Category Archives: Hood River


Buried deep in our chests, each Hood River citizen is now required to wear an economic growth inhibitor at all times. The weather-changing device atop City Hall is now operating at full power, effectively deflecting all tourists and their valuable Canadian dollars away from our town.

We’ve started referring to this month as June-uary, and at this point we’re beginning to lose all hope for the summer. It’s 50 degrees and cloudy here, and if this miserable weather pattern keeps up much longer there’s risk that we’ll all go back into our off-season hibernation. Frigid conditions aside, I’ve still gotten in a ton of kiteboarding this season, and last week I rode my custom 5’3″ North Pacific in some of the biggest, glassiest swell I have ever seen at the White Salmon Bridge.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading the new Aaron Hillegass book and trying to teach myself Objective-C and Cocoa. The book is wonderful, but every time I try to improve my programming skills I feel like a dog trying to walk on its hind legs. My knowledge of Ruby and other object-oriented languages definitely helps with the learning curve for Objective-C, and my familiarity with a few different MVC frameworks, including Rails and CodeIgniter, helps with the underlying concepts of Cocoa. I recently spent an inordinate amount of time researching event listeners and how they’re manifested in JavaScript, and as a result my crude understanding of event-driven programming is nonetheless sophisticated enough that I can recognize it in unfamiliar territory.

This ability to abstract knowledge from the specific to the general is what separates man from the lichens and mosses of the world, and I take pride in that fact. Even so, I always feel clumsy and awkward as I stumble blindly through a new language or a new programming concept. I can’t shake the feeling that I’m making this harder than it is, that these are ideas I would have learned the first semester of my freshman year, in an Intro to Computer Science course.

That said, my education wasn’t in computer science. It wasn’t then, it isn’t now, and it won’t be in September. My areas of study included music, jazz, writing, English, philosophy and journalism. And yet I keep inexplicably gravitating towards programming, perhaps because I enjoy learning, perhaps because I’m a glutton for punishment, and perhaps because I have this awful habit of seeking out and doing the things that I find most frightening and difficult.

Ergo Oregon, ergo kiteboarding, ergo interaction design.

Sol 0

My neighbors celebrated June by drinking beer from 10:00 in the morning until 3:00 the following morning. Outwardly I pretend to be impressed, but inwardly I’m annoyed and disappointed that they didn’t make a day of it.


Yesterday: Kiteboarding. Beer. Late night with friends.
Today: Kiteboarding. Beer. Late night with friends.

More like this, please.

Rice Balls

We’re done. Kate and I have finished our applications to graduate school, all of our transcripts have been submitted, and our recommenders have completed their assessments of our qualifications. In the end we only applied to three schools, as the fourth school on our list made considerable effort to come across as an arrogant prick. It was as though they were doing us a favor in allowing us to apply to their school, and we should be so lucky that they were taking the time to communicate with us in the first place.

So now after four months on this project, averaging two hours of work every evening of every day, we now wait to hear back. Or at least, some of us are waiting to hear back. Kate was accepted to her program at one of our schools less than a day after submitting her application. I keep telling people that I’m involved in an abusive relationship, and my girlfriend beats me. Not only does she beat me by turning in her applications before me, but she beats me in getting accepted to her schools before me.

In other news, on Friday I finally got my car back from the auto body shop. They were having a hell of a time resetting the error codes in the system, so they had to take an extra day and drive it to the Subaru dealership in The Dalles and have them clear out the codes for good. While they were driving to The Dalles a rock got kicked up by another car, chipping my brand-fucking new windshield, and requiring yet another day of repair. I am becoming increasingly convinced that either my car or that stretch of highway is cursed, and I will never again be able to drive to The Dalles without suffering the consequences.

I went snowboarding at Mount Hood Meadows today, and had a splendid time scouring the mountain for something that was not ice. Conditions were fairly mediocre, as we only have a 50-inch base and we haven’t had a significant snow storm in more than a week. Ice and rocks aside it was great to get on the hill, and even though I loved driving the Ford Focus while my Subaru was in the shop, it’s nice driving a car to Hood that doesn’t leave me feeling terrified. Oh, Ford Focus, it’s sad and alarming how much you have in common with my old Ford Tempo.

