Kiteboarding Travel Guide: Hood River, Oregon USA - DESTINATIONS Ep 03
Wind by Season
While Hood River is windy much of the year, the most consistent and comfortable times to ride are spring and summer. The season starts to kick off in May and ends in September. Before and after that, the weeather and water can be too cold to kite, and you may even get into snowkiting territory. In the summer months, you can get out for a session almost any day of the week if you have a variety of kite sizes or boards and are willing to move around to a couple of the nearby spots. Wind can range from 10 to 30+ mph in a day. You can find the most accurate daily wind assessments on The Gorge is My Gym.
Hood River is adventure heaven and the locals are a very outdoorsy group. Many of the local kiters go mountain biking on the non-windy days, or even hit the trails in the morning before heading for a kite session in the afternoons. Post Canyon has dozens of trails suitable for every level of mountain biker, and bikes are available for rent in town. There are plenty of hikes and walking trails both near town and in nearby Mt. Hood, which makes for great skiing and snowboarding in the winter. On the water, you can kayak, sup, sail, and wakeboard.
- Mountain bike rentals - Dirty Fingers & Mountain View Bicycles
- Hood River tourism info - Chamber of Commerce
You won't see much more than wind waves in Hood River, but depending on the tide and wind you can get some swell across the river upwind by the White Salmon river bridge.
Below the Event Site sandbar and the main launch spot is some super clean flat-water. If you're riding in this spot, be sure to watch for riders doing their beginner lessons and pros on a trick rotation. Sometimes, you'll get some flat-water across the river and upwind a few tacks.
This spot has colder water and can be gusty, so beginners will face a few challenges learning here. Luckily, the local kite centers are well equipped to handle this. Cascade Kiteboarding has two-way helmets, jetskis, and the latest kiteboarding equipment.
- Mountain bike rentals - Dirty Fingers & Mountain View Bicycles
- Hood River hiking - Local hikes
- Other watersports - Kayak, rafting, SUP
- Wine tasting - Oregon wine routes
- Brewery tour - Full Sail Brewing
- Horseback riding - Double Mountain Ranch
Hood River is a beautiful hour long drive from Portland (PDX airport). A vehicle is essential for getting to Hood River and to and from the kite spot. If you're parked at the event site for the day, there are several food options within walking distance and cafes by the waterfront. If you're staying up in town, restaurants and nightlife are all within walking distance.
Kiteboarding Spot Guide
There is a place in the Pacific Northwest of the United States where the wind blows through the mountains to create a perfect kite spot on the Columbia River Gorge. A session in this iconic American kite spot is an unforgettable experience. It's time to book your kite trip to Hood River, Oregon.
When it comes to kiteboarding, Hood River is most definitely a hot spot. But it's unique - you're riding in a river, surrounded by rocky mountains, lush green forest, and a rainbow of kites on the windy summer days. Hood River is home base to many American pro kiteboarders including Colleen Carroll, Craig Cunningham, and Brandon Scheid. The American head offices of several kite brands like North, Slingshot, and Liquid Force are all here! In summer, this spot brings kiters from around the world to have a go in the slider park, participate in one of the many summer events like Bridge of the Gods and Kiteboard 4 Cancer, and enjoy lit sessions with this incredible backdrop.
We’ll start with the technical details and need to know information on kiteboarding in Hood River, followed by travel tips to help you plan your kiteboarding adventure!
Summer is king in Hood River. You'll want to aim to travel there between June and September, though you can get some incredible shoulder season sessions before and after if you can handle the cold. On the occasional windy winter day, you’ll even find riders bundled up from head to toe snowkiting on the sandbar.
Here in Hood, the wind blows. Expect anything from 10mph up to and above 30mph. This is a spot where you’ll want a variety of kites and/or boards. The wind can get quite gusty here… but once you learn how to ride that bull, you’ll be able to take advantage of those gusts to get that elevator effect that will help you boost even higher!
