2014 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge: Day 1

We are here at the Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge on the Hood River, Oregon. This awesome stand up paddle race has gathered most of the biggest names in professional men's and women's stand up paddling like: Connor Baxter, Kai Lenny, Slater Trout, Danny Ching, Kody Kerbox, Annabel Anderson, Lina Augaitis, Candice Appleby, Fiona Wylde, and many more from around the globe.

As the men lined up for the open course race on the first day, there was one obvious standout—Matt Willett and his paddling partner Hunter, a three-year-old golden retriever. The two competed in the 4-mile long course race that circled around 5 buoys spread out in the water at the Hood River Waterfront Park.

We caught up with Matt and Hunter afterward to ask about how the two felt during their time on the water.

As far as conditions were concerned, the normally windy Columbia Gorge was calm and hot, with great flat water conditions. But Matt wasn’t trying to be the fastest one on the water. His goal was to raise awareness for two golden retriever rescues in the Pacific Northwest: Golden Bond Rescue and Hood River Adopt-a-Dog.

Willett got the idea a year ago to do a paddle and fundraiser with Hunter and hit Facebook to let people know about it. It got Matt to the Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge and the rest was up to him and Hunter.

But just how difficult is it to paddle four miles with a large dog on the front of your board?

“It’s challenging when you’re pushing 245 pounds and both going in different directions,” Willett said. Watching Matt and Hunter on the water, it was apparent all the extra work it takes to paddle with a furry partner. Matt had to expend extra energy to switch sides when paddling because he had to go around Hunter and said they practiced pivots a lot, considering it was such a turn-heavy course race.

But everything is more difficult with a dog on the board. “The actual paddling is harder because he wants to move a lot,” Willet said. “I can’t keep the paddle too close to the board so I’m almost doing twice the amount of paddling.”

Despite all the work, it was worth it in the end. Matt and Hunter were one of the highlights of the event and we hope that both Golden Bond Rescue and Hood River Adopt-a-Dog get all the attention they deserve.

Another great story from the 2014 Naish CGPC was from one of the first races on Saturday. The women’s open course race featured a lot of young paddlers from the local SUP team Jet in Hood River, Oregon. But one paddler got in front of the competition and stayed in the lead around each buoy.

Alison Wood from Vancouver, BC.

At 45-years-old and on the only paddler on a 14-foot board, Alison’s strategy was to get on the water and try to be in the lead.

“I’m not very good at turning so for me, it’s better to be out at the front.”

Not only did Alison have a dominant win, she did it as a new standup paddleboarder having just gotten into the sport this past fall. She admittedly hasn’t mastered the art of the surf turn—partly because she’s so new to the sport and partly because she doesn’t fancy taking a swim in the frigid water of her hometown.

Alison has a few more races she’s looking forward to and is setting her sights on mastering those tricky turns. Woods really is a testament to the accessibility of the sport and that learning new things can be fun and rewarding.

We've got coverage of Day 2 coming soon, but for now, here are the elite race results from Day 1.

Men's Elite Race Results:
1st: Connor Baxter
2nd: Travis Grant
3rd: Danny Ching
4th: Georges Cronsteadt
5th: Kody Kerbox
6th: Jake Jensen
7th: Arthur Daniel
8th: Chase Kosterlitz
9th: Slater Trout
10th: Kai Lenny
11th: Paul Jackson
12th: Bruno Tauhrio
13th: Fernando Stalla 

Women's Elite Race Results:
1st: Annabel Anderson
2nd: Lina Augaitis
3rd: Candice Appleby
4th: Sonni Honscheid
5th: Angie Jackson
6th: Shae Foudy
7th: Fiona Wylde
8th: Shannon Bell
9th: ALyson Fromm
10th: Jen Lee
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