Rio Vista, Whales, Hood River

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40 degree heat and dry camping are not the best combination. Luckily the Sacramento River off Sherman Island was refreshing enough to keep the Rio Vista Grand Slam competitors cool during the event July 15th – 18th.

Slalom race start with Phil Soltysiak, Tyson Poor, Diony Guadagnino, Wyatt Miller, Xavier Ferlet, Jason Voss, Bryan Metcalf Perez at the 2017 Rio Vista Grand Slam. Photo by Lucky Beanz.
Slalom race start at the 2017 Rio Vista Grand Slam. Photo by Lucky Beanz.

On the first day we ran 5 slalom races on 8.6m sails. Diony Guadagnino from Venezuela dominated winning 4 of them, Xavier Ferlet (from LA racing for Great Britain) took a victory, and I was as consistent as ever finishing 2nd in every race. My strong points were definitely the starts, jibes and acceleration, but my top speed is something I still want to improve on the slalom gear, maybe I’ll find the time between working on my Kabikuchi’s this summer 😉

Phil Soltysiak at the Rio Vista Grand Slam chachoo. Photo by Daniel Gallet.
Rio Vista Grand Slam chachoo. Photo by Daniel Gallet.

Besides the pro slalom fleet the organizers put together a solid event which also included 3 “B fleet” races, a freeride race, a kids race, foil demos, clinics, etc. If you’re in North America add this event to your calendar for 2018, I’m sure it will be bigger than ever, and it’s a ton of fun!

Phil Soltysiak windsurf slalom jibing during the Rio Vista Grand Slam on the 8.6m and 117l. Photo by Luckybeanz.
Slalom during the Rio Vista Grand Slam on the 8.6m and 117l. Photo by Luckybeanz.
Phil Soltysiak stoked with my 2nd place in Slalom at the Rio Vista Grand Slam. Photo by Luckybeanz.
Stoked with my 2nd place in Slalom at the Rio Vista Grand Slam. Photo by Luckybeanz.

After the awards a crew of the pro riders went to windsurf Crissy Field, a spot next to the Golden Gate Bridge. The goal was to be tourists and windsurf under the bridge. We got more than we asked for as just near the South tower was a pod of Humpback whales. They average 15m in length and weigh an average of 30,000KG! They are HUGE!!!!

Check out these videos of what was going on with the whales courtesy of my friend Jean Rathle and his GoPro.

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I was cautious at first, keeping my distance, but as our crew of windsurfers grew my confidence increased, and we closed the gap. By the end we were no more than a couple meters away from the whales. It was INSANE! I was wondering who would be the first to do a board slide as a whale surfaced underneath them. Luckily that never happened as the environmentalists would have probably gone crazy. They would have also gotten angry at Diony, because he dropped and sank his GoPro amidst all the excitement. There is a lot of priceless footage polluting the waters under the Golden Gate Bridge now!

View of Mt. Hood from White Salmon, Washington.
View of Mt. Hood from White Salmon, Washington.

After the whale watching experience all the riders packed things up and started to make their way up to Hood River. I did it in one 12 hour ride high on caffeine and pushing the limits of my bladder. It was exciting, but not as exciting as the sailing in Hood River during the IWT Gorge Beach Bash the following weekend!

Philip Soltysiak take-off at the 2017 IWT Gorge Beach Bash windsurfing event. Photo by Bob Stawicki.
Take-off at the 2017 IWT Gorge Beach Bash. Photo by Bob Stawicki.

We scored with 40mph winds at the Gorge local’s home spot “The Hatchery”. Everybody was lit, some of the girls were competing on 2.7m sails, most guys were on 3.7m. The swell was rolling and the action was big!

Shove it spock by Phil Soltysiak in front of the rocks at the Hatchery.
Shove it spock in front of the rocks at the Hatchery.

I managed to hold on to my 4.0m Sailworks Revolution and 93L Starboard Flare in testing conditions. During my heats I took advantage of the big swell and flat water in front of the spectators to mix up all my favourite freestyle moves; Pushloops, Backloops, Spock culos, Skopus etc. It was a ton of fun, but it was tough! I haven’t sailed that overpowered in a loooooooonnngggg time! I was nervous for some of my heats because I know that Gorge locals like Wyatt Miller, Rob Warwick, Tyson Poor and Bryan Metcalf-Perez are at their best in these conditions.

Phil Soltysiak windsurfing pushloop at the Hatchery during the IWT Gorge Beach Bash. Photo by Bob Stawicki.i
Pushloop at the Hatchery during the IWT Gorge Beach Bash. Photo by Bob Stawicki.

Luckily my repertoire was enough to get me through all the tough heats and to take the win ahead of Yarden Meir from Israel who took 2nd, and Wyatt Miller from the US who completed the podium in 3rd.

The same day we completed 3 slalom races, but I messed up the first one, and without a discard that put me out of the contention for the top 3 spots. In race 2 and 3 I managed to redeem myself slightly taking a 2nd and a 3rd place.

2017 IWT Gorge Beach Bash Podium. L to R Yarden Meir, Phil Soltysiak, Wyatt Miller.
2017 IWT Gorge Beach Bash Podium. L to R Yarden Meir, Phil Soltysiak, Wyatt Miller.

Hood River winds continue to blow down the Columbia River Gorge, and I’m loving it! We are making some new sails at the Sailworks loft, I have a new T-8 harness and the Dakine offices are bustling, Nolimitz is rolling new masts, the Gorge Cup races are on this weekend, it’s Canada Day July 1st (Canada’s 150th anniversary), the Americans will celebrate Independence Day July 4th, the same day that I fly to Fuerteventura, Spain, to prepare for the PWA World Tour Fuerteventura Grand Slam!

Check back soon and enjoy the gallery below: