Oct 20, 2008
Author: Patrick Bergeron
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Ride Guide: The Hatchery
In 1990, at age 20, I load up my Toyota van and make my first five-day, 4,828-kilometre trek east to the Gorge from Quebec City. Upon arrival, just after passing the infamous Hood River toll bridge, I have my first view of Mt. Hood across the Columbia River. While barreling down Washington’s Highway 14, I race a never-ending train down the straightaway into the final S-turn and finally to my ultimate destination: the Hatchery.
On my first day, I try to settle in gently and not raise any dust on the water. So I drive all the way down to a little secret beach, accessible only through what I later find out are poison-oak bushes, where I launch my assault on the huge river swells. After a few warm-up runs, I sail upwind to “The Point” to get a closer look at the local heroes. This is a crazy era dominated by one move in particular: Forward Loop. Hatchery regulars Tony “Sergeant Loop” Barbieri, Pascal Hardy, Corey Harrison, Carl Meinberg and the entire Windance crew are looping high and dry over my head. Jumping even higher is Bruce Peterson on a fully cambered Sailworks rig. I soon realize my newly developed Duck Jibes are no match in the “Jibatorium” for those of Pete “Duck Jibe Meister” Wagner, who shows me, in person, how to do it Gorge-style. This may be too much for me, but I’m happy to be sailing the most famous flatwater windsurfing site in the world.
The way this section of the Columbia River appears as you look down the Gorge from Hood River, Oregon, toward Portland, part of which is known as the “Corridor,” is second to none. To this day, I get the same adrenaline rush every time I drive that stretch of road and make the left turn into the Spring Creek Fish Hatchery parking lot.
Hatchery Riding Tips
- It’s usually crowded. Obey all sailing right-of-way rules.
- Be respectful and considerate at all times.
- Watch out for barges every time you cross the river.
- The current is usually extremely strong, so account for it.
- Windsurfing at the Hatchery is a privilege, not a right. Don’t break the rules and ruin it for everyone.
- Don’t litter. Do what the sign says: “Pack it in, pack it out.”
- Do not block the road that runs through the parking lot.
- Keep your dog on a leash.
- Keep an eye out for anyone who may be in trouble and need help.
- Do not leave your equipment unattended.
- On nuclear days, beware of loose gear flying free on the water and in the parking lot.
- Park wisely and don’t save a space for someone when the lot is filling up.
- Share the access by keeping it clear of gear at all times.
- Leave the sailing lane at The Point for advanced sailors. Though no one owns the river, this is the one area where top sailors congregate to push each other’s limits in the most radical conditions.
words by Patrick Bergeron
photos by Richard Hallman