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Bernd Roediger reports from Pistol River: Part 1

Jun 26, 2010

Author: Bernd Roediger / Photos by Kevin Pritchard

I woke up from a short nap I had taken on the airplane. It must have been a good nap because for the life of me I couldn't remember where I was going or what I was doing. I looked at my Dad sitting next to me… he was also asleep. Then, after a moment, I realized I was on a plane to Portland, Oregon for a windsurfing contest at Pistol River. Besides the fact that it was on the west coast and next to a river (I know I'm a genius) I had no idea what it would be like. I had two pictures in my mind. A flat, windless coast where people where putting around on huge boards trying to ride two inch waves. And the second was the ocean's fury bunched up into one set. The second picture was probably all of the "Deadliest Catch" episodes I had been watching the night before bunched up into one terrifying Jaws-on-drugs beach-break. Just then the pilot announced that we were just thirty minutes from landing. I opened up my window and looked down just in time to see the coast, from up in the air it looked a lot like the second image and with that pleasant thought I closed my window and got ready to land.

  After fitting our four gear bags onto our Ford Explorer we hit the road at around 10:30 P.M. and began to drive. So we drove and drove and drove, and at 6 A.M. we pulled up to Gold Beach in Curry County. We were here! So we stumbled into a motel and slept until noon.

I woke up and again had that strange dream-like feeling. I found it hard to focus on what I was doing. After finally feeling refreshed and ready, we went to the event site: Pistol River. The road over there was lined with pine trees so I was always trying to look between them to see the waves. I kept expecting the one massive set breaking onto a towering monolith but I never found it. Then we got out of the forest and onto the coast. What I saw totally surprised me! I didn't see massive beach break but it wasn't a tiny pigmy break either. What I saw was a head to logo high beach break that looked epic for jumping and riding! It's always cool to go to a completely unknown place and not have a clue what you're going to find, then when you get there you're pleasantly surprised with epic conditions!

  We quickly jumped out of the car and ran to the beach! The wind was howling and the waves thrashed around wildly. I looked up and down the beach, it seemed to go on forever. Monoliths lined the coast as far as I could see and dunes separated the forest from the beach. "It's so beautiful", I thought sheepishly. Then before I knew it, my Dad was down at the ocean getting ready to dip his toe in the water. After a second I heard him hooting and hollering around on the beach. "Stick your toe in the water!" he told me. I did so and immediately felt the shock of the cold water!

  After we got over the cold I rigged up and prepared to go out. That's when Ingrid Larouche (pictured right), a Hookipa and Gorge sailor, came over and asked me if I had any booties. "Booties?" I asked, "Why would I need booties?" But I knew she was right, the water was so cold and all I had was a 4/3 wetsuit! She was nice enough to lend me a pair and with that I took off down the beach. On my first run out I dunked my head on a Forward Loop! I felt the immediate shock of the cold water and almost instantly got an ice-cream headache! At first I couldn't shake the cold and it messed with my sailing completely. But by the end of the day I was able to get a few forwards and back loops in. Still I wondered if I could perform well in the contest.

  The next morning I woke up and for a second thought I was in Maui, but then I remembered I was at Gold Beach, Oregon. "It should be Cold Beach," I joked to myself. We drove down to the beach and saw that there was no wind so we decided to bring out the stand-up boards. My Dad didn't have any booties so I decided not to wear mine to make him feel better! His reaction was similar to mine: shock and then terror! Despite the cold, the waves were really fun and when I got too cold I would come in and warm up. When I did, someone from the beach would talk to me about paddling, since most of them were new to it. It was cool to see how many people were interested in it. I would have let someone try, but not many people can stand on my board!

  When the wind started to pick up we headed in and ate lunch at Dairy Queen (by the way, what is Braizer food?). After that we went back to the beach but saw that the wind was too windy for stand-up but too light for windsurfing. After a moment of thinking we decided to go to the Redwood forest in California and man was that a good decision!

  As soon as we entered California we saw Redwoods! They were growing right next to the road, most of them weren't that big but the ones in the park were a different story. As soon as we entered the park we spotted, well it wasn't that hard to spot, a giant tree. I mean this thing was GIGANTIC. Farther down the road there was a fallen tree that was rotting from the inside! I climbed up the hill it was sitting on and descended back down inside it until the end where I couldn't get down because the tree was so thick that if I jumped I would probably break my legs! My Dad and I got inside a tree that was standing up while rotting and we could see the sunlight from the open top! But the best part was the river.


  As we left the park we found a large, slow moving river. The road followed it a little longer until it stopped by a place where divers and swimmers could pull off and get to the river. We walked down with our boards and paddled up the river. I should tell you, in case you didn't know, that this was inside of the Redwood forest so we could see entire mountains covered with greenery from our boards. The river itself ran through marble rock with little sandy beaches to sit and rest at dotting the shoreline! After a while my Dad broke the awed silence and said "I hear rapids."

  Now at this point I'm so hyped from the giant trees and the awesome river that there was no way I wasn't going down this rapid!  So when my Dad spoke up we made a beeline up the river for the whitewater. When we got to it I paddled up through an eddy and started down the rapid without a second thought. It wasn't until I was on top of the rapid that I had my doubts.

  As I paddled up to the rapid I started thinking about the fact that I had no idea what I was doing! I also had a leash on so that I wouldn't lose my board; but if it got caught on a rock, which it had done once before, I would drown if I couldn't unstrap it. All of this went through my mind when I was on the verge of the rapid and as I went down I immediately fell and was pinned under the water. Then I came up for only a second but it was just enough time for me to catch my breath, then I went back down again and kicked and paddled to the surface. After a few moments I came up again and hurdled onto my board! I wasn't going to do that again!



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