Recap of the 8th Annual edition Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge!

The 8th Annual edition Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge was unleashed last weekend, and it proved to be a weekend of serious action and fun! The Gorge is one of 10 “major” stops on The Paddle League World Tour (Tahiti, Carolina, OluKai, Zamami, Bilbao, Hossegor, Scharbeutz, Molokai-2-Oahu, The Gorge and next month’s 11 City Tour)The event is considered one of the pillars of our sport and  attracted 300+ paddlers, including a mixture of international superstars, weekend warriors, first-timers and juniors.

Photo Credit: paddleleaguegeorgiasphoto

The location on Hood River, Oregon is a mecca not only for downwind paddling but also kitesurfing and windsurfing. The iconic Columbia River Gorge produces unique downwind conditions as westerly winds work against the downstream current to produce perfect bumps (competitors actually paddle upstream). Furthermore Hood River is also home to one of the biggest junior training squads in the world of SUP, with several of the JET kids (Junior Elite Team) featuring on the podiums this weekend.

Photo Credit:  paddleleaguegeorgiasphoto

Chris Parker from The Paddle League was on hand to give TotalSUP a run down of events. The Marquee event of the weekend was the ‘Double Downwinder’, an event that gives elite competitors back-to-back downwind runs along the roughly 8-mile (13km) course from Viento State Park back to the town of Hood River; times are combined from each run to produce the overall leaderboard. The big show didn’t disappoint, with solid bumps and an even more solid field of star athletes from around the world.

Photo Credit: paddleleaguegeorgiasphoto

The trick with the Gorge race is that is a very technical one: paddlers don’t just have to read the bumps, they also have to read the current and pick the best line down the wide open expanse of the river; at several points we saw the top contenders virtually even but separated by 200-300 metres left to right. Last weekend the story of the day was definitely on the epic performance of 16-year-old Noic Garioud from New Caledonia, who earned a stunning victory for Team Sunova ahead of virtually all of the world’s top paddlers!

Photo Credit: paddleleaguegeorgiasphoto

The opening leg of the Double Down was a battle of the New Caledonian young guns, with Noic finishing just a few seconds ahead of 17-year-old fellow islander Clement ColmasNoic cemented his status as one of the world’s best paddlers with a clear victory in the second run to claim the overall Double Down title by more than a minute; the young champion has shown huge potential over the past 18 months but this is by far the biggest result of his brief career. 

Photo Credit: paddleleaguegeorgiasphoto

The tiny Pacific island nation almost swept the podium with NSP man Titouan Puyo  finishing just five seconds behind third place-getter (and defending champ) Bernd Roediger from Team Naish on combined times. Last year’s champion Bernd overcame strong challenges from Titou, Lincoln Dews, Travis Grant and Connor Baxter to claim a well earned podium spot.

Photo Credit: paddleleague georgiasphoto

While Noic was the clear stand-out, the rest of the field was locked in a see-sawing battle and almost every placing changed between the first and second runs. Connor, Matt Nottage (Starboard), Marcus Hansen from Team NSP  and Fanatic rider Arthur Arutkin all had strong performances to round out the top 10 ahead of a who’s who of the paddling world.

Photo Credit: paddleleaguegeorgiasphoto

 In an extraordinary sub-plot, the French-speaking athletes from France, New Caledonia and Tahiti scored an incredible 10 of the top 20 spots (and backed it up on Sunday with 7 of the top 10). In addition to the SUP divisions there were also surfski and outrigger races alongside the new SUP foil category that’s fast becoming a star attraction of downwind events.

Photo Credit: paddleleaguegeorgiasphoto

The Women’s Double Downwind event had one of the strongest women’s fields we’ve seen all year, but became clear in the opening minutes that defending champ and hot favourite Starboard rider Fiona Wylde (Starboard) would turn this into a race for second: the hometown hero was far too good in the bumps and virtually shut the door after winning the first run by more than two minutes.

Photo Credit:   paddleleague georgiasphoto

But while Fiona was in a league of her own, the battle for the other steps on the podium was tight Aussie Molokai Terrene Black from ECS was the only one to keep Fiona within shouting distance in the opening few miles, however Maui wunderkind Annie Reickert  showed why she’s considered a future champion by charging home for a runner-up finish. 

