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Epic V12

Chasing downwind dreams and green dragons in the Gorge.

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Chasing downwind dreams and green dragons in the Gorge.

'Tis the season to load up surfskis, sunscreen and ambition and make road trips to downwind paradise in the Hood River area. The Gorge offers a relatively safe place to paddle in excellent downwind and make multiple runs in one day in a huge variety of conditions from beginner friendly to extreme.

I started my paddling journey just five years ago, and in that time I've gone from an absolute hack beginner to an absolute hack advanced paddler. I've also seen a huge increase in surfski paddlers in the Gorge, and it's just a lot of fun to meet new people who come from all walks of life and are at various stages of their own journey chasing waves.

One of the many things that charms me about downwind surfski paddling is the demand for progression. It's an incredibly nuanced, and yet physical pursuit that requires the athlete to commit, focus and put in the work to develop a library of skills to surf well in almost any condition one can expect to meet on sea... or river. It's one thing to catch a wave and surf it. It's quite another to catch every wave and squeeze every last drop of energy out of a downwind run.

But my favorite part of downwind paddling? At the end of every run as the endorphins set in I close my eyes and savor the rising feeling of the powerful waves. In this relaxed state my mind retraces my steps and missteps, and I try learn something new that has the potential to make me just a little bit faster, smarter or stronger the next time I drop in. And that motivates me to come back for more. 

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We're all in-between swims.

This poor chap is having a rough go of paddling a V12. Needs to be a bit more patient on the remount, and much faster on the catch to prevent needing to remount - but credit for giving it a go. The V12 is rather unforgiving that way, you either have it right or you're swimming. 

I paddled my V12 the other day and was impressed with the overall stability, but it had a distinct "loose" feeling going downwind that is a bit unnerving. I now much prefer the V14, which while it lacks in primary and secondary stability, is much more predictable underfoot and very fast. I genuinely love having a low volume boat, especially in upwind chop. The lack of volume really helps with bow-slap. 

It's funny to write that, because it seems like just yesterday I was getting absolutely thumped trying to paddle an Epic V10sport, the golden retriever of surfskis; very forgiving and easy going. It may even bring you your slippers in the morning.

Which is exactly the point of this post. Spend enough time in the bucket, pay your dues, and work very hard to expand your skill sets and even the tippiest dragon of a ski starts to feel a bit more tame. 

Surfski paddling has a steep learning curve that is humbling, especially to someone like me with little to zero background in water sport. But maybe what makes it so addicting is because its hard. And getting good at something hard is very rewarding. 

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