Good thing stand up paddleboarding is a water sport.
The recreational and professional racers were having too much fun to care about the rain that came pouring down just before the Salmon Classic awards ceremony Sunday, at Capt. William Clark Park in Washougal.
By then, 48 paddleboarders had already crossed the finish line. They all huddled together under cover celebrating their accomplishments with beer, food and lots of laughter.
“Stand up paddleboarding has changed my life. It has led to so many relationships, friendships and opportunities I never had before,” said race director Erick Gelbke. “This is the greatest group of people I have ever been around. It’s also physically, emotionally and metaphorically great for your body, mind and your soul.”
Tucker Ingalls, Michael Tavares and Derek Fromm matched each other stroke for stroke in the 8-mile long course challenge.
Ingalls won with a time of 45 minutes, 11.01 seconds. Tavares took second (45:13.44), Fromm finished in third (45:25.36) and Dan Gavere followed in fourth (46:52.80). These four men competed in the 18 to 49 age 14-foot board category.
Fiona Wylde, an 18-year-old from Hood River, earned fifth place overall with a time of 49:06.04. She was the only racer in the women’s 18 to 49 14-foot board category.
“It’s just beautiful. I love the Columbia River Gorge,” Wylde said. “Thank you to the City of Washougal. These are the kind of events that help our sport grow.”
Wylde spent about an hour after her race teaching people how to stand up on the board and paddle through the water. This is her fifth summer of racing.
“I’m still learning, and I’ve had all of these mentors to look up to,” Wylde said. “Now that I’m at that elite level, it means a lot to me to be able to teach these people.
“It’s cool to see so many people get into this sport at all ages,” she added. “This is something anybody can do.”
Wylde will spend the next three weeks in Japan racing against the best paddleboarders in the world.
“I’m really looking forward to learning about the Japanese culture and pushing myself,” she said. “I’m going to race as hard as I can. I would love to come out on top, but any day you get to be up on a board and race is a good day.”
Alyson Fromm and Hannah Hill had a fight to the finish line in the women’s 18 to 49 12-6 board long course challenge. Fromm won in 51:35.05. Hill followed in 51:35.92.
“I thought she was going to pass me on that last stretch, but I was able to hold her off. I was really proud of my race,” Fromm said. “I liked having the spectators on the beach. It motivates me to do my best. I also liked how everybody was buddy-buddy at the finish line. That was probably my favorite part.”
Other long course challenge category leaders were Macrae Wylde (49:35.24) in the men’s 50-plus age 14-foot board division, Sallyanne Ellis (1:05.04.63) in the women’s 50-plus age 12-6 board group, David Hawley (1:06.05.58) in the men’s 50-plus 12-6 board class and Charlie Cindric (1:06.38.79) in the men’s 18 to 49 12-6 board category.
Steve Doncetta clinched first place in the 4-mile short course challenge in 29:37.77. He also won the men’s 50-plus 14-foot board category.
Other short course category leaders included Brett Downen (29:42.78) in the men’s 18 to 49 14-foot board division, Debora Owen (32:15.33) in the women’s 18 to 49 12-6 board class, Megan Grimes (34:30.57) in the women’s 18 to 49 14-foot board group, Logan Rueter (34:47.99) in the youth 12-6 board division, Lorie Everett (35:25.19) in the women’s 50-plus 14-foot board group and Christopher Anderson (40:15.46) in the men’s 18 to 49 SUP surfboard category.
Jeff Landrie claimed first place in the 2-mile novice race with a time of 18:24.13. Rochelle Rueter won the youth category in 20:12.41.
Landrie enjoyed the thrill of going from last place last year to first place this year.
“It was only my fourth time up on a paddleboard. I had some good luck, I guess,” he said. “I just like seeing all the people come out to support Washougal. There were about a 100 people racing or spectating. That was pretty cool, considering the rain.”
Fiona Wylde said the number-one rule at these races is to have fun, no matter what the conditions are.
“The reason we all go out in the water is to have a good time,” she said. “At the end of the day, the winner is the one who has the most fun.”