Professional and recreational paddleboarders from around the globe conquered the Columbia River with smiles on their faces Sunday.
“Epic,” described Lucien Seymour, a 29-year-old visiting Camas and Washougal from the Bahamas. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to paddle in the beautiful Columbia River. I couldn’t pass it up when I heard about it.”
Exhausted and ecstatic, Seymour found a creative way to cross the finish line.
“I had to make a statement,” he said. “I wasn’t in the first pack, but I was the first one to do a headstand.”
Joe Threadgill was the first paddleboarder to cross the finish line in the 8-mile long course challenge with a time of 1 hour, 12 minutes, 58.65 seconds. He is in the unlimited board size class.
Chase Kosterlitz won the 14-foot men’s division with a time of 1:13:35.94. The 28-year-old from San Diego has competed all over the world, but he will never forget this recent adventure through the Columbia River Gorge to race in Hood River, Ore., and Washougal.
“Even though we are paddling hard, it’s nice to look around and see the trees and the river,” Kosterlitz said. “It’s cool that the local Chinook Indian tribe came out to be a part of this. When they were beating their drums, it gave me a little motivation to paddle faster.”
Fiona Wylde was the first female to cross the finish line in 1:22:55.1. After all the races, the 17-year-old from Hood River conducted a paddleboarding clinic for all of the participants and spectators.
“The most important thing is building excitement for the sport, and seeing that there’s room for improvement no matter what level you are at,” Wylde said. “I’m a student of the sport. I’m just starting my senior year of high school. The knowledge that I have, I hope to share with others because it helps me improve myself.”
Washougal Mayor Sean Guard had never been to a paddleboarding event before. He enjoyed all of the festivities and the camaraderie on the beach.
City liaison Rene’ Carroll said the past year of planning and promotion for the Salmon Classic paid off in a big way. Racers and community members ushered in this new event with a party at Reflection Plaza Saturday night.
“Downtown Washougal had full tables at restaurants and the streets were filled by vehicles with stand-up paddleboards on top,” Carroll said. “So we not only invited them to our beach, but also our community, and they enjoyed it.”
Racing director Terry Click saw lots of smiling faces on the water, and that’s what he’ll remember.
“I was stoked to see how many people came out. The thing that impressed me the most is how much this community has embraced this event,” Click said. “Stand-up paddleboarding is something that everybody can do, and Washougal is a great place to do it.”