of the Easterlies
The Columbia River Gorge
is world renowned for big wind, big wave windsurfing. With
change of seasons, summer to winter, the Gorge draws a different
windsurfer. A seeker of the true extreme in high wind, extreme
weather windsurfing. Stevenson, Washington is the center of
this niche extreme practice of the sport.
In the fall most windsurfers leave the Gorge for warmer climes—Baja,
Maui and other such venues. On the heels of that exodus comes
the sailing season a small core of sailors relish. The East
Wind Days in Stevenson. A diet of steady 40-45 knot winds
pushing 5-foot waves turn the river into a windsurfer’s
ideal playground, except the temperatures. Air temps in the
40’s are considered balmy. The water temp hovers in
the 30’s and snow often lies on the banks of the river.
A combination of geography and predictable weather conditions
create the Gorge winds. In the summer, the hot air of the
Great Basin desert rises drawing the cooler air over the Pacific
Ocean inland seeking to equalize pressure. Hitting the crest
of the Cascades Mountains, the air is forced through the relatively
narrow slot where the Gorge breaks the mountains. The westerlies
pump and the crowds follow.
In the winter, the same geography sets the stage for Stevenson’s
epic east winds. Cold arctic air drops into the Great Basin
from Canada. As the warmer air off the Pacific rises, the
cold interior air is drawn toward the ocean to equalize the
pressure. Unlike the summer winds, which emulate a sea breeze,
growing stronger as the day warms, the easterlies blow hard
all day and all night driven by major weather systems. It
is not uncommon to have strings of 45-knot days one after
another with rolling waves of 6 feet in the river.
Heavy wet suits or dry suits are de rigueur. Bootees, gloves,
and hoods are mandatory. Small sails and smaller boards. With
water temperatures hovering in the 30’s, gear busting
epic waves and wind, the easterlies leave no room for mistakes.
Stronger. Colder. Bigger waves. And a special breed of windsurfer.
The easterlies may not be the track you seek, but watching
those who come from afar to rip the waves will give you an
up close appreciation for the extreme side of windsurfing
in the Columbia River Gorge.
Make Tracks to Stevenson where hardcore windsurfers play
For more information:
For Photos: www.cityofstevenson/eastwind
Please credit photographer if used.