Something else to keep in mind is the river effect. Because the river current flows opposite to the wind, you don't need as much wind to ride on a light day as you might in other spots, and those who are still perfecting their body dragging and board recovery skills will find it much easier here.
Weather / Temperature
In the Pacific Northwest, the seasons are very defined. Winter is snowy and cold, and summer is sunny and hot. That said, this is not a tropical beach vacation. Summer in the mountains can mean unexpected weather and cool nights. Bring clothing for the elements... it can get chilly here when the wind is blowing!
In the water, you’ll want a wetsuit, especially if you’re learning or in the beginner phases and expect to be submerged in the water often. A 3/2 wetsuit should work for most of the summer, but the earliest and latest days of the season could call for a 4/3 or warmer. On the hottest of summer days, you might be able to get away with a shorty or even board shorts – but if you run into trouble and you’re not dressed for it, you may find yourself taking a very refreshing swim back to the riverside!
This is where the majority of the kiteboarding goes down in Hood River. Park at the event site and carry your gear out to the sandbar. In the pre season when the sandbar is mostly submerged, you can set up your gear on the grass at the event site, but in summer launching kites is only allowed from the sandbar. It’s only a short walk out to the kite spot and once you’re there you can spend the day sessioning around the sandbar. Upwind of the sandbar is a great place to ride for independent kiters and those progressing. Downwind of the sandbar is where beginner lessons happen in the shallows and pro riders send it in the slider park. The water is flatter downwind but you’ll have to watch the rotation of the riders around you and you’ll be facing more offshore conditions below the sandbar. If you’re riding over in the flowing river, you’ll experience some current and need to be wary of the shipping channel.
The marina spot is a little more challenging with some turbulence that makes getting your kite in the air and keeping it there until you reach the water a daunting task. This spot is typically where the pro level riders set up to ride in the slider park and should be avoided by beginners.
About 30 minutes west of Hood River and across on the Washington side is another unique kite spot – Stevenson. This is a beautiful kite spot but the launch can be challenging. When it’s not windy in Hood River, it can sometimes be windy in Stevenson so watch the forecast. Beginner kiters should avoid this spot.
Riding Level and Style
Hood River is a spot that can suit riders of every level, but can be a challenging place to learn to kite. The gusty conditions and the cool water aren’t everyone’s idea of fun… but those that learn to kite in Hood River can appreciate warm, sandy beaches and warm water just that little bit more! This is also a spot that draws pro riders from all over the world. Luckily, the spot seems to organize itself in a way that beginners and pros can have a session in the same spot and get along without any trouble!
With so many kite brands based in Hood River, you'll see all sorts of riding here - and lots of new products being tested. Freeride, freestyle, foiling, directional, strapless freestyle, big air... You've got it all. And this place is home to one of America's best permanent slider parks - think cable park combined with kiteboarding. This is great for those wakestyle riders who want to try something new.
Facilities & Cautions
If you're used to kiteboarding in tropical beach destinations, this spot might take a second to get used to. You'll need a car to get yourself and your gear to the event site. You'll need to pay to park in the event site lot, or you can park a little further back for free if you can find a spot and don't mind walking your gear up. The event site is a bit like a public park, with public bathroom facilities, picnic tables, and a couple cafes overlooking the water for your pre-session snack or post-session beer. For those learning to kite, Cascade Kiteboarding has everything you need to learn comfortably including two-way helmets, jetskis, and new North Kiteboarding and Liquid Force gear. Beginner kiters will be in great hands here.
A few things to watch out for... gusty wind if you're not used to it. Also, this river is a major thoroughfare for barges and boats, so watch out for the boats and the wind shadows that come with them! It can get quite busy at the launch site so keep an eye on everyone around you. In the water, you have some turbulence near the beach and some dead zones. There is a risk of riding in a river... it flows - you don't want to miss the downwind exit point and get stuck down by the bridge. If you're not riding upwind confidently and know how to recover your kite and board if needed, be sure to ride above the sandbar. To get the lay of the land, ask a local or check in with Cascade Kiteboarding or your local kite center before you get in the water for your first session.
