It all started with an email from Joby Cook a couple months ago; where he was letting us know that something special was gonna take place this year at Hood River, Oregon. The first competitive event done by the Slider Project crew, focused in obstacles and wakestyle riding. I was stocked to be in that emailing list, which only included the invited riders for the event, a whole crew of international renamed kiteboarding athletes.
In previous years the Slider Project crew, leaded by Joby Cook, Forrest Rae and others, had put together similar events, but instead these were in form of Jams. Which actually started with some friends coming over to join them for some sessions during the short summer season, and withing time turned into one of the most known and legit freeride events focused in wakestyle and rail riding in kiteboarding’s scene.
Little that i know, this year’s event was gonna be way different than my first and previous trip in 2009 to HR. Where at the time of my arrival, the crew was focusing in finishing the ”Airush BigBox” the highlight of that year’s Slider Jam event. Basically we worked nonstop to finish it, and get it ready. It all went as planned and the event was a success, with people coming from around the world to chill and ride the new feature so as other ones built earlier. Plenty of coverage and a really good vibe went down, so this year they decided to step it up once again but in a different way.
The Ro Sham Throw Down was called, in which the riders had to play rock-paper-scissors to determinate the heat they were gonna be in. The spirit of the event was the same as previous years, just chill, ride and have fun; but this time there were gonna be judged. What the judges wanted to see was an all round performance, in wakestyle tricks so as rail riding. The rules were set to: boots, kite low, wakestyle moves, to ride all the features; oh! and no kiteloops! (but there still were some)
There were some open spots besides the invited riders list. These spots where set to be determinated with 2 qualifying heats, open to who ever showed up to give it a try, a couple of days prior to the event.
But before flying into HR, i was eager to find out how everything was gonna go down; but i didn’t find much info until i got there. It turn out that the ”Boss”, Joby, got injured recently and was unable to perform some of his duties. So the plan was to get everything ready for the event, while he was getting his ankle fix. This meant lots of trips to the strip clubs for some, and plenty of work for others.
Despite of this situation, everything was cool in the Hood. Had my first session the next day i came in, together with Forrest. While i was riding almost alone in the Sandbar, where the Airush BigBox was set together with the Wainman pickle (flat 20ft box), an amazing thing happened. All of the sudden a big crew started walking down the long path to the end of the sandbar, these guys were bringing some kind of metal structure that i wasn’t yet able to define what it was. I got curious, so i put my kite down and came close to find out more. It ended up being a 48ft Aluminum slider, made by Mat Sexton and his local crew from Florida. Looked like everybody helped out to haul that monster, that was in pieces, all the way down there; so i felt in need to do my part as well. We put it together and went into the water to help set it. Wind was on, 8mt weather, and everybody started to hit it. Some of these guys have been riding rails for long time, on kites so as cable parks; which i could tell by the way they were riding and some chats i had in the meantime. I was a little more cautious in the beginning, since i haven’t really been riding that much rails lately and done much kiting neither since a knee injury. After seeing some of these guys ripping on it i gave it a try, and was able to ride it all the way a couple of times. Guys were killing on it, like Eric Rienstra, Billy Parker, Brandom Scheid, Sam Medysky together with Mat Sexton and some others.
Monday morning weather had changed, wind was nuking and it was considerably cold. We got together at Joby’s house to figure out everything for the event. While some were working on the paperwork, Jake Cook, Matthew Kobelinski and I started building the ”Big Black” from a 24ft drain pipe and some metal. After a couple hours the rail was ready so as the flyer with the event schedule.
