Category Archives: Hood River


Friday at the shop I was helping a gal with some windsurfing harnesses. Unfortunately we were sold out of the model that she really wanted, and none of the ones that we had in-stock fit her as well as she would have liked. She was especially bummed as she had lost her harness a few days ago, and was now trying to shop for a replacement.

Regrettably shopping for an item when you had a perfectly good one until just recently, and especially when it went missing unwillingly, is absolutely no fun. Just tell me about it. I offered her some words of comfort:

“That’s a total bummer about your harness. If it eases your frustration at all, I lost my kiteboard last Thursday. That’s going to be a bit more painful to replace.”

“Really? You lost your board on Thursday?”

“Yup. Sure did.”

“Did you lose it by the White Salmon Bridge?”

“Heh, yeah.”

“Was it a white board?”

“What? Are you kidding?”

“My friend was trying to rescue someone else’s board, and he had attached it to his board with his leash so he could tow it in. It didn’t work so well, and he ended up losing both boards. I came up to him in the water and he asked me if he saw the boards anywhere, but I couldn’t find them. It was really windy and I was overpowered, so it was impossible for me to do a good search the area.”

“Okay, whoa. Wow. Whoa. Wow.”

She gave me the fellow’s phone number, and I called him and left a message on his voicemail. The other night I heard back from him, and without a doubt it was my board that he was trying to rescue. He described it perfectly, even down to where I wrote my name and phone number on it.

The world is smaller than you could ever imagine.

He had found the board 200 yards upwind of the White Salmon Bridge, which is significant as I had lost it about 100 yards downwind of the bridge. He was rather perplexed by the whole thing as there was no one in sight who appeared to be missing a board, otherwise he would have tried to reunite the board with its owner. Judging by the distance the board had traveled downstream by the time he had found it, I was probably well on my way back to the beach by then.

I thanked him profusely for his recovery efforts, and apologized for my board’s unfortunate act of cannibalization. He said not to worry, and sighed that no good deed goes unpunished. He was optimistic, though. Six weeks ago he lost a kite down in the San Francisco Bay, and just the other day he got a phone call that his kite had been found.

Somewhere between here and the Bonneville Dam are two kiteboards leashed together, with names and phone numbers to match. With any luck they won’t get jammed in a turbine, won’t shut down the dam, and we won’t be sent $100,000 repair bills.


After a couple weeks of 90-degree temperatures, and four days in the 100s, I finally installed my air conditioner today. This was all thanks to the expert consultation of my neighbor, who introduced me to the “ghetto fab” method of using cardboard and duct tape. It ain’t pretty, and it introduces an unfortunate second-rate motel room vibe to my bedroom, but at least it works.

The air conditioner itself is a nice piece of work that I got from my friend Leslie while she was moving last fall. It even has a remote, and while it only gets one channel it’s the only one with anything worth watching. Cold.

Today I lost my kiteboard. Maybe I’ll see it again. Maybe I won’t. I’m pretty bitter about the whole thing, because I had thought I was a better kiter than this. I was on my first reach from The Spit, lit up on my seven meter and headed towards the Washington side. I made it a super long reach and got all up in Washington’s grill, as the most consistent wind and best swell is over on that side. When it came time to head back to Oregon I missed my turn (this has been a theme as of late) and dropped my kite.

Somewhere in the whole deal my lines got twisted, and because I was bobbing in five-foot swell it was difficult to get a complete visual on my bar and lines to isolate the problem. Finally I realized that one of my control lines had wrapped around my bar, and after correcting that I was able to launch the kite without a problem.

The whole ordeal took about five minutes, by which point I was certain my board was long gone. Luckily I saw it nearby, back towards the Washington side, and I started body dragging in that direction. However, all it took was the passing of a few large swells and my board disappeared from view. I spent the next twenty minutes body dragging back and forth, both upwind and downwind, in desperate search but to no avail. I even boosted myself a couple times to get a better view, but the board was nowhere to be seen.

Somewhat exhausted by this point, I decided it would be best to begin my long slog back to Oregon, rather than keep bobbing around waiting for a new disaster to strike. I was just about as far from The Spit as I could get, and all told I probably had to do about two miles of body dragging to get myself back to the beach. I made it back safely, only managing to swallow a small portion of the Columbia.

