“Connor Baxter”]Once we got the foils up it was so much fun, it was an everlasting wave
Video and text by Rod Parmenter
Hydrofoils have been around for over 100 years and If you’ve seen America’s Cup boats up on their foils you understand the excitement and renewed interest in hydrofoils. In kiteboarding, foil sales have doubled in the last couple years and as you’ll see in the video above, the potential for surfing looks incredible considering they are riding a swell that is essentially a mushy wave that keeps going.
The Columbia River Gorge offers a truly unique surfing experience on a stand up paddleboard. Riding wind swell on stretches of river that cut through the very scenic Pacific Northwest with old growth trees, cliffs and of course fresh water.
Living in Hood River Oregon, wind and water make up a big attraction for windsurfers, kiteboarders and standup paddlers. For the past 8 years the Gorge Paddle Challenge has attracted the top paddlers in the world for both course and downwind racing.
About a week before the Gorge Paddle Challenge I heard through the grapevine that there was a young guy catching long rides on a foil sup. He was paddling through the Fish Hatchery area in the Gorge where the swells get big from the opposing wind and river current.
Based on the description of a guy with blond hair it sounded like Connor Baxter, winner of The Fastest Paddler on Earth this year as well as many of the world’s largest events. As far as I knew there aren’t many people that can ride a foil sup and I thought he was in town for the race. The only videos I’ve seen featured Kai Lenny and later a video of Connor Baxter, and those guys are some of the fastest paddlers in the world not to mention, ninja surfers! I’ve been speculating that it may not be a sport of mortals. I heard Kelly Slater tried it and said he couldn’t do it…
“Stab Magazine”]Kai Lenny has us all fooled.” Proclaimed Kelly via our Instagram post. “He’s a magician on this craft.”
When I saw the video of Kai Lenny catching and riding a wave without a paddle and then pumping back to catch the next wave it dawned on me that the gorge may be the perfect spot for this. The Gorge swells are close enough together that if a person pumped they could easily catch the next swell. I already do a lot of downwind paddling and kiting so I decided to combine this with some foil kiting which could be the perfect combo for sup foil training.
Turns out I was wrong about who was riding that foil board. A few days later a video showed up on Facebook with two kids riding swells on small surfboards with foils and it wasn’t Connor Baxter. It was my friend Henry Spencer’s two boys Jeffrey and Finn. That weekend, I raced in the Gorge Paddle Challenge and ran into Henry Spencer and got the lowdown. I told him I’d be interested in filming the boys. He said that Alex Aguera designed the foils they are riding and that Connor Baxter has also been working with Alex testing the SUP Foils.
Two days after the event we went to the hatchery to film and it was great to see these guys foil surfing, Connor won both heats of the downwind race on his 14’ Starboard All Star and he said he can do the 8 mile run even faster on his 7’ sup foil board. This is saying alot considering the sup foil is so new. What does the future hold for the sport?
It’s a small world. I filmed Connor Baxter when he was a 11 years old, together with Kai Lenny in Maui for a program I produced called Kids Who Rip. Connor and Kai have done great things in the last 10 years and it’s so cool to see Jeffery and Finn out there being a part of something so new, they hold the future of this sport.
As you can tell I love this stuff and I’ve been on the ground floor for the evolution of it all. I was early to the Gorge to windsurf and out there learning with the first kiters. I started standup paddling when there was just a handful of people using old windsurf boards before there were production sup boards. Through the years I’ve had the opportunity to film some incredible athletes doing the sports I love. I made the first windsurf video in the Gorge and started filming kiteboarding before anyone else was showed any interest in doing so.
If you are interested in standup paddle hydrofoils check with GoFoil.com & Star-board.com. I’ve spoken with the board shaper and kite designer Tony Logozs and he said Slingshot will have standup paddle hydrofoils as well. I am very excited to try it!
Kids who Rip segment I produced featuring Kai Lenny and Connor Baxter.
Rod Parmenter is a video producer who has been producing action sports films for over 30 years, he also produces and directs TV Commercials and Corporate Films. He is also avid paddler, kiter, mountain biker, former extreme skier, and also proud father of a 5 year old son.