Starboard and Tushingham rider, Chris ‘Muzza’ Murray recounts his summer of 2011, and invites you along for the trip of a lifetime at one of the ultimate adventure sports locations where you can windsurf, snowboard and mountain bike all in one day.
The summer of 2011 was epic, I decided to do the American Windsurfing Tour and just went for it last minute. I got a flight to Portland and was picked up by Bryan Metcalf-Perez who took me to his house in Hood River/The Gorge, about an hour away. We did the Pistol River wave event, and then he left for the World Tour. He introduced me to his mate, Jay Watermeyer, a Starboard rider who said I could crash in his basement for a couple of weeks, which soon turned into a couple of months. He was going to be compete in the US Nationals competition so I decided tag along. We ended up road tripping down to San Francisco and Starboard paid the fuel. Boom! Cash back!
Jay was in a fraternity, or ‘frat’, called Sigma Chi at college. Frats are sort of secret clubs, like the kind you hear about in movies. So we cruised down the west coast of America and when we needed somewhere to sleep, we would find the local university and look out for the Greek symbols of the Sigma Chi. It’s like a backward ‘z’ and ‘x’ letters (ΣΧ). Apparently it is the largest and one of the oldest college Greek-letter secret and social fraternities in North America, with 240 active chapters and more than 300,000 initiates. Mega!
Then we would just go and knock on the door, I was a bit worried but he assured me it was fine and normal to knock on a complete strangers door and ask to stay the night. One door we knocked on told us, “sorry, no, this used to be where the frat lived but the Sigma Pi live here now”. Apparently there are loads of different frats and you can normally only use your own, but luckily they said we could crash there anyway. They gave us a beer and told us there were loads in the fridge and just to grab a bed – everyone was away for the summer and there were only a few hard-cores left to look after the house. Usually they were building things in their rooms like mega beds or extra floors so they had two-story rooms. In one room we found all the mattresses from the whole apartment block in the stairs like a massive slide – epic!
On the water, the Freestyle National Championships were in San Fran and I managed to come third overall – that cheeky willy-skipper came in handy, haha brilliant. I think it could have been because most of the best guys were in the Canaries for the PWA but nevertheless, third in America sounds pretty good.
We slept in our car some nights which is illegal in California and one of the more eventful nights was at this evening in a nice quiet car park at Burkley Yacht Club – or so we thought. As it turned out, I was awoken by a torch shining in my eyes I immediately hit Jay, saying, “mate, mate, there’s someone looking in. Shhhh, it’s the police, get down!” I had a sneaky look up and there was a guy with a big beard with his face pressed to the tinted glass trying to see through. I’m no expert on police but usually they don’t have Captain Black Beard style facial hair. His eyes met Jay’s on the other side of the glass. “What the f£$%!!” Jay said and just started running off. We saw by the swinging flash light that it was a homeless dude checking out our car. Now that freaked me out a bit so it was hard to sleep. About an hour later a van pulled in to the spot next to us and unloaded 12 people pumping music and getting a party under way. There was full on dancing on the roof of the van, shouting, hooting and hollering and they all looked pretty gangsterish with gold chains, flat-peaks and baggy pants. About 30 minutes went by and the police parked in the space on the other side of our car to move and deal with the party. So we hid under our sheets so we didn’t get caught as they walked back and forth getting paperwork and dealing with the party animals. What a crazy night in a yacht club car park – I never knew it could get so much action. Needless to say, that was our last night in the car. We stayed at friends houses every night after that bit of fun.
From San Francisco it was a 16-hour drive back up to Hood River, the epicentre of US windsurfing, to stay for five days. We had managed to arrange driving everyone’s kit in exchange for fuel money from Hood River, Oregon, in the north of America and only around five hours from Canada, all the way to San Carlos, Mexico. It was around a 3000-mile drive from north to south to get to the next event on the American Windsurfing Tour. We broke the long trip up by surfing some of the spots on the way down. We started in the ice-cold water in Newport, Oregon, where our faces got ice bites, but it was empty and the waves were epic. From there we made our way to the warmer waters of Santa Cruz, California, where we caught an awesome clean point break for half an hour at 5am before 100 surfers woke up and crowded in. Next up was LA Trestles, a famous surf break, and the tropical warm water allowed us to surf in just shorts. Then it was off to San Diego to meet the crew that had flown in and we packed all our kit into the box truck and set off for Mexico. A few tacos later and we were there, surfing the San Carlos point break with angry seals and kamikaze pelicans. I think I came 12th at that event.
The event was great, with some of the best empty, down the line sailing I have ever had.
On the way back to Hood River we did the drive in one go. Just stopping just for fuel and food it took 36 hours and we did five hour driving rotations with one sleeping and two awake in the front. We couldn’t wait to get back to Hood River.
Hood River is brilliant – it has every thing you could possibly want: windsurfing, jumping, standing waves, freestyle, glassy flat cruising, down hill mountain biking, a summer snowboarding park 30 minutes away on Mount Hood. So whether it’s summer or snow you’re after, you can fit all three sports into one mega day. Other activities include hiking, white water rafting, cliff jumping, golf, salmon fishing. There are waterfalls and even a brewery.
After an epic day of action there is always a social. This was sometimes a problem as Jay was 19, and so under the legal age of drinking in America. Instead we had, and went to, some epic house parties. One of them got busted by the police – it was on the second floor of the house and we had just arrived. There were police, one at the top of the stairs, one at the bottom and dishing out MIP (Minor In Possession of alcohol) tickets, which is a $200 fine and if they get two of these they lose their driving licence. The whole of the Hood River 18-20s were about to get a ticket.
While I was sitting there at age of 23, not knowing the law, I was pretty scared and thought they’d think I was a supplier and would get in trouble. They were slowly going down the stairs, giving out tickets one at a time, but every time there was an opportunity people were escaping out of a window and off the balcony. It was like the Great Escape. Jay and I had decided to go for it from the second story balcony – it was pretty high. I went first and got out of the window, taking the sensible route, which involved sliding down a post that was holding up the balcony. I got to the bottom and looked up to see Jay vault the balcony, catching his feet and misjudging how high he was rotating, eventually taking the impact by landing smack on his ribs. There was a massive escape of air and it sounded like a bison mixed with a cow. He hobbled to some bushes where there were around ten other people. It was brilliant, just like being 16 again at a house party in England. We escaped and hitchhiked back to Jay’s house, buzzing with adrenalin.
Hood River, also known as The Gorge, it is great location and probably the best place I have ever visited. It’s the dream spot for any action sports enthusiast. If you’re keen to come and join the adventure, I am running a holiday there with Ocean Source this summer (June 22-29 2012). I would love to show you around and I know you will love it as much as I do. Check out the link below and get on it ASAP, spaces are limited.