While my session weighed in at about ten tons of suck, I was surprised at how comfortable I felt during the whole episode. While I may be a pretty shitty kiter, at least the sport doesn’t scare the shit out of me anymore. I suppose that’s worth something.

Hopefully it’s worth as much as a new board.


I didn’t know the definition of overpowered until I tried kiting at Rufus today.

The wind in the Gorge has been absolutely nuking solid for the past week. It’s been windier than stink, and being a kiteboarder I’ve been sadly beached for the last couple days as the windsurfers have ripped it up. Oh well. They deserve a chance for some fun… I’ve been kiting nearly four days a week for the entire summer while they have been sitting on the beach waiting for the wind to pick up, so I suppose I can allow them a week of the good stuff.

A couple days ago I jammed across the bridge after work to take some pictures at The Hatchery of riders practicing for the Freestyle Frenzy competition. The place was a mad house, and it took me nearly an hour just to find a parking spot. Cars were double and even triple parked, and the lot scene, with its haphazard fashion and people scattered about in lawn chairs clutching cans of Rainier, reminded me of a Phish concert more than anything else.

I had been shooting photos at The Hatch for over an hour until I had finally gotten warmed up, and was dismayed when I realized that I had already shot through my 2GB card. Yup. I had shot 400 pictures, 99% of them rejects, and it wasn’t until that point that I felt like I was finally hitting my stride. For my final hour I traded off between deleting and shooting, which while being terribly inefficient was completely necessary to grab some more decent shots.

Next week my Canon L lenses show up, which while greatly improving my ability to take kick-ass photos will also certainly increase my stress associated with exposing my camera to the elements. Blazing sun and 100 degree temperatures, coupled with 30 mph of blowing sand and river, don’t necessarily create the ideal studio environment.

The wind at the Event Site has been so wonky the last few days that today I drove out east in search of some more consistent wind. I ended up at Rufus and proceeded to spend two hours on the beach, hemming and hawing about whether to put a kite in the air and go out on the water. The question was a valid one. The wind was blowing at a constant 30 mph, and there were fellows who had a good 40 pounds on me who were completely lit up on five meter kites. The smallest I had was a seven.

Finally a fellow I had met two years ago down in Los Barriles showed up, and after some deliberation he went out on his ten meter North Rhino. Now, even though this guy had a good 100 pounds on me and was built like a meat tree, his was sufficient inspiration for me to get my ass in gear and go kiting. I decided that I would take a single reach out, and if the conditions were truly uncontrollable I would come back and land my kite.

And that’s exactly what I did.

The story being that I made it back. These were some seriously crazy conditions at Rufus today, and two weeks ago they would have chewed me up something fierce. I had my seven meter kite completely depowered and completely sheeted out, and yet was still totally lit the fuck up. While nothing bad happened during my short session, I realized while I was out there that all of my energy and concentration was focused merely on kiting. If anything extraneous were to come along, from a freak gust to a rogue wave to a grain barge to a lost board to a dropped kite, I would have been fucked. Not only that, I would have been fucked in five foot swell, which is a new category entirely.

So that was that. I went out and I came back. All in all, I’m glad that I at least tried kiting today at Rufus, if only for an opportunity to experience those conditions and give myself a yardstick for measuring future sessions. It’s important to find and test these limits on occasion, for without knowing them it would be easy to develop a false sense of confidence in your abilities. It’s humbling sessions like this that keep you real.

After getting back from Rufus this afternoon I rigged up and went kiting at The Spit, and had a ton of fun in not-so-life-threatening conditions. Afterwards I rode my bike downtown and met Jason, Kelly and some friends at Double Mountain for beer. We alternated our activities between drinking microbrews, pulling hair out of a yellow labrador from Alaska, and laughing at a malamute that sounded like one of the Three Stooges.

Prependence Day

Robby Naish, the Robby Naish, was here this weekend. He hung around the shop for a few hours on Sunday night, visiting with people and signing autographs and exuding potent waves of awesomeness. I was all up in his grill taking photographs for most of the night, which is now a thing I do.

Today was hot. On my lunch break I went home just to sit at my kitchen table and sweat.

I went to the Hood River Wal-Mart today, also known as The Happiest Place On Earth. No matter where I turned I was always boxed in by pet food.

There’s something unwholesome about buying fireworks after dark out of a tent pitched in a parking lot, which is probably why I was excited enough to throw down twenty bucks for a brick of the shit. That, and they had a strobe light. I’m helpless whenever there’s a strobe light.

Or anything bright and shiny, for that matter.


Friday I traded some hours with Mark at the shop, scoring myself a three-hour lunch break that I split between eating and kiteboarding. The eating was good and the kiteboarding was okay… the wind was really light, and I only managed a few reaches before deciding it was best to come back in, and avoid getting stuck out in the middle of the river if the wind decided to die completely. It was the kind of session that we typically describe with a shrug and the line, “At least I got wet.”

Fortunately the wind had picked up by the time Bea and I closed the shop for the night, so we jammed down to the beach for an evening kite session. Bea tinkered in the shallows while I spent my time upwind playing in the swell, working on my toeside carves. After the session Topher gave me a ride to the parking lot in the back of his truck, and I headed back home for the late night that was to be.

Before they left, Jake and his gang of crag rats got me a growler as a “thanks for letting us turn your living room into a base camp, sleep on your floor, use your shower, and keep really weird hours” gift, sixty-four delicious ounces of Full Sail’s Son of Spot IPA. That night I invited some friends over, and before I knew it my house had filled up with ten people or so, many whom I did not know. I put everyone on a strict regimen of Full Sail and homebrew, and when that dried up we switched to Rainier and cigarettes.

While checking out my digs Jeff discovered I had a Wii, so the closing hours of the night were dedicated to some serious Wii Bowling. I could hardly keep my balance and lost to all my opponents by a scant handful of points, even losing the game where Wyatt and I bowled straight spares on all but one frame. Our party dissolved its little self at around 2:00 in the morning.

Saturday I was hung over. All day. I went to the Sandbar in the afternoon, hoping that the wind and sun would pull me out of my spinning fog and I could get myself in a mood to go kiting. No deal. I stood at the edge of the parking lot for fifteen minutes watching the action from the hill, and all I felt were pangs of jealousy for all the people who were out on the water and didn’t have headaches. I went home and slept some more.

Feeling much better on Sunday I went back to the Sandbar, hiked out to the launch spot and started pumping up my nine meter kite. In the time it took me to do that the wind had picked up, and before long I was hiking back to my car to trade the nine for my seven. By the time I got back to the launch spot the wind had calmed down again, all the way back to solid nine meter conditions, but I said fuck it and rigged my seven anyway.

I went out for half an hour until deciding that it was too light to risk going any longer, and on my way back in I got caught in a lull and dropped my kite. After a bit of swimming I made it back to my launch spot, and spent some time just hanging out with other kiters, shooting the shit and helping launch and land people. All the while we were watching a band of clouds and rain make their way up the Gorge, and we wondered what sort of wind they would bring with them.

And then we knew. Almost instantly the river turned into a surly, boiling cauldron of whitecaps. In the distance we could see the dust from the Hook being whipped from the ground, a devouring orange cloud that consumed our view. Gear went pin-wheeling when the wind finally hit the Sandbar, and everyone scrambled to protect their kites from the squall.

I piled all my stuff on my kite to keep it in place, and shoveled so much sand onto it I nearly buried it from view. The wind did the rest. Before long we were in a full-on sandstorm, and I had to pull my wetsuit back on to temper its rage against my flesh. So much sand was blowing that when you looked downwind across the Delta, all you could see was a solid grey cloud.

However, whatever we were experiencing on the Sandbar was nothing compared to what was happening out on the water. There were about ten or fifteen kiters out, and they were all fighting the wind and trying to limp back to the beach. We helped people with landing their kites as soon as they got in range, and while many seemed a bit brow-beaten it didn’t look like anyone had actually gotten injured out there.

Gear did not fair quite so well, and there were many tales of ripped kites and lost boards. One kite actually abandoned its owner, flying overhead along the far side of the sandbar with surprising beauty and danger.

The storm eventually subsided and it seemed that everyone had made it back to shore, so I excavated my kite, packed up my belongings and headed back to my car. Calm had returned to the Sandbar, but most of us were too gun-shy to get back on the water again. Sirens blaring in the distance suggested that there were other stories to this day.

