Sternwheel Surfing on an Outrigger Canoe (OC-1) on the Columbia River in Cascade Locks, Oregon

Sternwheeler surfing at Cascade Locks, Oregon

We’d seen the videos. We checked the tour schedule for the Sternwheeler at Cascade Locks, Oregon and drove to Exit 44. We were only one of three cars fitted with canoes or surfskis so it appeared that we’d have the waves to ourselves. By the time the diesels kicked in, the canoes descended from the camp site at Stevenson, Washington, at least twenty outriggers, two 6-man OCs and at least another 20 surfskis were waiting, asking what to do. Not only was it crowded, but it was crowded with first timers.

The boat turned up river and it was like a creeping start at a race. The 6-man started to wedge in and the steersman was telling people to stay out of the way because he had priority.  Steve and I took off to get clear. By the time it flushed out and we’d sprinted behind the boat, Steve and I were in the third wave next to Ryland Hart on wave 3. David Rush was on the wave behind us. We were all in. Boats were still attacking from the north, but the longer it took them to get there, the farther back their target wave became and the faster their window of opportunity closed. In front of us on the first wave was an OC-2 with Brandi Baksic, the second wave had Val Stepanchuk, Jimmy Spoto, Cody Sylvester and Ross Flemmer on an OC-2.  Steve had an unidentified OC-1 on his left.

We rode the wave 30 minutes to the East until it turned around and the jockeying began again or the return trip. If we didn’t make it, we had a 4 mile upwinder. Not an option. We sprinted. I ended up on the first wave with Val and Jimmy with Steve and Ryland on waves 4 and 5.

It was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. I never thought I’d hope for a flat day at the Gorge. Maybe not for a few more days, but I’d love one more flat day to do this again for sure.

Video by Steve Dullack on his Garmin VIRB