A good time to go is the Canada Day long weekend, or on the Gorge Beach Bash weekend, where demo gear is available for use for free or a very low daily cover charge ($10?).
The wind conditions, equipment rentals, lessons, and other options available in the city of Hood River makes this trip ideal for windsurfers of all skill levels.
When you windsurf at the Gorge, you are sailing on the Columbia River which flows east-to-west along the Washington-Oregon state border. The wind is usually westerly (i.e., flows west-to-east) which makes for some interesting sailing conditions.
Get more local knowledge about windsurfing at Hood River from the Columbia River Gorge Windsurfing Association, a not-for-profit organization that creates and maintains the many windsurfing launch sites around the Gorge.
Expect temperatures 15C to 25C, and wind speeds of 15 to 25+ knots, averaging in the 20-25 knot range depending on where you launch.
You can rent windsurfing gear in Hood River.
Hood River is like an athletic town, with lots of wind, many different launch spots, two large windsurfing shops Big Winds and Windance (with rentals, and retail merchandise), several windsurfing schools, and safe areas for learning. For advanced windsurfers, you can rent a board and quiver package, that you can take to many windsurfing locations around the gorge area.
There is also a hotel (Holiday Inn), and camping. Canadians who travel to Hood River for windsurfing usually camp at Tucker Campground.
In the past, ClubLocarno’s windsurfing equipment was not permitted to be taken across the border for windsurfing. However club members who have purchased their off-site high-wind pass and self-organized groups of members may be allowed to take club gear with the prior permission of the Windsurfing Director (email email@example.com). The total amount of club gear that will be allowed to go will be very limited however. It is often better to to just rent gear at hood river (you can swap sails, boards, etc) and/or take advantage of the low cost ($10?/day) demos on the Beach Bash weekend.
If you are very interested or somewhat interested/unsure, you consider “holding the date” in your calendar and at least attend a pre-trip planning sessions held by club members who are interested.
Indicate your intentions to go on the trip so you can find others who may want to go also. An electronic (e.g., the club website) or physical signup sheet is one way to do this.
Check back on the list of participants from time to time to see who else is planning to go, and get in touch with them to share plans. In addition, you should join the ClubLocarno Windsurfing Google Group so you can communicate with more people as a group.
People usually meet on Wednesday evening at Jericho, near the windsurfing area, for one final group discussion before the weekend trip. For more Q&A it is best to use the google group.
You’ll need to organize your own transportation. Camping gear. Passport/Nexus Card. Sun-screen. Wetsuit. Do a some research before going. Tell other club members, you’re interested. Share contact information (email, phone) so you can communicate while in transit.
You should swap phone/email addresses to send SMS or email to others if you want to communicate with them while at Hood River. For US phone/TXT/data plans, check out Roam Mobility. You can buy their SIM card at London Drugs, then top up your plan via their website.
Tucker Campground is the campsite that people from BC normally use. The cost ranges from $20-30 per night (with vehicle), paid by self-serve kiosk. The kiosk accepts credit card. Tucker has hot showers, flush toilets, drinking water, and electric outlets in most washrooms. There are no wild animals.
Here are the directions to get to Tucker Campground: https://goo.gl/maps/hOOBb
The entrance to the park is a little difficult to find. To get there:
Within the last 5-minutes of getting to Tucker Campground going South, you will cross the bridge for Hood River while driving along Hwy 281. When the road forks into two roads, take the right fork onto Dee Hwy (do not take the Left which goes up a hill and is called Odell Hwy). After about two minutes, you will see an unmarked exit from the road on your right. That’s the entrance to Tucker Campground. Hood River is actually a small river, not the same as the Columbia River which is what people sail on at the Gorge!
If you look at the google map, street view, you can see what the exit actually looks like: http://goo.gl/1YcG0x
Here is the Hood River County’s description of Tucker Campground: http://goo.gl/nlMNMM
You can rent windsurfing gear at one of the two board shops in town, Big Winds or Windance. NOTE: Big Winds not longer does equipment rentals right on the beach (aka the Event Site) but does do daily rentals at The Hook. Both Big Winds and Windance have daily or multi-day rentals which include a few sails, one or two masts and a board). You have to be able to transport gear to the various launch sites (i.e. have a vehicle with crossbars) and be able to rig/de-rig your gear on site.
