The Pistol River Wave Bash kicks off today, but surfers who came out early haven’t been sitting idly by waiting for the latest stop on the International Windsurfing Tour (IWT) to start.
For the first time, the IWT held a clinic at Pistol River for surfers as part of their annual event. The clinic is taught by professional surfers like Antoine Martin, the overall winner of last year’s tour, and is attended by surfers of all skill levels.
“We’re doing the clinic the first few days to help new people and get them used to ocean conditions,” said tour director Russ Faurot. “ It’s much different here than say lake or river sailing, which a lot of our competitors are used to.”
The Oregon coast differs from many of the tour’s other stops. The water is cold year-round and the winds on the long stretches of Pistol River can become incredibly fierce, making it a great, but challenging spot for high-level windsurfing.
“It’s really different from home,” said Martin, who hails from the warm waters of the Carribean. “It’s different from where I’m from, but I like it here. I like the landscape.”
Windsurfers affix a sail to a surfboard in order to propel themselves along the coast using the wind, leaping and vaulting off and over waves along the way.
Choosing what size sail to rig can take some getting used to. The intensity of the wind and size of the rider both need to be considered, with smaller sails needing to be used for harsher winds.
The clinic serves as an opportunity for newer windsurfers to learn valuable skills and get some practice, but also for more experienced surfers and competitors to prepare before the actual competition.
“Everyone wants to progress no matter where you are,” Martin said. “I’m here to help them reach their goals, whether that’s to just learn how to surf waves or jump higher.”
One such surfer was Andy Peterson, an experienced river surfer from the Columbia River Gorge, who is considering participating in the tour next year.
“This is my first time on the ocean,” said Peterson, “These conditions are pretty crazy. We’ve got harsh winds in the gorge, but the mushiness and current pushing you down. The waves are way different from river swell. They can hit you and push you under.”
Surfers are sure to take plenty of breaks and stay hydrated as windsurfing can be exhausting, putting a strain on nearly every part of the body. Proper warmup routines are important to prevent injury. Sprains and bruises are common and surfers can experience worse injuries if they aren’t careful.
The clinic wrapped up on Friday and leads into the competition, which starts today at Pistol River and goes all week before ending on June 22 with a closing celebration at the Gold Beach Brewfest.
“This is our 10th anniversary year and we’re trying to make it big,” Faurot said. “We have talent from all over the world; Maui, Brazil, Canad, Spain… We have a big talent pool this year.”
Competition times vary depending on the weather, but the latest forecast is promising. Organizers predict most of the brackets will take place during the next four days, hopefully finishing before Tuesday.
Since conditions times will vary, you can stay up to date on the latest start times at https://www.facebook.com/InternationalWindsurfingTour/.