While this pertains to our area, specifically the playground/gym we know as the Willamette River, it pretty much applies anywhere a river or large body of water are being utilized.

I’ve entered the Willamette River on worse days than I’ve ever thought I would this winter. I think it has to do with my paddle addiction being worse than past years and also a growing group of winter condition paddlers who have joined me this year. We’ve gone out in inclement weather to say the least (there’s been more snow in Portland than ever on record this year) and we’ve gone out in what I would consider questionable flow rate levels. I’ve enjoyed pushing the limits and broadening what I’ve considered to be acceptable paddle conditions! There’s still things I want to remind everyone to also consider before entering the river this time of year: Know the flow, know the content, and mind the entry location.

Even on sunny winter days, check those conditions!

Even on sunny winter days, check those conditions!

Know the Flow

Once the Willamette River is flowing above 2ft/sec, you have a couple decisions to make. First, can I get back to my starting point if I paddle downriver in these conditions? At 2ft/sec, you will have noticeable, sustained resistance when paddling back up river. This is a very important consideration especially when entering up river like many of us do at Willamette Park or Sellwood Park. If you are a beginner, or a beginner to paddling in winter conditions, paddle over to the south tip of Ross Island from Willamette Park on a day with stronger current, then paddle back or try to get to Sellwood Park. You will know rather quickly how comfortable you’d be and if you have the strength for a Ross Island loop.

Know the Content

Poop factor is very real as Portland’s antiquated water systems were intentionally designed to overflow and release raw sewage during heavy rains. Check The Oregonian or Facebook paddle sites for updates as to the sewage content currently in the Willamette. Yes, this sounds like medieval black plague kind of technology, and yes, it’s rather embarrassing as a city to have a sewer system that does this by design, but there you have it. The city’s inner structure is aging and outdated, welcome to Portland. So yes, raw sewage is a risk factor that needs to be considered before deciding where to put in. If it’s a day or two after a particularly large span of rain, consider trekking to Vancouver Lake or Hagg Lake as an alternative to poop paddling.

Mind the Entry Location

Winter paddling is great with the right equipment and conditions!

Winter paddling is great with the right equipment and conditions!

If the flow rate suggests you’re going to get a bigger workout than anticipated, consider putting in downstream and head directly into the current for starters. This way, when your back is urging you to call it quits, you just turn around and take a leisurely paddle back to the starting point. There are quite a few paddlers starting at the OMSI dock just for this reason this winter season.

Have fun out there! It’s cold and wet but there’s a growing group of us with smiles on our faces beneath our floppy brimmed hats and face covers, please feel free to join in!

It’s glassy and gorgeous out there but also hitting treadmill style current beneath that seemingly unmoving surface. If you have time to head to Vancouver Lake today, that’d be a far better option if you’re not up for a current workout! 1.6 ft/sec is moving at a pretty good clip, so make sure your shoulders are up for it! Oh yeah, water temp is 42 fahrenheit, so don’t fall in!

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-9-30-42-am

 

 

4th of July Paddle

Where: Departing Willamette Park for a relaxing paddle around the No Wake side of Ross Island

Time: Departure time no later than 7:20pm

Level of Effort: Low – Low/Medium. It’s an easy paddle and we take it slow! Expect some possible knee paddling when we depart the fireworks area due to boat chop. We stay plenty far away from the boats though near the north side of the river (the boats all head south when it’s over).

What to expect: It’s going to be a cooler than expected evening so be prepared for a chill in the air after the sun sets. Bring a couple extra layers in a waterproof bag (wind breakers are ideal). We will leave as a group from Willamette Park, paddle en masse across the main channel, then take our sweet time paddling the northeast side of Ross Island. We’ll stop for happy hour on the north tip of the island, look out for stragglers, then depart again together and paddle nearer the north (the right side) riverbank where there are typically less boats.

Things to bring:

  • State law requires you have a PFD on your or your craft
  • State law also requires you have a light on your board. Can you improvise a light? You bet! LED flashlights in ziplock bags are not uncommon!
  • Leash. This is good because you don’t want your board floating away in the middle of 200 boats and we also use them to tether up together once we’re at the destination.
  • Extra rope, bungees, etc. for tethering purposes
  • Beverages and snacks. Bring what you want, we’re not judging you =) A flask of something warming? Mmmm…
  • Bug spray wouldn’t hurt. I don’t recall getting eaten last year but we’ll probably spray ourselves ahead of time just in case.
  • A sense of adventure.

