Athletes from around the globe are coming to Washougal to stand up on a board and paddle in the Columbia River.
The World Paddleboard Association’s first Salmon Classic takes off from Cottonwood Beach Saturday, Aug. 31, at Capt. William Clark Park. An 8-mile long course challenge kicks off at 9 a.m., followed by a 4-mile short course race at 11 a.m., and a 2-mile novice event at noon.
The winning male and female competitors will receive a $2,000 prize. Awards will also be given to the top three winners in each class.
Racing director Terry Click said paddleboarding is becoming one of the fastest growing sports in the world. The 1980 Camas High School graduate owns Sweetwood Paddleboards, in Bigfork, Mont. He has lots of childhood memories on the Columbia River and Lacamas Lake.
“The water is a big part of that community,” Click said. “When you stand up on a board and paddle, you have a greater appreciation for all the beauty that surrounds us. You also get a better view of the water. You can see the fish and you can see the beavers. It’s just a great way to experience the environment and nature.”
The Washougal event will be held in conjunction with two other paddleboarding races in Oregon and Washington.
The Gorge Paddle Challenge is scheduled for Aug. 17 and 18, in Hood River, Ore. Round the Rock occurs Sept. 7, in Seattle.
“This is the triple crown of the Northwest. Washougal is excited to be the second jewel in this triple crown,” Click said. “All three of these events will attract athletes from around the world. It’s an opportunity for them to take the crown in the region.”
The event is called the Salmon Classic because it coincides with the fall Chinook salmon run. Upwards of 40,000 salmon will be swimming up the Columbia River.
Members of the Chinook Indian Nation will provide a pre-race blessing and beat their drums for the paddleboarders during the event.
“The whole vibe down there is going to be incredible,” Click said.
Washougal historian Rene’ Carroll hopes the community will get behind this event because it will bring outdoor enthusiasts to the city and introduce them to the local businesses.
“Cottonwood Beach is the perfect venue,” said Carroll, who is helping to organize the event.
“Going into this, I was thinking, ‘what do we have?’ We have a great beach and paddleboarding is really starting to take off,” she added. “I think it’s going to be a perfect fit.”
Click hopes the Salmon Classic will reel in racers and fans just like the annual Washougal AMA Motocross National. He is already thinking about expanding this event for 2015 and beyond.
“Motocross has always been a big event for Washougal,” he said. “This could be just as big, if not bigger, when you think about how far people are going to travel in order to participate in this race.”