You’ve seen them, cresting waves on a surfboard pulled by a brilliant kite caught in the wind. Sometimes they arc upward, then land back in the water with improbable grace. Mexican pro and former world champion Sean Farley Gomez (pictured) is just one of thousands of kiteboarders who flock to the world-renowned—and highly consistent—Columbia River winds each summer, beginning this month.
Cory Roeseler has lived in Hood River County since 1994 and is widely considered one of the inventors of modern kiteboarding. He started building experimental kites with his father, a Boeing engineer, in the mid-1980s in the Seattle area, but moved to Oregon for the Gorge’s epic meeting of wind and water.
Today, Roeseler says the once-“extreme” sport has shifted from racing to recreation thanks to safer kites, disengagable harnesses, and common sense protocols like the buddy system. The sport now attracts a growing number of families to the Gorge, and in a typical season about 10 percent of riders will be women—a very high proportion compared to a decade ago.
“The extreme aspect of the sport is still there,” Roeseler says. “But it’s a nice, healthy way to spend time.”