Brookings resident Luke Mathison catches some air during Friday’s wavesailing competition. The Pilot/Jef Hatch
Take a little wind, add a little water, mix it thoroughly with sunshine and the resulting concoction is perfect for a picnic, or a day on the beach.
Add a breeze strong enough to knock a grown man over and 5- to 6-foot tall waves and the results come out as the third annual Pistol River Wave Bash, which draws competitors from all over the United States, and the world, to compete on the American Windsurfing Tour.
Windsurfers – or in the case of the Pistol River event, wave sailors – from as close as Brookings, Gold Beach and Pistol River, and as far away as Europe converged on Pistol River Beach to compete for cash prizes, series’ points and bragging rights in what is one of the best events on the West Coast, according to windsurfer Jordan Dery.
Dery is from Vancouver, B.C., and surfs when there are wind and waves in the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver and Victoria, B.C.
“This is the first time I’ve surfed in anything this big, he said. “It’s a lot of fun, but it is way more difficult than what I do back home.”
The competition is a four day event that began on Thursday with heats of youth, amateurs and masters; the pro division has been holding out for better waves, but is scheduled to compete today (June 16).
According to event coordinator Samantha Bittner there are 68 competitors who registered to sail this year, 32 of whom are professionals.
There are just five athletes competing in the youth division and four competing in the women’s division. One of the athletes competing in both divisions as well as the amateur group, 15-year old Fiona Wylde, does it, simply because it is fun.
“I love it,” Wylde said. “We have so much fun out here and I try to get out on the water as much as I can.”
When asked if competing in three different divisions was any more difficult than competing in just one, Wylde claimed that it could be tiring when she had heats back to back, but it was all worth it.
At the end of competition on Friday, Wylde was in second place in the women’s division and fifth in the youth.
“It’s harder to compete with the guys in the youth category because some of them are competing in the pro division as well as the youth,” she said. “They’re really good.”
Wylde is from Hood River and has been coming to Pistol River for all three years of the competition. She doesn’t see herself stopping anytime in the near future.
“It’s just too much fun,” she explained.
Local talent is represented as well, with veteran wave sailor Dana Miller from Pistol River and Brookings’ businessman Luke Mathison both competing in the amateur division.
“I try to get a couple hundred days a year in,” Miller explained as he talked about his love for windsurfing. “It’s not all on the water. I try to get in some sand sailing and board sailing as well.”
Sand sailing involves attaching a wind sail to a flat board and riding it over the sand, while board sailing uses a skateboard to ride on packed surfaces.
Miller has been involved since he watched some video at 25 and got hooked.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” he said of the wind aspect of his sports. “It’s like having an accelerator pedal strapped to me with the wind.”
Miller is not just a competitor in the event; he has also been involved in the setup and security of the site.
“I’m on the crew that gets everything set up before it starts and I do a little work as the night watch,” he explained. “I give up about three weeks of my life every year to help out and I love every minute of it.”
Mathison, owner of Oregon Sports Rentals, was disappointed in his finish but had a good time competing.
“I took fifth yesterday,” he said, “but I just didn’t have anything today.
“I felt like I did all right. The other guys probably just got better waves.”
While he felt off his game with the Wave Bash finish, he was pleased with the third-place trophy he claimed at a stand-up paddleboard event in Gold Beach earlier in the week.
“I finished third against Zane Schweitzer and Daniel Hughes,” he said. “They are two of the biggest names in stand up right now and I competed with them.”
Final results for the youth, amateur and women’s divisions were unavailable at press time, but the event continues through Sunday at Pistol River Beach. The first surfers will be in the water sometime after 10 a.m. depending on wave and wind conditions, both today and Sunday.