Gorge Beach Bash

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The Gorge Beach Bash sponsored by Sailworks was held June 24th – 26th in Hood River, OR. The event featured freestyle, slalom racing, tandem racing and freeride. Friday and Saturday saw good conditions to run all disciplines, and the awards were held on Sunday morning when it was obvious no wind would materialize.

Sailworks was the main sponsor of the event
Sailworks was the main sponsor of the event

I participated in all disciplines taking 3rd overall in slalom (1st pro men), 1st in pro freestyle, 1st in tandem racing together with team-mate Xavier Ferlet, and 3rd in Freeride.

Slalom was a 6 jibe downwind slalom course. On Friday morning we did 2 races in which I scored 2 second places. Jesper was ahead, and it was tough to catch him. I was using my 8.6 Sailworks NX on my Starboard ISonic 114 paired with a 40cm fin. Other riders were on varying sail sizes from 7.8 up to 9.5.

 

Race Start
Race Start

On Saturday we ran the 3rd and 4th races. I jumped the gun on the 3rd race and earned myself an OCS (On Course Side) – I was 1 board length ahead of the start line when the green flag went up. That meant after 3 races I had two 2nd’s and a last place. It wasn’t looking good, and I was relieved to see the red flag go up for the start sequence of the 4th race. This was important because after 4 races our worst result is discarded. I took the start a bit more cautiously and I didn’t go over early, but I paid by ending up at the first mark behind a big group. I jibed directly into Wyatt Miller, bumping his board and hitting him in the head flipping my sail. Sorry Wyatt!

Cranking the jibe at the first mark, left to right Xavier Ferlet, Wyatt Miller, Phil Soltysiak
Cranking the jibe at the first mark, left to right Xavier Ferlet, Wyatt Miller, Phil Soltysiak

Luckily I managed to pull away from the mark somewhere in the middle of the pack, and then I just played catch-up the whole way around the course, passing 2 people on the last reach to earn a 4th place. If I finished any worse that race I would have been out of the top 3.

The rigging frenzy at The Wall - Photo by Heidi Mertens
The rigging frenzy at The Wall – Photo by Heidi Mertens

On Friday afternoon after the first 2 races we packed up the freestyle gear and the organizer decided to head out to The Wall, the Gorge locals favourite spot to windsurf.

Arriving at The Wall, the conditions looked amazing. I rigged up my 4.5, 4.2 and 4.0 and tried out the condition on the 4.5. It was a bit crazy sailing due to the strong current in the river, but it did make for some nice smooth swells. I had to windsurf 3 heats: 1 against, Wyatt Miller and Casey Hauser, the 2nd against Tyson Poor, and the 3rd against Caesar Finies. I managed to win all my heats, making me the pro men champion for the event.

Freestyling at The Wall
Freestyling at The Wall
Phil Soltysiak won the freestyle ahead of Wyatt Miller and Tyson Poor
Phil Soltysiak won the freestyle ahead of Wyatt Miller and Tyson Poor
Tandem Racing
Tandem Racing

On Saturday morning the organizers put together a tandem race. It included 10 teams, match racing in an elimination ladder. On my team was Xavier Ferlet and we called ourselves Crown Crazy. In our first match race we lost, but turns out our competitors didn’t round the buoy, meaning they got disqualified and we moved on. After that first hic-up we made no more mistakes as we qualified up to the final. In the final we were up against a strong team, The Euros; Jesper Vesterstroem (winner of the slalom) and Arrianne Aukes (winner of the women’s slalom and women’s freestyle). There was a coin toss for which team would start in the advantageous upwind position, and the Euros got the advantage. When the green flag went Xavier and me turned on the after-burners, and we pulled away and lead the race to the mark. We rounded the mark, passed extremely close to Jesper and Arrianne (The Euros), got on a plane and sped off to the finish line. If you’re interested in the equipment we were using both boards were Starboard Gemini Tandems, and we had a 10m sail in the back and an 8.5m in the front. I have no idea what size fin was in there 😉

Backloop at The Wall
Backloop at The Wall
Arrianne Aukes admires the Mertens family for organizing the event
Arrianne Aukes admires the Mertens family for organizing the event

The last discipline was freeride, I entered to have some fun with the amateurs, and took my 5.7m Revo and 103l Flare. It was mostly non-planning during this race, but a ton of fun racing and jockeying for position with the other competitors. Congratulations to Kevin (Junior) who won the freeride discipline ahead of Steve (Amateur) and me.

Besides the event there were a ton of demos from various brands, including from my sponsors Starboard, Sailworks and Dakine. There were delicious food trucks and a lot of people hanging out on the beach.

Mount Hood Panorama
Mount Hood Panorama

Sunday morning it was hot and clearly there wasn’t going to be any wind, so we did the awards ceremony early, and everybody went off for their various hot weather activities including climbing Mount Hood and rafting down the White Salmon River.

Event results:

2016 Gorge Beach Bash Pro Freestyle Results

2016 Gorge Beach Bash Slalom Results

2016 Gorge Beach Bash Tandem Results

2016 Gorge Beach Bash Freeride Results

2016 Gorge Beach Bash Freestyle Results

2016 Gorge Beach Bash Slalom Results

2016 Gorge Beach Bash Tandem Results

2016 Gorge Beach Bash Freeride Results