Soryn Preston Wins Gold at Gorge Paddle Challenge
Soryn competed in three different races at the Gorge Paddle Challenge, August 14-15th. With the help of Bru Surf, Snapdragon SUP, TPA, OnitPro, Vamo, West Coast Paddlesports, Vibes Cafe, Quick Blade, SIC, Of One Sea, RU.M. Training, friends and family, Soryn was well prepared trained fed equipped and funded. The rest was up to our grom racer, Soryn.
Unfortunately, during the days prior she was unable to take practice runs on the river due to the lack of wind. Therefore, when Saturday’s forecast awarded stronger winds she was able to compete in her first downwind river race ‘blind’. Soryn faced the Columbia River’s famous and windy 9-mile downwind up current “Viento Run”.
Soryn was entered in the Super Grom Girls 12-14yo division which required a 12’6” board class. Along with no prior river paddling experience, Oregon state law requires that under 13yo wear a coast guard approved vested life preserver. Soryn tackled these challenges relying on her excellent preparation, strong confidence, seasoned skills, amazing strategy and respect for the river. Soryn lined up thigh deep in water alongside with open women, junior women and grom girls divisions.
At the starting line Soryn’s focus intensified then at sound of the horn she gave her all to leap out ahead of the crowd to position herself in the wind. This power sprint gave her first chance to catch the wind riven waves in the middle of the river ahead of the pack. Soryn did her best to connect with the fast bumps and ride each river wave to the finish line at Waterfront Park. After a few miles some of the women on longer boards started to catch up with Soryn and this motivated her to paddle harder which lead to more connected waves and tacking up the river. Keeping an eye on Wells Island approaching knowing the side-wind grind is just on the other side, Soryn maneuvers across the giant river surfing herself into a great position. The last grueling mile to the finish was tough as the muscles ached.
Soryn rounded the final bouy and through the chicane to finish the race with a time of 1hr 33min 19sec. Tired and exhausted she said hi to grandma on FaceTime with hug from dad and high five from too many to count all congratulating with positive words of affirmation. Soryn was awarded first place in her division, 4th in her age group, 10th overall in open women's and 2nd in open women’s 12’6” board length. With food in her belly, another great game plan and strategy from TPA Coach Mike Eisert and a good nights rest Soryn was ready to take on the technical course races the following day.
On Sunday the course races were held in blistering heat and even stronger winds in front of the crowd at the beautiful Waterfront Park, Hood River. These course races were not designed to be easy as there was upwind/down current, downwind/ up current, crosswind/ up current and crosswind/ down current. This gave the racers a challenge and exposed every strength and weakness in their athletic abilities. Soryn competed in the one lap grom/super grom race. The course bouys were set to be a bit smaller and excitingly raced the boys and girls together.
This race was spectacular to watch as the little humans and giant 12’6” race boards lined up tactically by their coaches, parents and judges and took off at the sound of the horn for the golden bouy. Soryn beat all the racers off the line to capture the golden bouy for a turn up wind down current battle for the next bouy. As the grom racers approached the next bouy a draft train had been created behind Soryn. Soryn rounds the second bouy followed by the boys to turn downwind up current for the third bouy and turn towards the finish. As the grom racers surfed their way building speed through this section of the river gaps opened and others closed in on Soryn's lead. At the bouy, stepping on the brakes turning a little wide gave some of the other racers a chance to catch up with Soryn during the last final stretch to paddle in cross wind. All the leaders paddling extra hard once seeing the finish line in sights. Soryn did everything she could to stay on her feet, paddling strong as the boys closed in on her. Tactics and strategy were deployed to jostle for the best line through the river's difficult dynamics.
As our Soryn Preston of Long Beach was up against Trace Oztrowski of Mexico, Bobo Galagher of Maui, Maylee Jaggi of Carlsbad and Jameson Roeber of New York all paddling for top honors and pride. With only a 80 yards remaining in the water race to the sprint up the beach 20 yards through the chicane finish, a sprint paddle battle ensued from the boys charging behind. A few board lengths just before the final bouy placed 20 yards from the beach Bobo caught up to but fell in the water after “rubbing is racing” with Soryn. After turning the final bouy she hit the rocky beach and ran up to cross the finish line. Soryn placed first in her division and first overall with a time of 7min 50 secs. Soryn was pleased with her performance.
The next race was in an older age division of junior women’s 14-17yo along with the open women’s division and to be paddled with a 14’ board with which Soryn has never raced only practiced. Soryn lined up next to her older all female competitors in the water seeming confident yet determined. At the sound of the horn Soryn pops to her feet forgetting to move the board first and had a grind sprint start. Even with this little mistake Soryn overcame and found herself up with the leaders in second place towards the golden bouy behind the strong paddler out of Mexico, Alex Oztrowski and Kali Buchanan of Washington right behind in third. Approaching the bouy Alex, Soryn and Kali all showing their strength and athleticism mildly struggled to turn as the wind gusts were very strong at this time. Alex was to route the golden bouy first followed by Soryn then Kali. As the strong cross wind, up wind, downwind, three lap, spread out five bouy turn course race progressed the ladies impressed the crowds. Alex, 16, finished in first place with an exciting sprint to the finish from behind against an older experienced paddler. Soryn paddled to a third place overall and grabbed 2nd place in her division with a time of 30min 30sec and 1min 57 sec behind first place. Soryn had an amazing adventure and is training hard for the next one.