Next day i hit the local skate park for a while, and then went down to the Sandbar. Claire Lutz was out, training on her skills for the event, so i took some pix. Good to see the girls charging, like her so was local friend Arla. This day i realized what an amazing place the Hood is. While most of the people are following the winter waves year round from the north to the south hemisphere and not sharing their scores, we scoopers have little spots where to find set up’s and conditions we want. Spending most of my time in Maui, Hawaii; i know what this means. I got really good conditions but sometimes summer over here can be pretty boring. Hood River has to be one of the few spots out there with such great conditions and a permanent set up for hitting rails and it’s a cool place to share you troops. Despite of it’s short 4 months kiteable season, what has been achieved here it’s inspiring. While in events like the SSS, which is being hold in Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, where features are often put away after each session and are sometimes restricted to be use by some lucky few; Hood River stands over them. Thanks to the Slider Project and some other enthusiastic people, there’s a kite park set out there 24/7 for everybody who is keen to hit them and got the right attitude. Something that’s hard to find around these days, but it all gets done with the support of everybody who comes over to lean a hand and share the stoke. Local people work hard to make this happen and they want to get the most out of it from their short season, that’s why when people show up with the right vibe they are rewarded with their respect, and share with them this great set up. So no matter if experience or not, u can always go out and count that there will be something to shred on out there.
Wednesday was the winch day, due to the absence of the wind. Earlier that day Brave Dave from Slingshot was kind enough to contribute with the 30ft red Slingshot rail. Together with Eric Rienstra we went to pick it up and deliver it to the spot. Local Dr. Tom showed up later and helped me put it together and float it tru to cold water of the Hood River. People gathered around for a sunset winch sesh, thanks to Mat Sexton’s contribution. Glassy conditions, cool friendly vibe we all rode till the sun finally set.
Thursday was on! First day of the qualifiers, an early call for those who specially came to the event and weren’t invited. 1st heat saw some impressive performances, Jesse Richman, from Maui was killing out there. Powered style, lots of air tricks and smooth rail riding did the trick for him. Together with Matt Collins and Mat Sexton where the highlights of the first heat. The wind didn’t last enough for the second heat, which was posponed till the next day.
Heat #2 saw a Alex Fow, Jon Van Malsen and Brian ”BCS” Smith advancing together with locals Texier, Houtz and Brady. The list was completed and the scheduled photo shoot afterwords didn’t last that long. Wind was kinda dieing earlier again, so we called in for the day. That night Brave Dave put up the opening party of the event at his house with a sick BBQ. At this time the qualified riders that made it to the event were announced. Photographer Bryan Elkus had managed to advanced, but instead he gave up his spot to be able to shoot the event, what a great guy, and professional he is!
Everything was ready for Saturday, the event day, but due to the strange behavior of the wind the heats were reduced to half a hour duration, to make sure the whole event was able to be ran. Early in the morning, it was a mission against the strong and gusty wind, we gathered around and headed down to start setting scaffolding for the judges and tents for the sponsors. Liquid Force’s Tekko put together the appreciation tent with plenty food and drinks just for the riders. So as other sponsors showed up with their own crew to support their riders.
Joby gathered everybody around and announced the rules, followed by the rock-paper-scissors throw down to sort the heats. Some really interesting heats, with big names next to impressive newcomers set the vibe for a cool event.
Wind was still blowing strong, and the boys from the first heat went out to warm up. From each of the 3 heats, 2 riders were supposed to advance to a 6 man final. But due to the high level and tough calls for the judges they ended up choosing 3 guys, for a 9 man final.
#1 Heat saw Hadlow and Lenten stepping the game for everybody else with some solid all round riding and putting out a nice show while the judges encourage them to throw down some tech tricks. Advancing as well was Sam Medysky with a good run, but some others were already left behind like Sexton, Rienstra, Jensen in between others.
Everything was going as plan, and the rhythm of the competition was on.
With Joby’s tunes selection setting the groove, #2 heat riders started warming up. The wind was still strong, kinda gusty but holding. This heat had the presence of most of the Real crew, with Scheid, Sleazy and Brian ”BCS” Smith; against some locals and international comers. Jesse Richman showed a great performance once again, just like the one before in the qualies, and he earned a spot in the final. Scheid and Parker joined him into it as well. Van Malsen, BCS, Matt Collins and Jake Cook were left behind.
