Thrill seekers, take note: The Columbia River Gorge is home to some of the best windsurfing in the world. The gorge begins just 30 miles (48 km) east of Portland, boasting waterfalls, hiking trails and striking river vistas. At the heart of it all, the churning Columbia River is a world-renowned windsurfing spot where experts seek killer rides.
The gorge is also an excellent place for beginners to learn how to windsurf. In Hood River, 62 miles (100 km) east of Portland, many rental shops, outfitters and guides offer equipment and lessons. “The Hook,” an enclosed lagoon in Hood River, is a safe place to learn away from the Columbia’s punishing currents.
Locals often windsurf year-round, but the best conditions are from June–September. Summer air temperatures in the gorge range from 60–100º Fahrenheit (15–38º Celsius). In June, the water temperature is around 50ºF (10ºC) and can reach the low 70s F (20s C) in August and September.
Depending on the season, you may need to wear a wetsuit to be comfortable. During the early season, most sailors prefer a 5:4 wetsuit with booties. By late summer, some windsurfers opt for a shorty, or eschew a wetsuit altogether. For rentals, visit Big Winds in Hood River.
Best windsurfing spots
An excellent spot for beginners, the Hook is a protected cove sheltered from extreme winds and currents. The shallow area on the perimeter is perfect for practicing water-starts. During the summer months, many local windsurfing shops set up here to teach.
Hood River, Oregon (1 hour east of Portland on Interstate I-84)
The most popular spot on the Columbia for pros and advanced windsurfers, the Hatchery boasts strong western winds and big swells that draw freestyle riders from all over the world. Not an elite windsurfer quite yet? This is a great place to watch the experts windsurf and visit the nearby fish hatchery with friends and family.
Underwood, Washington (45 minutes east of Portland; take I-84 to Hood River, then take the Hood River Bridge across the river and turn left onto WA-14)
$10 per day or $30 for an annual pass
The closest windsurfing spot to Portland, Rooster Rock is a demanding site with strong eastern winds and a swift current. Plan your visit for October or November for the best winds and water temperatures.
Corbett, Oregon (30 minutes east of Portland on I-84)
$5 per day or $30 for a season pass
A challenging location for experienced windsurfers, the Wall features a narrow channel, creating large swells and quick currents for big air. Look out for fishnets and rocks.
Goldendale, Washington (2 hours east of Portland on I-84; take exit 104 across the river and turn right onto the Maryhilly Hwy)
The gorge’s newest launch spot, Blackberry Beach is located in Cascade Locks. It’s a perfect site for east wind conditions and is good for intermediate riders.
Cascade Locks, Oregon (45 minutes east of Portland)