Photo Credit:   paddleleaguegeorgiasphoto

After another see-sawing battle on the second run, Annie held off Terrene to secure the overall runner-up position and collect what is surely the biggest result of her young career. Under-rated French paddler Amandine Chazot  looked right at home in Oregon, sneaking ahead of Terrene on the second run to claim fourth overall and continue the French domination! Others to impress included April Zilg, Seychelle and Angie Jackson with just 30 seconds separating 5th, 6th and 7th after almost two and a half hours of downwind paddling

Sunday Races

Sunday’s full lineup of course races at Hood River’s Waterfront Park started with the inspiring Grom and Super Grom races, where standouts included Mary Rose Kissinger in the girls’ race and Finn Spencer and Shuri “Shrimpy” Araki from Japan in the boys’ race.

Photo Credit:  paddleleaguegeorgiasphoto

A hot lap event (the ‘Hot Lap’ follows the super lap format where athletes take a shortcut of about 100m/300ft on one of their four laps) was laid on where Shae Foudy from Infinity took out the women’s ‘Hot Lap’ showdown after a strategic race that saw several top women roll the dice and take their shortcut early in the race. 

Photo Credit:  paddleleague / georgiasphoto

Choosing not to take her shortcut early, Shae had to fight through the field until the end of the penultimate lap when her ‘Hot Lap’ kicked in and she suddenly jumped from 6th to 1st. Saturday’s Double Down hero Fiona Wylde was relegated to fourth, with 425 paddler Olivia Piana and Seychelle securing top three spots in the tough headwind/downwind conditions.

Photo Credit: paddleleague / georgiasphoto

The men’s ‘Hot Lap’ showdown was an entertaining spectacle, with Titouan Puyo acting like the “Pied Piper of France” after dragging every single paddler around the shortcut buoy. Except Team Rogue’s Mo Freitas that is: Mo was in the lead at the end of lap one but chose to save his shortcut for the third loop, eventually finishing 5th behind Tahitian dark horse Enzo Bennett.

Photo Credit:  paddleleague / georgiasphoto

But out front it was a two-horse race between Titou and his compatriot Arthur Arutkin, with the Frenchies working hard on the upwind legs before gliding clear of the field on the brief downwind stretches around the course;  Arthur seriously challenged Titou in the final 500 metres but the defending Hot Lap champion held on for a celebratory victory; he was also joined on the podium by NSP team mate Marcus Hansen.

Race Results

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– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
(combined times from both DW runs)

1st: Noic Garioud (1:58:33) Sunova
2nd: Clement Colmas (1:59:58) Starboard
3rd: Bernd Roediger (2:00:33) Naish
4th: Titouan Puyo (2:00:38) NSP
5th: Lincoln Dews (2:00:41) DEEP
6th: Travis Grant (2:01:25) NSP
7th Connor Baxter (2:02:01) Starboard
8th: Matt Nottage (2:02:37) Starboard
9th: Marcus Hansen (2:02:53) NSP
10th: Arthur Arutkin (2:04:42) Fanatic
11th: Vinnicius Martins (2:04:59) JP
12th: Jake Jensen (2:05:17) ONE
13th: Tom Auber (2:06:09) Fanatic
14th: Georges Cronsteadt (2:06:45) 425
15th: Enzo Bennett (2:07:24) 425
16th: Alexandre Bicrel (2:07:30) NSP
17th: Ty Judson (2:07:41) NSP
18th: Martin Letourneur (2:07:59) Hobie
19th: Martin Vitry (2:08:16) SIC
20th: Chase Kosterlitz (2:08:51) JP

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
(combined times from both DW runs)

1st: Fiona Wylde (2:15:38)
2nd: Annie Reickert (2:19:10)
3rd: Terrene Black (2:20:37)
4th: Amandine Chazot (2:21:38)
5th: April Zilg (2:22:04)
6th: Seychelle (2:22:25)
7th: Angela Jackson (2:22:34)
8th: Shae Foudy (2:25:16)
9th: Olivia Piana (2:28:07)
10th: Jade Howson (2:28:54)
11th: Yuka Sato (2:30:04)
12th: Candice Appleby (2:31:07)
13th: Hannah Hill (2:31:16)
14th: Stephanie Shideler (2:32:51)
15th: Kimberly Barnes (2:34:52)
16th: Shannon Bell (2:35:19)
17th: Lara Claydon (2:36:52)
18th: Sarah Sandstrom (2:38:34)
19th: Erika Benitez (2:38:52)
20th: Susanne Lier (2:39:07)



About the Author

Helen Trehoret

SUP, OC1, V6, Surfski ... and field hockey coaching, Helen is a busy British mother of two who lives in Bretagne, France with a passion for all things Ocean. Helen runs Barrachou SUP, a SUP tour company specialized in excursions around Bretagne and Scotland.

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