Photo: ColbyOtero.com

Kitesurfing doesn’t have to take place in the ocean. Rivers can be a kitesurfing playground, too.

KITESURFING (ALSO known as kiteboarding) predominantly takes place in the ocean. But rivers offer the added advantage of strong water currents combined with wind velocity, meaning higher speeds for the surfer. Plus there’s no added risk of being eaten by a shark.

The Hood River Sandbar in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge is a sandy kitesurfing launch. It’s one of the most practical places for river kitesurfing in the United States because of its consistently windy conditions. Because many kitesurfing schools are centered around the Gorge, it’s a perfect place for beginners.

The Hood River Kiteboarding Guide offers tips about maximizing the river kitesurfing experience in the region, and identifies dangerous or difficult areas to ride. These guidelines include:

Photo by ColbyOtero.com

– Keeping an eye upwind to make sure a loose kite isn’t headed in your direction.
– Keeping your kite low when riding downwind of other riders, and keeping it high when riding upwind of other riders.
– Steering clear of the Hood River part of the sandbar where the pros ride, unless you’re a pro too (it can be quite dangerous).
– Avoiding the marina sandbar for a launching and landing zone because it is usually crowded with families and children.
– Watching for barges coming through the channel to avoid collision.

Another great place to practice or even observe with the amazing scenic backdrop is in Squamish River, British Columbia, Canada.

But that’s the easy stuff.

If you’re looking for something challenging and uncharted, you might want to consider kiteboarding the Lachine Rapids on the St. Lawrence River. So far it appears that only Julien Fillion has been a successful rider. This is no surprise considering the river is 2.6 million gallons of water pouring over rocky terrain, shelves, and reefs.

This location is not for the inexperienced: Fillion had to pair up with Corran Addison and Yanick Larouche, fellow experienced river surfers and kiteboarders, to use a Jet Ski for towing into the waves and to have emergency assistance on standby during his first ride.

Just how dangerous are the rapids? Addison says, “The converging currents create whirlpools and thick seams that pull downward towards the river bottom 30 or 40 feet below. The bottom is littered with underwater caves, and probably shipwrecks from the late 19th century.”

While Fillion pulled off the ride with minimal damage (other than cracking his board in half), something as simple as being pulled down by the most violent wave in the rapids, Mavericks, would have tangled his lines and prevented him from resurfacing.

In his video, Fillion describes the river kitesurfing experience and why he enjoys the sport.

Julien Fillion Kitesurfing Whitewater River Rapids from kiteroam on Vimeo.

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Interested? Learn how to get started kiteboarding.