Seven Windsurfing Wonders of the World

Oregon: Gorging on the Columbia River

Tricky, challenging—and very windy. That's how best to describe the Pacific Northwest's premier windsurfing destination: the Columbia River Gorge.

To sail the Gorge, you had better be pretty good. At the peak of summer, when the thermal winds are really pumping up the Columbia, expect a solid 20 to 30 knots, with some days of more than 40. And, unlike in Aruba, should you take a tumble in the gorge, you won't find any nice sandy spots to cushion your fall.
Summer water temperatures are around sixty-five to seventy degrees F near the banks, and most windsurfers get by with short-sleeved conventional wet suits. Air temps at this time of year are typically in the high 80s to 90s.

Experts will find good sailing from Swell City to the Hatchery. Windsurfers of all levels should head to the stretch between Rowena and Doug's Beach. Novices should make their way to Bingen and the Hood River Marina, the most popular spot on the river.

Doug's Sports (101 Oak Avenue, Hood river, OR 97031. 541.386.5787. has the most complete line of equipment in the area. Big WInds School (207 Front St., Hood River, OR 97031. 541.386.6086. offers lessons-and-rental packages and sells complete rigs and accessories. Sailworld (112 Oak Ave., Hood River, OR 97031. 541.386.9400. is a retail windsurf shop that also books lessons. For more information on the gorge and its sailing options, contact Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Association (541.386.9225 -

There are also several quaint local hotels. And for those on a tigher budget, you can camp at one of the many private resorts and state parks along the Columbia. Advance reservations are a must for most good camping spots. Contact the Oregon State Parks and Recreational Division, Reservations Northwest (P.O. Box 500, Portland, OR 97207. 800.452.5687.

Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 20 Jun 2001 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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