Both stores know some of us Canadian windsurfing groups who go down, .. like Club Locarno and the owner of Windance is actually Canadian.
Depending on the wind you may get advice on board and sail size from the rental store; it is possible to change gear during the rental period but the available boards tend to be on the smaller end (<= 145L) and choice may be limited during peak times unless you book ahead.
Daytime rentals get returned at 5pm. If you do a multi-day rental you can sail longer into the evening wherever there is wind. When you rent you have to put down a deposit but don't have to state the exact number of days you want the gear for (just give a rough estimate and pay when you return the equipment. At least this is true Big Winds as of 2016 but presumable this is also the case with Windance.
For more beginner windsurfers who don't feel comfortable on smaller boards and/or in high winds, you can also rent gear by the hour at The Hook. Here there is a protected lagoon but it is still possible to sail outside the lagoon to experience higher winds and much of the area outside the lagoon is quite shallow (thigh deep) and in the event you get into trouble the wind will blow you back to shore.
For morning coffee and light breakfast, Ground Coffee has become a popular place for Locarno windsurfers. They also have free WiFi and wall sockets to charge your mobile devices. It's also literally a 30 second walk from there to Big Winds. Another great choice is Doppio. In the last couple of years they have built along the river front close to the Event Site where there are several places to get coffee, ice cream, sandwiches, pizza and other food and drink.
In the past we used to frequent Egg River which has a nice big sit down breakfast but it gets really busy especially on the weekend and there can be quite a wait time especially if you have a larger group.
For evening dinner / drinks, between Tucker’s campground and Hood River, there is La Taqueria for inexpensive Mexican, and on the adjacent block, Thai House. In the town of Hood River itself, there are lots of options for food, like Full Sail Brewing Company, a local brew pub. The town also has a Safeway for groceries, beer, etc. Check out the other craft breweries in town.
“The Gorge is my Gym” website has daily updates on what to do and on wind forecast. http://thegorgeismygym.com/forecast/
Both windsurfing rental stores display the daily forecasts on paper or on their computer in the store.
Also, http://windalert.com and other sites you may know of.
Most people (Level 1, Level 2) will launch at the “Hook” or the “Event Site”. There are 24 sites around the Gorge. If you get lessons, the lessons are taught in the Hook (an enclosed windsurfing area near the Event Site), or in the Event Site. The Event Site no longer has on site rentals but the Hook has daily rentals for around US $50.
There is some nice countryside driving with fruit trees etc in the Old Highway on the Oregon side of the Columbia river, on the east side of Hood River. There are some wineries around there also.
You can also cross over to the Washington side , over the bridge at the McDonald’s and Holiday inn area. On the Washington side, there is White Salmon, a nice smaller town.
There is standup paddling and windsurfing gear available at the waterfront, at the Event Site (Hood river’s primary beach park).
There is free WiFi at Doppio and Ground Coffee in downtown Hood River. No password is needed. There is also WiFi at the Event Site.
According to the BC Ministry of Health, “residents are strongly advised to purchase additional health insurance from a private insurer before leaving the province, whether they are going to another part of Canada or outside the country - even if they plan to be away for only a day…”. According to this, you should buy additional coverage, if you are not already covered by additional coverage through your work, credit card, etc. More details, see: http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/msp/infoben/leavingbc.html . Travel medical insurance is sometimes available through one's employer, or can be purchased at various outlets, including London Drugs.
Members who have purchased their off-site high-wind pass may be allowed to take club equipment with the prior approval of the windsurfing director. Generally this will be limited to experienced L3 or "advanced" L2 members. Otherwise you should rent gear at hood river (you can swap sails, boards, etc) or take advantage of the low cost demos during the Beach Bash weekend (see below).
The Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Association hosts an annual Gorge Beach Bash weekend, near the end of June.
They have: Unlimited Gear Demos • Free Clinics Local Pros • Free Beginner Lessons Provided by Big Winds • Live Outdoor Music on Saturday • Raffles and Prizes • Tasty Food, Beer & Wine for Sale • Sunday Morning Swap Meet • Volunteers Get Free T-Shirt. More details: http://gorgewindsurfing.org/events/beachbash/
Make sure you are not speeding on any road in the town of Hood River, and stop at the Stop Signs.