The route:

Screen-Shot 2016-07-04 at 9.44.43 AM

I stopped to snap a few shots during a recent evening paddle around Ross Island. What a great night for a quiet workout!

South Waterfront Towers

The South Waterfront Towers with a sun sneaking behind them and the ridgeline

 

A perfect, glassy paddle towards Ross Island

A perfect, glassy paddle towards Ross Island

 

South Waterfront Reflections on a glassy evening paddle

South Waterfront Reflections on a glassy evening paddle

 

OC-1 speeding by us equally enjoying the quiet, glassy conditions

OC-1 speeding by us equally enjoying the quiet, glassy conditions

I love panoramic images. I’m not sure if it’s the breadth of detail in them or the distortion caused by taking in far more horizontal detail than the human eye can physically see, but I dig ’em. Thankfully smart phone technology includes really cool panoramic built-in features and I take my phone on almost every SUP paddle. Below is a collection of my favorite panoramas from this past summer. Please click on the ones you like to see the larger version, there’s some great detail captured in there!

 

A panorama of the Willamette River

Soaking in the city from the pier at the OMSI

Tilikum and Marquam Bridges

I’m sitting next to a submarine while this gorgeous morning unfolds on the river

My favorite new bridge, Tilikum Crossing in Portland, Oregon

My favorite new bridge, Tilikum Crossing in Portland, Oregon

Continue reading

I am a SUP downwinder, a SUP racer, a SUP surfer, and have surfed for the past 31 years. Please know I speak from a lot of hands-on experience when I tell you to wear safety gear. I don’t just recommend it, I live it.

Brett Downen

The gist of the following ends up with a summary of important safety tips. I might as well start with those safety tips as well for those who don’t want to read the rest =)

  • Wear a leash at all times. I personally use multiple nylon cords attaching the velcro strap to the leash plug instead of the typical single cord.
  • Wear a PFD. Not only will it give you extra floating time, they are designed to be bright for a very good reason, so we can see you. Which brings me to my next point. 
  • Wear brightly colored clothing. Pretend you’re a surfer in the 80’s. Neon greens and pinks are still the style in the Gorge. Go bold, go bright, be spotted. 
  • Go in a group. You need a paddle buddy in the Gorge. Always.  

Columbia River stats:

Average width: 1 mile

Average depth in Hood River area: 76ft (25.3m)

Average wind speed in August: 12mph

Wind speed on August 21: 20 mph

Current temperature: 69.5 fahrenheit

The Gorge is not just another water recreation destination, it’s an EXTREME destination. SUP Connect recently ranked the Gorge the #3 downwinder in the world, which is a pretty good indication the Gorge is a little more intense than most SUP locations worldwide. Which is also why wearing a leash makes the most sense and wearing a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) is the law in the state of Oregon. Plus, it should just be a no-brainer.

The Gorge is long enough to create legitimate, pulsed swells similar to the ocean. Be prepared!

The Gorge is long enough to create legitimate, pulsed swells similar to the ocean. Be prepared! Photo: Russel Peart

Look at it this way:Continue reading

I will admit that I am beginning to love the yet-to-be-opened Tilikum Crossing Bridge in downtown Portland. To me it’s a beautiful addition to Bridge City and IMHO, the best addition across the Willamette River yet. It’s just as much a piece of functional art as it is just another “new bridge” with modern additions like external lights that match the weather conditions, which is just cool!

I was surprised tonight to find some really amazing images taken on the tip of my paddleboard by my GoPro camera the evening of July 4th as we paddled south away from the fireworks display. I almost always set my GoPro to take an image every 5 seconds if it’s attached to my paddleboard and I never know what’s going to show up later when I download the images. It was exciting to see Tilikum Crossing in many shots and several of them with incredible reflections from the delayed shutter over moving water. I’m thrilled!

Below are the images I could at least quickly narrow down to include because I’m having a hard time even getting down to a top 5! I hope you enjoy these rather unique perspectives of Tilikum Crossing Bridge.

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Tilikum Crossing Night Scene on a GoPro

Couple enjoying the sunset on the Willamette River

A few images from last night’s SUP adventure to downtown Portland to watch a fairly outstanding fireworks show and meet a ton of fun (and possibly drunk) folks.

Sunset on Willamette River

A perfect evening to be paddling on the Willamette River.

Panorama of Willamette River in downtown Portland, Oregon at sunset.

iPhone 6 Panorama of our 4th of July SUP adventure to downtown Portland, Oregon. The fireworks were amazing and the trip was fantastic! (click to see a bigger version!)