Following this heat was my turn together with some of the local talent, like Dylan Thompson, Ian Daly and Reed Todd Brady. Completing the heat was Davey Blair, Alex Fox, Sam Bell and Sam Light. By this time i had the hope that the wind was gonna start mellowing a bit, but this actually back fire on me. The wind did go down but it also got more gustier, so guys like me on 6mts were barely staying upwind by the end of the heat. Those with a bigger kite and more luck were throwing down better. This might sound like excuses or not, but that’s the way i saw it. Anyway there was great talent out there and in competition what matters is not how good you actually are, if not how good can you perform in the conditions you get ( i suck at both trust me). Advancing were Light, Sam Bell, and qualifier winner Todd Brady.
The boys took some time to chill after the 3 on a row heats, and it was time for the ladies. Unfortunately the wind got more weird, it went from 6mt to 13mt weather withing an hour, and the girls were suffering out there. Real crew member Lulu took the first position, against Claire Lutz, Arla Funk and Laura Maher. Some were struggling not to go downwind with the current light and gusty winds. So Lulu took advantage of this and came out being the winner. It was a pity for them not to have had some decent conditions to perform, we were all hoping to see a better show from the girls since we were seeing how they were performing earlier in the week.
With the girls out of the way, it was time for the main show, the 9 men final; which was put on hold until the wind gave it’s last push. On big kites the final was ran, supposedly an hour long, but only half an hour length due to the death of the wind. Everybody was throwing down and they put a great show but that was it, with no more wind we all packed and headed back.
The winners were to be announced at the party that night, at the local British Pub. Most of the riders attended with the exception of the young crew riders under 21, who weren’t able to get in due to the local bar laws. With the buzz already kicking in, Joby took the mic and thanked everybody for their support and help. He then announced the winners, coming in 3rd place was Billy Parker, followed by Brandon Scheid in 2nd. First was taken by, familiarized with this spot, Aaron Hadlow, who showed some massive tech and smooth skills in wakestyle tricks so as in the rails. Music kept pumping and the buzz rolling, until i woke up the next day with a big headache and no phone. Some how i managed to loose it in the wild Hoody nights.
After relaxing and taking it easy for a while i found out where my phone was, and laughed to some forgotten last night stories. Then I decided to head down to the sandbar for my last sesh in the Hood. Looked like everybody was destroyed, cause not many people showed up and those who did were still dizzy. Wind was nuking once again with gust blowing sand over the sandbar; it didn’t encourage anybody to head out. Chilling with some of the crew, i ended up recovering my phone, and waited for the wind to mellow down. After reconsidering it many times, and following some brave ones i went down for the last sesh in the almost empty kite park. Rode with Parker, Sexton, Texier and Fox for a while on my 6mt. Little by little the wind stabilized more as the boys started leaving. With the park all for my self, except for some dangleberry’s taking over the flat water and cutting my tacks, i was able to enjoy it and train on my skills. I was felling more confident and consistent, and was able to nailed a couple of nice presses with some rotations as well, despite of the remaining headache. When the sun started setting some boys joined me for a sunset session. Rode together with Rienstra, Sam Light and Rick Jensen; and photographer Jon Malmberg came out to shot. I ended up riding for like 4 hours straight and had a killer last sesh. I totally had forgotten about the BBQ at Pepi’s house but i was able to make it before it was to late and joined everybody for a delicious last dinner before heading back to Maui.
The Hood had proved me once again, that there’s no need of wanting to spend a life 100% by the ocean, this spot can be as good or better than summers in Maui. It’s a great place to spend a couple of months when the wind is on, and the weather warms a bit. From a sick skatepark, to a crew whiling to put together a full on kite park, to the even summer snow sesh you can still score, the Hood is perfect. The vibe is great, the people is cool, and the party…well i can’t remember much but i figure out it was good too; if not you can always join the crew heading to the strip clubs.
This was my week in the Hood, a place i would always try to go back and i recommend to you, fellow scooper, to try out some of it’s magic.
Thanks Hood River for your love.