Surf Ski Class with Hood River's Van Douglas

Our Surf Ski Class with Hood River’s Van Douglas has two options – Beginning to advanced surf ski lessons for 1 or two people.  And Downwinding for advanced paddlers. These are personalized individual or 2 person classes so you can learn more and stay safer on-water.
Contact us for what you’re looking for and want to improve whether it’s your first time or you’re seeking to refine your forward stroke and/or rough water skills.

About Van Douglas..

Van has been surf ski and downwind paddling over 8 years in the Columbia River Gorge. He has raced in the PNW and Vortex racing series for 6 years taking podium spots in his division including the Gorge Downwind Championships. He’s travelled to South Africa, Hawaii, Costa Rica and Baja to paddle. Van has 20 years of experience as a whitewater kayaker and raft guide up to Class V in the Southeast. He has Wilderness First Aid and Swift Water Rescue certifications.  A resident of Hood River, Van also enjoys mountain biking and playing music with his band.


Sample 3 hour Beginning Class:

During our 3 hour session we will be going over and discussing the following topics:

On land:

  • Setup and proper ergonomics in the surf ski
  • Leg leash safety and PFD
  • Paddle setup basics (length and feather angle)
  • Forward stroke and leg drive mechanics
  • Remount basics

On the water drills:

  • Forward stroke
  • Rotation
  • Balance
  • Leg drive
  • Low bracing
  • Remounting
  • We should also have time for any other specifics you would like to work on.


– Wave catching basics.
– Using the rudder correctly on a wave
– Spin out recovery
– Remounting in downwind conditions
– Carving and bracing on a wave
– What do you want to improve?

Who Should Take Van’s Downwinding Class?

Take our Surf Ski Basics Class if you’re unsure of your abilities.  You must have legit skills for Van to take you out in bumps on the river. If you’re sure of your abilities, we may ask for references from other coaches.

– Intermediate to advanced paddlers. You must have solid skills to downwind on Hood River.
– You have your own gear
– Must have a reliable rough water remount on both sides
– Must have good stability in rough water and bumps
– You have a strong forward stroke and leg drive
– You can paddle 10-15 miles without a break
– You can swim and understand English

Details for Both Classes:

– Private Classes only 
– Where: Hood River Event Site (map link below) or other location depending on your goals and conditions
– Seasons – Spring – Fall
– Water Temp: 72F in Summer – early Fall
– Parking: You can buy day pass for $10 or park outside of the Event Site for $2 and hour. Along Portway Ave there are several restaurants and breweries.
Downtown Hood River also has a lot of other amenities. You can find out more here –
Google map link for Event Site here – 


Private Group Class (2 Students): 239 per person

Private 1-1 Class: 399


  • 1 Stable Fenn BlueFin surf ski, wing paddle, vest life jacket.
  • We recommend using your own gear –  It’s best to learn on your own gear if you have it.
  • Rates are non-negotiable / Gratuities are always welcome. 

Contact me for any questions.

Skill Prerequisites: Intermediate

You should have basic swim skills and speak and understand English


“As a paddle coach, Van Douglass is the perfect combination of personable and knowledgeable.  In a 3-hour session, Van took the the time to listen to my paddling experience and ambitions as a relative newbie (2 yrs) at 60yrs of age. He walked me through angles and leverage and considered all my feedback. Then we got on the river so he could see what I was doing and if I was applying what we had talked about.

The feedback was immediate – waaay better than a back and forth with video – specific and individualized. Van came up with the perfect term to correct my posture – my “cashew” shape 😂👍 perfect, and I knew exactly what he was talking about. Fact is, drawing my scapulae together and flattening my back greatly increased the power in my stroke.  Also, though I have decent leg drive, it’s all about rotation, rotation, rotation! We went through a couple drills that focused on just that. I’m a good visual study, so he led and I copied. Then I led and he observed (turn, repeat). In order to increase my reach for a better catch, Van also noticed that I might benefit from a longer paddle. At 6’3”, I’m maxed out on my 210cm paddle. I used a spare of his and may have come upon a sweet spot about 2+ cm beyond what I currently have available. I will explore that and see if it merits $$$ for a different paddle.
In summary, Van’s expert observations gave me specific items for work and the “how” to address them. This fall I will be doing just that with renewed confidence and direction. Thank you, Rob – Van was the perfect match. Kudos to you on your recruiting skills!”
– Daniel Burns, (August 2022)


“Van is a great instructor! – Jeff Gerke (Sept 2022)