Hood River is a must visit destination for kiteboarders, but it also draws outdoor adventure lovers of every kind. Being close to a couple major cities and airports means that you have plenty of options for accommodation, food, and adventure. Here’s a quick start guide on traveling to Hood River. For a detailed travel guide with even more information and travel recommendations, check out this article by Crystal Veness.
How to Get There
About an hour east of Portland [PDX] and only five hours from Seattle [SEA], Hood River is an easily accessible destination in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. You'll definitely need wheels here, so drive over from wherever you are or fly into Portland and rent a car. This spot is not recommended for those without access to a vehicle.
Where to Stay
This little mountain paradise is in high demand, so budget accommodation is hard to come by. It's about $50 USD a night for a hostel, and hotels start at about $100 and go well above that. Supply is short in the summer, especially on weekends, so plan ahead! AirBNB can be a good place to find accommodation for a group, and camping is always an option. Again, campsites book out quick in the summer so plan ahead or you may be 'unofficially' camping!
If you’re having some trouble finding accommodation, take a look at what’s available across the river in White Salmon or even in the major center of Portland. Basing out of Portland means you’ll have to make that absolutely beautiful drive any day you want to kite, but you have infinite more options for accommodation, food, and nightlife.
What to Eat and Drink
The bar for food quality is set pretty high in Hood River - you will not be wanting for good eats here. It's craft everything - craft coffee, craft beer, craft liquor, etc. There is plenty to try when you're not on the water. This region is also known for its wines, and a drive south towards Mount Hood will bring you to several vineyards.
Breakfast sandwiches at River Daze Café and a coffee near the kite spot at Stoked Coffee Roasters are a great way to start the day. Down at the waterfront, Solstice makes a mean pizza and epic cocktails. Pfriem is a great spot for craft beers brewed onsite and a next level bar menu. Back up in town, you've got even more options. Lots of healthy, vegan friendly restaurants, and dining with a view atFull Sail Brewing Company. To try some more local brews, head intoDouble Mountain.Kinfor something special, and of courseMike’s Ice Creamfor a sweet treat on a hot day. Truly spoiled for choice.
It's all about adrenaline in Hood River. In winter, skiiers and snowboarders shred nearby Mt Hood, or get into some crosscountry or backcountry action. In summer, visitors and locals take to the water for windsurfing, kiting, and sailing on windy days. You’ll even see wakeboarders when the wind isn't blowing. You can explore the area from the water by kayak or standup paddleboard, go fishing or flyfishing, or just enjoy a day at the beach.
For something more low key, wine tastings, farmers markets, or wandering through the shops on the high street are a great way to pass the day. You can collect everything you need for a picnic by the water or even have a grill in one of the public parks.
But the mountain playground is what makes this place unique from many other kite spots. Hike up to one of the nearby summits or lakes, go cycling through the hills, bird watching, or really get your adrenaline pumping with some downhill mountain biking. Rent a bike in town and head to Post Canyon where you can send it down one of 68 trails.
The best thing about Hood River is it’s easy to stack two or three sports into just one day! If you’re not absolutely exhausted by the end of the day, you may have missed something!
Hood River is a neat little city full of insanely stoked, outdoorsy people. This is the sort of place where people choose to live because they want to spend more time outside. Visitors to this outdoor playground will have a great introduction to what adventure as a way of life truly means.
If Hood River isn't on your kiteboarding hit list yet, I hope it is now. And I hope to see you out on the water here soon. Don’t forget to check out the Hood River video spot guide [LINK] and the Hood River Travel Guide. If you have any questions about this kite spot, please send us a message or reach out to Crystal Veness on Facebook or Instagram.
Produced by Ryan (Rygo) Goloversic and Crystal Veness
North Kites USA team rider and a MACkite team rider. Originally from Canada, she now calls the entire world her home, playground, and her workplace. She goes where the wind blows - so if you see her at a kite beach somewhere in the world, say hello! Her primary goal is to share her love of kiteboarding and travel and all the lessons learned along the way with the world.