June 24, 2007 Wind Graph for the Event Site

Crowd Control

I finally got out windsurfing the other day, though to actually call my actions windsurfing would be quite generous. More than anything it was swimming with gear, a new watersport that I am pioneering that draws on my skills at both kiteboarding and windsurfing. I am the ultimate crossover. I do both sports to equal degrees of mediocrity.

Perhaps I am unfair, as I now realize that is has been nearly four years since I last went windsurfing. That would have been the summer of 2003, the first summer I ever spent in Hood River. To speak of milestones, as of last Tuesday it’s been exactly four years since I first moved to Hood River. In my time since that summer I’ve been dabbling exclusively in kiteboarding, and my windsurfing certainly hasn’t progressed as a result of my monomania.

Luckily I still have my waterstarts down, but they’re pretty weak-sauce at this point. I’m familiar with using the footstraps and harness, but to be honest I get kinda freaked out when I flip into the water, and end up stuck under my sail while still hooked into my lines. Like, most people do these sports because they consider them fun, and I assume that’s why I do them as well, but it seems like I’m still at the point where my sessions are fueled by raw fear more than anything else.

I enjoy a good challenge as much as the next guy, but if these sports don’t start feeling more enjoyable and less life-threatening, suffice it to say we’re going to have words.

Anywho, today I went for a hike in the woods and learned that rural Washington celebrates Memorial Day Weekend with beer, guns and trucks. I was driving down a one-lane logging road outside of Trout Lake and every open space alongside the road had been converted into a makeshift campsite, filled with a truck, a tent from Sam’s Club, and people reclining in folding chairs. One group had a particularly impressive spread located on a beautiful stream, with ten mud-covered trucks and enough coolers to match.

In the end I wound up hiking around the Natural Bridges area, a section of trail where an old lava tube had mostly caved in, leaving behind a number of free-standing bridges. There were some neat cliffs and shallow caves to explore, but I turned around when I realized I was getting closer to the din of gunfire.

Fire Season

The Ham Lake Fire is now 100% contained on the American side. It’s still got some elbow room on the Canadian side, but it has mellowed out considerably over the last few days. Today it even snowed up at camp, and so we all breathe a collective sigh of relief as we realize it won’t be burning to the ground this time.

Now that Charter has kindly yanked me from the Dark Ages and fixed mine internets, I’ve finally gotten around to uploading our photos from our backpacking trip to Zion this past March.

As for Hood River, the early summer season is definitely upon us. Cars now stop where there aren’t any stop signs and keep driving where there are, pedestrians randomly dart out into traffic without any sense of self-preservation, all the real estate signs are going up again, and kiters and windsurfers are sparring with one another regarding the proper use of the Event Site.

The weather, too, has been beautiful for the most part. Sadly today it rained all day and was a chilly 50 degrees, which came as a surprise as we’ve been enjoying sunny, 80-degree days in the recent weeks.

Yup, today was kind of a wash out day for Canadian May Long Weekend, but hopefully Monday holds some promise for better weather and better wind. Another round of fisticuffs at The Spit, while unfortunate, would certainly liven things up a bit. Now that the kiters spent all day Saturday piling debris, burning logs and cleaning up The Boneyard, there’s plenty more room to host a tussle.


I feel like I rushed the production of this martini, and its quality has suffered noticeably as a result. It seems to be doing its job regardless.

This afternoon, while the guy from Charter was busy fixing my internet connection, I started bottling my beer. The final numbers are in, and damn am I ever pleased. This brew is a full-on unapologetic wheat beer, five percent alcohol by volume, and it came out to yield 46 twelve-ounce bottles.

Right before bottling I pulled a sample for my hydrometer, as well as for my own personal tasting, and I’m quite confident that this first batch turned out just fine. It tastes great, albeit flat at this point, and since I haven’t yet gone blind or witnessed the walls melting I’m going to risk calling it a success. In seven days I will have for myself some Proper Beer.

Some other uncollected thoughts:

I finally found myself a decent (actually, an amazing) haircut here in Hood River. I’ve been going to Hairmasters over near Safeway, and I can speak with absolute confidence that while they might be “masters” of something, it is certainly not hair. My hair is not complicated, and yet every time I go in there I walk out looking like I had a tussle with a weed whacker.

