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August 4, 2013 at 7:48 PM

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Northwest Wanderings: Boarding the wind


ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Hanging in there, David Grove maneuvers his board as he practices a move on the Columbia River at Hood River in 35-mile-per-hour winds.

David Grove has made the clear choice to fly, or come as close as he can given human limitations.

He's a skilled practitioner of the sport enthusiasts describe as a quiet euphoria, riding the winds to as much as 60 feet above the Columbia River.

Grove kiteboards 300-plus days a year at Hood River, which he calls "the premier spot for the sport in America." It's "not about strength, it's finesse," as he works on a maneuver transferring the board from one hand to another, but keeping clear of the three sharp fins on the bottom.

A fall into the cold waters below can be unforgiving.

Grove has torn up many a muscle; the river is not soft from three stories up.

Formerly an extreme kayaker, he has guided his boat down Bridal Veil Falls in Oregon and was the first to successfully make it down that state's 101-foot Metlako Falls and stick the landing.

Despite all the time he spends on the water, Grove doesn't make his living kiteboarding, though he does get free gear through a sponsorship.

The 39-year-old is a painter and contractor when he's not chasing his after-work passion.

Brian Schurton teaches the sport in Hood River and says, "It'll change your life and keep you fit."


ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

As the sun sets on the Columbia River, a kiteboarder brings her gear ashore.

ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

It's a wipeout in 35-miles-an-hour winds for a windsurfer on the Columbia River at Hood River.

For more photos, visit the gallery.

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