Black Project Paddles and Fins Dominate at Gorge Paddle Challenge 2021
Catching a glide in the Columbia River Gorge has never felt so good.
Representing the first major SUP event in North America since the Covid-19 outbreak, the SIC Gorge Paddle Challenge 2021 was a weekend we will never forget. While competition is normally the highlight of the weekend, this year it was the simple camaraderie that brought beaming smiles to the faces of every paddler and fan in attendance.
Remembering Steve Gates
To say that a lot had changed since the last time we gathered in the Gorge would be a massive understatement. Beyond the toll of the pandemic, the event was noticeably missing its most familiar face––Steve Gates.
A friend to everyone he met, Steve not only founded this event but was responsible for growing the Hood River paddling community and mentoring countless young paddlers––including 2019 APP World Champion Fiona Wylde––through the JET Team. He opened the famed Big Winds Outfitter in 1987, which has grown to become one of the largest standup paddling, kitesurfing and windsurfing outfitters in the United States.
While his presence was sorely missed, his spirit and memory was felt throughout the weekend as paddlers shared fond memories and celebrated his incredible life.
Hydro FlowX Wins the Weekend
“To see the podium in all divisions and age groups stacked with Black Project paddles was incredible,” said Black Project co-founder Chris Freeman. “It’s a real testament to how far we have come in the past few years.”
The “Black Project Advantage” was evident throughout the weekend. We were thrilled to see Black Project paddles in the hands of competitors ranging all age ranges and skill levels.. This included Bojan Bernard using the Hydro FlowX to beat 53 competitors by nearly a minute––including several paddlers half his age––to win the Open Men Downwind Race. Also in the Men’s Elite Downwind Race, three of the top five finishers were using a Hydro FlowX.
Standup paddling’s next generation was also finding the flow. In the Course Race Open (age 15-17), Alex Ostrowski and Campbell Carter powered themselves to victory in the Junior Girls and Junior Boys divisions, respectively. And in one of our proudest moments of the weekend, we saw an all Hydro FlowX podium in the Groms Downwind Race (age 12-14), led by race winner Bobo Gallagher.
“The Hydro FlowX was the most used paddle throughout the weekend,” said Freeman. “Not only that, but it was by far the top paddle in terms of podium finishes across the event.”
Sonic v2 Fin Dominates in Downwind
We recently redesigned our popular Sonic fin to give paddlers a big advantage in both ocean and downwind conditions. Best suited for more advanced paddlers, it offers quick acceleration, top speed and easy maneuverability––three key elements to laying down a blistering fast downwind run.
Putting the Sonic v2 fin to the test, Black Project athletes Connor Baxter and Fiona Wylde dominated the Men’s and Women’s Elite Downwind race. Additionally, five of the top six finishers in the Men’s Elite Downwind were using the Sonic v2 fin––a testament to its superior performance. The success translated to younger paddlers as well, with Bobo Gallagher riding the Sonic v2 fin to victory in the Downwind Grom race.
“The Sonic v2 fin worked amazing this weekend,” said Baxter. “It provided the perfect amount of control and maneuverability in the bumps during the downwind race.”
Hydro SprintX Prototype Makes Its Demo Debut
The Hydro FlowX was undoubtedly the star paddle of the weekend, but it wasn’t the only Black Project paddle creating a buzz in the Gorge. Currently in the later stages of testing and development, our latest innovation made its debut in our demo area––the Hydro SprintX.
While we can’t divulge too many details right now (stay tuned), the Hydro SprintX has been specifically designed to paddle at a high cadence––ideal for short distance races or training. Several local paddlers were able to test out a pre-production model at the Gorge and their feedback was exceptional.
While we look forward to “officially” releasing more information about the Hydro SprintX soon, follow us on Instagram (@blackprojectsup) for behind-the-scenes photos, videos and updates about our development and testing process for several upcoming new paddles and fins. We think you’ll like what you see.
Until then, we’ll see you on the water.