No, I finally gave up on the trans-global-conglomerate haircut chain and went straight to Cathy’s Barber Shop, where I found myself a Proper Haircut. I told Cathy I had this shaggy thing going on that I kinda liked, but that I was looking for a bit of a clean-up. While at Hairmasters my ambiguity has consistently resulted in disaster, Cathy did an absolutely wonderful job with it, and tossed in some nice texturing to boot.

We both waxed poetic for a spell regarding the life of the self-employed/independent, and just like that I was sold. No other barber shop will do. And mind you, what Cathy runs is a pure-bred barber shop, complete with an awesome old-school barber chair. She doesn’t run no hair salon or perm parlor or epidermal treatment facility, she runs a barber shop. Walk-ins only. No reservations. And I’ll go so far as to say that Cathy’s is a bargain at twice the price.

matt pond PA has a new EP coming out, the cover to which I was initially opposed but have since warmed up to. During my most recent exodus to Walla Walla I spun an MP3 CD with my complete collection of matt pond PA, and only after listening to Emblems again did I understand what he was doing with the art direction for his upcoming EP.

Honestly, I now consider the art for If You Want Blood to be a stroke of cross-referential brilliance, and it furthers my conviction that Matt Pond may perhaps be one of the most talented singer/songwriters alive today. The songs he writes, they weave a coherent tapestry of message, place and emotion. One could liken his works to the mythology of Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon, with their recurring, self-referential themes and characters.

Needless to say, I’ve pre-ordered my copy.

Hobby Farm

Tonight my house smells like a brewery, as I just finished my first attempt at crafting my own beer. It’s going well so far, and while I didn’t commit any large-scale disasters in cooking up my wort, I am a bit concerned that the fermentation isn’t kicking in yet. At 90 degrees, I may have added the yeast too early. It will be another two days before I know definitively, but I seem to have inherited my mother’s knack for killing yeast.

Nevertheless, if this project is successful I will have five gallons of beer at my disposal. I feel the risk is one that is both worthy and calculated.

Meanwhile I’m in the process of charging the battery to my scooter, which I can’t seem to keep juiced up. They recommend not using the electric starter on the scooter when going on trips shorter than twenty miles, and since I’m not yet commuting from The Dalles down I-84 at a suicidal 30 mph, it’s difficult to squeeze a twenty mile trip out of Hood River.

Thus, I’ve been kick-starting the scooter for the last couple weeks hoping that the alternator will charge the battery back up, but every time I neglect the poor girl for more than two days the battery goes right back to zero. Once that happens I can’t, for the life of me, get the darn thing started, and when I finally do it belches blue smoke.

I am told that the smoke is the result of the scooter still trying to burn through a batch of chainsaw oil, before it can reach the “really good stuff” that it has been topped off with. I am also told that the scooter automatically handles its own two-stroke oil/gasoline ratio, which to me borders on pure alchemy. Everything I know about scooters I learned from a homebrew enthusiast, and everything I know about homebrewing I learned from a scooter enthusiast.

The only reason I had time to brew beer today was because the wind cut out early this evening. Otherwise I’ve been out kiteboarding the last three nights in a row. Bea and I will cut out of work immediately after closing and head down to The Spit (also known as The Sandbar, The Delta, The Boneyard and The Honeypot) for an evening session, and try to make do with whatever wind the gods throw our way.

I have a new kite and board this year, a Cabrinha Omega and a North Jaime Pro respectively, and even though I’m still getting used to them I can already tell that they’re a major upgrade from my old gear. The kite depowers like a dream, which keeps me from getting dragged downwind into the The Boneyard’s gnarly skeletons every time a gust hits. The smaller board edges upwind like crazy, and keeps me from getting blown into the Marina, or under the Hood River Bridge for that matter. Seriously. Bridges are for trolls, not for kiteboarders.

I still have the grab handle on my kiteboard, partially because it’s helpful, partially because it’s hopelessly uncool, but mostly because I love the look I get when I tell people that I’m working on “sick board-off tricks.” That line alone goes a long way in reinforcing my second reason for keeping the grab handle.