There is encouraging news, too, on the knee side of things. I went riding at the mountain last weekend with my friend Joe, and on my second run I took a huge digger right on my knee. While it hurt like crazy I assumed I was just acting the wuss, and so I forced myself to keep riding on it for four more hours. By the time we got to the van it was feeling pretty tender, and I iced it with a ziplock bag of snow for the drive back to Hood River.

When I got home my knee had since swollen to the size of a grapefruit, to the point where I couldn’t even stand and cook dinner. It was all I could do to drop ibuprofen, ice my knee, and sit on the couch watching episodes of The West Wing. The injury has since matured into an impressive bruise that spans my leg, and I no longer look like I have the knee of a World’s Strongest Man.

Hot Air

The other night I went to see Playground, Warren Miller’s new ski flick. I believe this was about my third or fourth snow pr0n movie of the season, and to be perfectly honest I’m going to vomit if I need to sit through another half-hour of Alaska heli-skiing. Seriously, I don’t care how hardcore the terrain might be, or how many times you can say “stoked” in a sentence, your big-mountain shit bores me to sickness.

I suppose Playground was decent, in that it was just like every other flick I’ve seen so far this season. Except, what the hell was up with the ten-minute spot on Bode Miller? How the hell do you toss that f-wad in the middle of your ski movie, with nary a hint of irony, and expect to be taken seriously? The ass didn’t even bother to shave for your interview, for chrissakes.

Additionally, there were times where I felt like I was watching an ad for Corona. After about the fifth hot tub shot (in the Alaskan Chugach Mountains, natch) framed with a half-finished bottle in the foreground, I became a bit suspicious. Indeed, I came to discover that Corona was one of the major sponsors for the movie.

In wholly unrelated news, I got a flat tire today. After spending fifteen minutes trying to fill it back up at the Chevron’s broken-ass air compressor, I went across town to the 76 Station next to the freeway, where you can enjoy Oregon hospitality at Washington prices. One person didn’t know what I was talking about when I asked if they had compressed air, and the other person looked at me funny.

“Compressed air? Do you mean air? Like, just, air?”
“Uhh, yeah. That’s right. Air.”
“Oh yeah, we got that. Blue hose, right over there by the propane tank.”
“Blue hose? Now, you’re sure I won’t be filling my tires up with propane, right? Because I don’t want that.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m sure.”

He seemed a bit too sure.


The fellow in front of me at Wal-Mart was buying one hundred pounds of cat food.

I shudder to think of what horrific Halloween costume he has in mind.

Cool Down

The sun still feels hot but the air has taken on a distinct chill. The Cascades are whispering, and once again the cold breath from the upper elevations is winding its way through town, carrying with it the taste of nameless forest groves. Hood River has all but emptied out, and while we certainly appreciate the great attention doted upon us during the summer months, there’s definitely a feeling of shared relief among those of us left behind.

Out on the water the wind continues to blow, but it now follows a fall schedule of unpredictable nuclear winds and random easterlies. Yesterday evening it was gusting to 42 mph at Swell City. Today it was so windy that someone was actually kiteboarding on a trainer kite. I had a good session on my seven meter kite after work on Wednesday, suddenly realizing how much more power I could handle when I stand up straight and actually use good posture while riding.

I took my Omega out of its mushy 2:1 pulley configuration and now ride it in 1:1, which makes it a much more fun, but ultimately less forgiving kite. The stock 1:1 configuration recommended by Cabrinha is awesome in that it’s incredibly reactive and completely eliminates bar pressure, but it destroys the range of depower to such a degree that by the end of one of my sessions I found my waist harness up around my armpits.

I’ve since rigged my bar and kites in the unofficial 1:1 configuration, which increases bar pressure and reduces responsiveness when compared to the stock 1:1, but grants a much wider range of depower. Seeing as how I’m typically riding in conditions that range from 13-30 mph, I’ll take the added depower range any day.