 

A smiling couple enjoying a beautiful sunset before the fireworks began in downtown Portland, Oregon

A smiling couple enjoying a beautiful sunset before the fireworks began in downtown Portland, Oregon

 

Fireworks barge in Portland, Oregon

A nice shot of the fireworks barge where the magic was happening

 

Marquam bridge

The crowd gathering beneath the Marquam Bridge for the start of the fireworks show.

 

Ross Island panorama

iPhone panorama of our short stop on the north end of Ross Island.

Sunset near Ross Island Bridge and Tilikum crossing.

Ross Island Bridge to the left and Tilikum Crossing in the mid ground. A beautiful sunset to pull it all together.

 

SUP evening paddle

Sallyanne Ellis paddling towards Ross Island Bridge on an amazing Portland evening.

 

Waterdrops and GoPros are inevitable, unless you're in a volcano.

Waterdrops and GoPros are inevitable, unless you’re in a volcano.

Tilikum Crossing and an amazing sunset

Tilikum Crossing and an amazing sunset

Shawn and Tilikum Crossing 3

Shawn and Tilikum Crossing 3

Bridges and sunsets

Bridge City Sunset

Shawn and Tilikum Crossing 1

Shawn and Tilikum Crossing 2

Shawn and Tilikum Crossing 1

Shawn and Tilikum Crossing 1

Nehalem Bay Panorama

Panorama of Nehalem Bay looking due east, but the image covers North to South.

My wife and I have taken a few trips to the Manzanita, Oregon area and always find ourselves at Nehalem Bay State Park. When the wind isn’t howling in the near-hurricane fashion Manzanita is known for, this small state park is a hidden gem. While the beach side of the park is gorgeous in an Oregon-standard wind blown, semi-rugged, no services offered, walk for miles alone if you want to, the bay side is… well, pretty much the same but with the wind to your back instead of in your face. The biggest difference for us though is how inviting Nehalem Bay can be for paddle boarding versus the usually-angry Pacific Ocean that lines the beach. There is a public dock located just a mile or so inside the entrance of the park with a small beach on its south side. It’s a perfect little area with nicer bathroom facilities, a parking lot, and ease of putting in just steps from your car. Once in the water you can head north for miles up Nehalem River or else head south to the jetty entrance where fun waves abound as does plenty of ocean life. Beyond the jetty is the Pacific Ocean and on a mild summer day it’s not difficult to paddle straight out the jetty and into the big blue. We had a fantastic time yesterday and even experienced a small downwinder on our way back from the jetty as the winds picked up from the south and gave us a healthy two mile boost back to the car.

I’ll be adding more info about Nehalem Bay to a permanent page on this site in the near future with plenty more information about this now favorite SUP destination.

 

SUPpers and a panorama of downtown Portland, Oregon

There’s no better use of one’s time in PDX on a warm summer day than surfing boat wakes all afternoon. With Russel Peart and Brett Downen

Summer is here and the river is calling! Ross Island has been the ad hoc meet up site for about a month now with many familiar faces stopping by the south end to say hi, talk shop, and head out in larger packs to play and recreate. The north end of the island doesn’t get quite the visitation as the south end due to dominant winds and the fact it’s the further point of the island from the two most popular put-ins on the Willamette River. With river levels dipping dangerously low though, the north end is picking up all kinds of fun boat wake swells that normally wouldn’t maintain the power to propel paddleboards. They’re out there though! Both sides of the narrow strand have plenty of recreational boat traffic creating enough small swells to make a go of it. It’s a ridiculously silly pastime but it’s also a fantastic method of exercising while you smile and laugh and take the occasional dip.

Ross Island sunset SUP paddlers

SUPers relaxing in the warm sands of Ross Island. With Hill Taylor, Rob Leeds, and Brett Downen

The south tip of the island is the social spot. Located not a quarter mile a away from Willamette Park, the most popular put-in around Portland, the short beach (bigger now with lower river levels) is an excellent location to relax in the sun away from the usual throngs visiting the river parks. There are several boats anchored in the small bay, which is also quite shallow this season, so a somewhat more safe area for newbs to paddle around without the fear of being run down by powerboats. The warm sand of the south beach is also an ideal venue to crunch sand between your toes while you watch the sunset while sipping your favorite portable beverage.

If you happen to be doing a leisurely paddle around the area and happen to see a few paddleboards lying on the beach, feel free to stop by and say hi! We’re a friendly bunch and sometimes even have a spare beverage!