Paddle Challenge results here >>

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