Last weekend I got out to the Oregon Coast for the first time in years, camping at Oswald with Kelly, Jason and their friends from Beaverton. The drive out was full of firsts for me, including visiting Trader Joe’s and eating at Jack in the Box. Kelly and I ordered our food to go, stole a bag of Jack in the Box sauces to complement our Trader Joe’s “snausages” that we eventually devoured at the Coast, and ate our questionable meals ghetto-style, sitting on the curb under the florescent lights of the parking lot.

There was a family at Jack in the Box who was treating their foreign exchange student to a fine meal out on the town, and in recognition of this occasion the husband wore his cleanest Hooter’s t-shirt.

At the Coast I tried surfing for the first time in my life, and I managed to keep it together for some time out at Short Sands, despite the fact that I found the water to be unbelievably cold at 49 degrees. I’d paddle and ride until I found myself absolutely gnarled by a wave, at which point I would hand the board over to Kelly so she could do the same.

We kept up this pattern until the sun fell into the ocean.


I’ve been going full-throttle for so long that it’s hard to believe the summer is almost over. In two weeks the tourons will go their separate ways and we’ll get our quiet little town back, for better or worse. Then in two months the rains will sock us in and even amongst us “locals” we won’t see each other until next summer.

I say “locals” because while I’ve lived here since October, and while I’ve survived one whole and two half winters here, I still remember nearly getting in a fight with a “true local” in a bar, a fellow who was born here and took offense by anyone who was not born here and called themselves “locals.” You see, it’s a polarizing issue. An issue that would never again present itself if I had my mohawk and beard, but an issue nevertheless.

As for my kiteboarding, I’m pretty much out of control by this point. I’ve got my heelside carves completely dialed, and I’m almost there with my toeside carves. I’m slashing back and forth in the swell and getting huge air off waves, and my control is such that the kite is increasingly becoming an extension of my body. I’m sure Justin, an awesome surfer hippie fellow who lives in the woods and is the only person I know who can speak entire sentences in English that I find absolutely captivating but utterly incomprehensible, would have something eloquent to say about this.

A few days ago I tried out a directional kiteboard from North Pacific Surfboards, a local custom surf shop that’s run by an awesome fellow named Art. A directional kiteboard is like a miniature surfboard, ranging in size from five to six feet long. We’ve been selling Art’s works of art at our shop all season and he’s got quite the fan club, but it wasn’t until now that I’ve been solid enough with my kiteboarding to know what all the fuss is about.

Holy. Shit. Wow.

There’s no way around it. Art’s boards are fucking incredible and they have totally changed the way I kiteboard. The day after I tried his 5’8″ round squash board I was already at his shop, placing an order for my own custom board. Sean let me borrow his 5’3″ board for the last few days, with the suggestion that the smaller board would be a better match for my size and the conditions I typically ride in.

I’ve been out on the 5’3″ the last two days in a row, and damn if he didn’t call that size perfectly! Art is off to Japan for the next two weeks, but as soon as he gets back I’m going to have him shape a 5’3″ to add to the Burgs’ ol’ quiver.

In contrast to the twin tip kiteboards that I’ve ridden since taking up kiteboarding (and the boards ridden by nearly every kiteboarder out there), directional boards have a super loose feel when you ride. You can effortlessly carve back and forth from toeside to heelside, and completely shred the hell out of swell and waves. They edge upwind like crazy, opening up an incredible third dimension to your riding.

When I was on the 5’8″ I reached the White Salmon Bridge in two reaches, completing in five minutes a trip that usually takes me half an hour. By the time I tried out the 5’3″ I was confident enough with my riding that I would do a toeside carve at the end of my normal reach, and then do an entire reach riding toeside. Toeside is typically associated with riding downwind at an incredible clip, but these boards ride so efficiently and edge so well that I can actually edge upwind while riding toeside.

