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Kiteboarding in Hood River, Oregon - Tips For Beginners

Kiteboarding lessons in Hood River, Oregon

Hood River has long been known as the kiteboarding & windsurfing capital of the world, and one of the most consistently windy spots in Pacific Northwest ( maybe in the country ! ) in the summer.

In this blog post, I want to share my personal experiences, and tips for beginner kiteboarders who're planning to kite the Gorge.

Even though, under the right weather conditions, Hood River could be an amazing spot for kiters of all levels, rapidly changing conditions in the Gorge make it challenging and dangerous even for experienced riders !

Weather you're just thinking about giving kiteboarding a try, or have taken a lesson or two, by sharing my personal experiences, and tips, I hope you will be safe, will have fun, you will learn something new, and your trip to Hood River will be an amazing lifelong memory !

But first, let me take you back to... 2010, - my first time going kiteboarding in Hood River.

Back then, I just took my first kiteboarding lesson at Jetty Island, and after asking for a (more) reliable spot to go kiteboarding in the summer, I was recommended Hood River.

That year, the Mighty Columbia River was at its absolute intense : the water was cold, the current was fast, the wind was too strong, and, the famous Hood River Sandbar was nowhere to be seen.

Even though I used my smallest (9m) kite, seconds after the launch, I was airlifted, "tea bagged" a few times, and then the current started pulling me in the middle of the river.
Thanks to "self rescue" technique I (briefly) learned during the class, I safely made it to the shore...

But the damage was done: that terrifying incident built a lot of fear, and self doubt, and stopped me from enjoying kiteboarding for the next 8 years...

Fast forward 2018... I decided to face my fear, and booked a jet ski supported kiteboarding lesson with one of the local schools in the Gorge.

This time, I had completely opposite experience: the sun was shining brighter, the wind was moderate, and consistent, the water was warm, and the Hood River Sandbar was up, and surprisingly not crowded !

It was an experience of a lifetime !

And I hope that the tips provided below will help you have the same !

1 - Pick the right time

According to my local instructor, early in the season, the Columbia River remains relatively full, with the Sandbar completely submerged. The currents are strong, and the wind is relatively inconsistent.

Tip: Hood River kiteboarding season is (usually) May - September, with July-August being the best time to schedule a lesson.

I booked my lesson a week in advance, and we traveled 2 days before my lesson. My biggest fear was to arrive to Hood River just to be skunked with no/light wind. But as I mentioned above, Hood River offers most consistent wind in the summer for kiteboarders, and windsurfers.

2 - Make Hood River your travel destination !

If you're traveling from Seattle, the best way to get to Hood River is by driving on the famous Historic Columbia River Highway 14 !

Tip: Opt in for at least 2 days to see the sights, and to experience the area. There is so much to see and to do besides kiteboarding !

3 - Make it a family trip !

My 11 y.o. son had tons of fun exploring the area, flying his trainer kite, and swimming in the warm waters of Sandbar !

Your kid(s) can wait for you on the Sandbar while you're taking your lesson ( which usually lasts 2.5 - 3 hours ).

Tip: Make sure your kid(s) are safe !

Many newbies take lessons at the Sandbar, and dropping a kite (even a small one ) could cause some serious damage.

4 - Where to stay

We stayed at Hampton Inn & Suites ($229 for the cheapest room !) near Event site/Sandbar.

Tip: If you want to save money (after all, you're paying ~$300+ for a kiteboarding lesson), I'd recommend to camp in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest area.

Plenty of paid, and FREE camping within just 30-45 min from downtown Hood River !

5 - Bring your own wetsuit (if you have one )

Many schools charge extra ($15) to rent a wetsuit.

Tip: In July-August, the water around Sandbar is amazingly low, AND warm ! Kiting for 2.5-3 hours could be exhausting... Opt in for a shorty... feel like you're kiting in Hawaii or somewhere in t the Carribeans

6 - Stay hydrated and protected

You'll be at the Hood River Sandbar for 2-3 hours, and I'm sure you won't feel like taking a long walk back to your car for a drink, or a bottle of sun lotion.

Tip: Take a small cooler, and cover it with windshield sunshade to keep your ice from melting longer.

7 - Make memories !

Don't forget to bring your camera, and take a bunch of pictures & videos ! This is an amazing experience, at a beautiful place ! You'll want to remember this, and to share your stoke with others !

Tip: TELL your instructor to take pictures/videos for you... Many people are shy to ask, and don't want to bother... Remember, your instructor is working for YOU ! You pay him/her for the service !

And my main tip :

Go With An Instructor Who Knows How To Teach !!

Unfortunately, most kiteboarding instructors, despite of being great, experienced riders, and going through 3-10 days of training certification, are NOT good teachers

Tip: If it's your first lesson, - JUST HAVE FUN !

If it's your 2nd/3rd lesson, make sure you know EXACTLY what you want to work on !

Many instructors have a "lesson plan", but, as I mentioned above, it's YOUR lesson, you're a paying customer ! Something that many instructors ( especially younger ones ) don't quite understand

At the end of your lesson, you should know exactly what you paid for !

What did I get out of my lesson ?

1 - I overcame my fear, and built confidance
2 - Got to try brand spanking new kiteboarding gear (something that I'm dying to share !!)
3 - Added a new kiteboarding destination

But most important - realized that kiteboarding industry has a long way to improve the way they teach lessons, and introduce newbies to this amazing sport !

For our list of recommended kiteboarding schools & instructors in Hood River ( and all around Washington/Oregon ), please visit our website www.SeattleKiteSurfPaddle.com

Tip: When asking for schools/instructors recommendations in local Facebook groups, keep in mind that many recommendations come from instructors working for a  school, school affiliates, or newbies who took one (or several) lessons from one school, and have no previous experience to compare with.

We connect you with schools/instructors based on YOUR goals, experience, AND budget !

From my personal experience, kiteboarding is the MOST challenging, extreme, and expensive outdoor activity I've ever tried !

I want to make sure that YOUR introduction to this amazing sport is safe, enjoyable, and affordable !!

If you have any questions about getting started with kiteboarding in Washington, I'd be happy to help... I'm NOT an expert in kiteboarding ( even though I teach kite landboarding ), but I can definetly point you in the right direction...

If you found this post informative, and helpful, please feel free to share it with others who'd like to give kiteboarding a try but not sure where to start !

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