Gainful Employment

“How’s the shop?” you ask. Yup, it’s been a couple weeks since I sold out and went whole-hog at Big Winds. It’s been great, and while my job suffers from a severe and terminal case of ADD, I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing.

Sometimes I’m working on the website, but much of the time I’m helping customers in the store, or answering kiteboarding questions on the phone, or processing internet orders, or cleaning out the microwave after my coffee exploded. For the next couple days I’m actually in charge of the shipping department, as Joe has taken a few days off to go out to Joseph, Oregon and give a ring to a special person. Sadly, he may return to find both his bachelorhood and his workspace in ruins.

A few days ago Bruce Peterson, the brilliant and kind fellow behind Sailworks, stopped by the shop. While climbing into his van he found me on the sidewalk in front of the shop, covered in dust and shaking the dirt out of a whole stack of rugs.

“Hey Dane, welcome back!”
“Thanks, Bruce!”
“So, web guy, eh?”
“And… rugs, looks like?”
“Uhh, yeah. Either way, I usually just take them all out back and beat them.”

So yeah, I’m all over the map these days and still busy getting reacquainted with the shop, but I’m really enjoying the diversity of it all. In regards to the website there’s a whole lot of changes I want to make, but much of it falls behind my current priority, which is to simply make our online product catalog accurate. There’s a lot of data in there, and even though I’ve nearly rewritten the entire back-end over the years, there’s a lot of legacy code that prevents me from efficiently making large-scale updates. That said, I have managed to eek a bit of coolness out of the deal:

Using this batch of Photoshop Automator Actions, I’ve automated the generation of product images for the website. It took a couple hours of development, but now I’ve got a nearly foolproof system that takes in a batch of original high-res images, and automatically creates large, standard and thumbnail sized images. The whole deal respects aspect ratios, throws in a bit of unsharpen mask and gently compresses each image, all while I microwave yesterday’s coffee for the fourth time.

Thanks to this, I’ve been able to integrate Lightbox with our kite detail pages. It’s still in beta so there aren’t any visual cues, but if you click on the kite picture it’ll bring up a larger version. I really wanted the large images to be much bigger, but our web statistics suggest that most of our visitors are still stuck at 1024×768 resolution, and I didn’t want them to have to scroll to hit the close button.

Hard to believe, eh? I mean, I kicked 1024 to the curb at least five years ago, maybe nine, and my preferred environment these days is a whopping 1900×1200. Apparently there are still a bunch of people out there who want to be miserable in front of their computers, and want blindness to accompany their barroom deafness.

Here’s another interesting discovery. According to our statistics, as well as some off-the-cuff usability studies I’ve conducted (which is just a fancy way of saying that I watched people browse our website), people have no clue that the “Boards”, “Sails”, “Masts”, etc. headings in our primary navigation are clickable.

It appears that even the New York Times website suffers from the same problem, which is probably why they have little » » glyphs next to their category headings. While I definitely have qualms about the improper semantics of using right angle quotes as visual cues rather than as, say, quotes, I figured I’d give them a shot and see if they affect usability at all.

Another kinda neat thing we did to the site is add a couple of QuickTime VR Tours of our shop. A couple months ago we had a guy come in and shoot the whole place with a fisheye lens, and stitch the photos together all right-nice. In the interest of catering to a hideous web browser that is used by a vast majority of our visitors (see my earlier point about how people want to be miserable at their computers), I tried to embed the videos as unobtrusively as possible, using these scripts provided by Apple.

Long story short, by using JavaScript to embed the video code, I am able to circumvent the repercussions of the Eolas lawsuit, and make the videos work in Internet Explorer without requiring visitors to hate their lives and click on it multiple times.

I know, I know. There are better ways to embed content, ways that will validate and are semantically correct. That said, even the most recent article on A List Apart doesn’t arrive at a definitive solution for the issue, and as such I’m willing to leave this one up to bloody pragmatism. My solution above worked in every browser I tested, under nearly all conditions, and I call that good.

In happier news, I did manage to get all of my tiny, disparate onload JavaScripts to fire using the same addEvent() function. Major props go to Dustin Diaz for his rock solid addEvent() function, though I might add we’re still gonna whoop his butt in bowling at SXSW.

And hey, did you know that in a Google search for “camp loo”, camping toilets come up in nearly all of the link ads? I just thought that was funny.