What’s more, as I became increasingly comfortable with slashing the board I felt my snowboard skills start bubbling to the surface, which only enlivened my desire to push it to the limit. On a single reach I’d carve back and forth like a madman, grab some huge air off a wave, edge upwind a little it, throw into a toeside carve…

…and completely eat it. I would ride so hard that my sessions with the directional never lasted long, and I’d soon cruise back to the beach smiling but completely worked. This morning I found myself awkwardly stumbling around the house, and it dawned on me that it wasn’t because I was drunk (unlikely as my honey lager isn’t done fermenting yet) but because there was so much of the Columbia stuck in my ears that it was affecting my balance.

So really, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Loads of kiteboarding, punctuated with the occasional web design binge, a bit of writing, lots of photography, a smattering of web advertising, and personal drunkedness inventioning.


From Minneapolis to Hood River, everyone I know is safe. I emerged this evening from The Simpsons Movie to stinging eyes and the taste of smoke thick on the air. At 4:00 this afternoon a wildfire started in someone’s backyard up near Country Club Road and Frankton Road, on the west side of Hood River. Helped by the awesome winds that made my afternoon on the water so much fun, by 8:00 tonight the fire had burned to 50 acres and they’ve been evacuating homes in the area.

This fire is completely unrelated to the twelve acre fire that popped up on the east side of Hood River last week, which started when a trailer lost a wheel and threw sparks into the grass. That one struck as I was out kiteboarding last Friday, and it was a bit scary to have this huge kite in the air as all these low-flying planes and helicopters were swooping about. I know they only look close, and they’re still probably 500 feet or more in the air, but there’s just something about a crowded airspace that puts one’s nerves on edge.

My session that evening came to a graceless end as I was sitting on the beach packing up my kite. All I remember is my friend Jason yelling “Oh shit!” and diving for the ground, as I was suddenly enveloped in someone’s kite lines. I cursed like a sailor at the offending person as the lines raked across my skin, one of them wrapping itself around my ear. I freed myself from the lines as they ascended with the kite, but I was caught off-guard when they immediately swung back for a second round. We made contact again, and by the third passing I had finally rolled off to the side and out of harm’s way.

The next thing I saw was a gal being dragged head first on her stomach across the sandbar, and Jason running to grab the handle on the back of her harness. As it turns out, a complete moron was teaching her to kite, and he had opted to teach her directly upwind of Jason and I, upwind of the only two people on the fucking sandbar. She had lost control of the kite and had put it into “death spirals”, where the kite loops repeatedly in the same direction, crossing the lines and making control nearly impossible.

After watching me go toe-to-toe with the kite lines, the guy had the sense to see how I was doing once his girlfriend had been rescued from her kite. I asked him to look at my ear, and he told me it was scratched up but otherwise it looked fine. I pressed him, insisting that he tell me whether it was still attached to my head. He chuckled, and assured me it was still attached.

He chuckled. At the time I wasn’t in the mood for confrontation, but it made me realize something startling. The fact that he laughed at my question suggests that he totally did not understand the gravity of what he had just done. Those kite lines could very well have taken my ear off, possibly more. They use string to cut clay, and the spectra line used for kiting is good to 700 pounds before it will break.

This guy’s sheer stupidity could have killed two people. He should not have been teaching his girlfriend so close to land, he should not have been teaching her directly upwind of people, and most of all, he should not have been teaching her in the first place. This is the reason we have certified, professional kite instructors. Please use them, people.

As it is, I now have rope burns across the back of my ear, my forearm, and four long gashes under my arm. They didn’t look like much the night they happened, just grazes through the first layer of skin, but man have they ever scabbed impressively over the last few days. I look like I’ve been whipped.

As for the girl, she emerged from the fray considerably shaken, but otherwise unharmed. She told her boyfriend that she had had enough, that she was frightened, that she wanted to be done with kiting for the evening. It sounded like a reasonable and intelligent request. Instead, the guy relaunched her kite, took her back upwind, and made her keep practicing.

Jason and I made a quick exit from the beach.

Just Take A Freakin’ Lesson, People

Yeah, I’m still here. Just with more scars than usual.

This time around it wasn’t my fault.