Big Eddy Whitewater SUP
I began whitewater paddle boarding a few years ago. Flat-water and fair-weather SUP was boring to me. After discovering I could go for multi-day river trips I felt I needed to learn how to run whitewater.
Back then the web featured a small group of people running rivers professionally. Dan Gavere, Mike Tavares, and Brittany Parker were the ones who kept popping up with credible accounts of whitewater paddle boarding. Their photos and videos, interviews in the mags, and blogs convinced me that there is a river SUP lifestyle, and I wanted to be part of it.,
The thing is, I wasn't a river person. Though I had a lot of experience as a sea kayaker, and did a little raft guiding, I didn't know the first thing about rivers other than they scared me. So, I went to school, so to speak. I grabbed a board and went to my local "backyard rapids, "Big Eddy" near my home in Bend, Oregon. Could I navigate a SUP board through rapids? What was possible? What wasn't?
video of Paul Clark by Gary Eidsmoe
After a lot of success and even more mistakes, I feel I have become a river runner. I have traveled on a number of western rivers including multi-day trips on the John Day, Rogue, Owyhee, and Deschutes rivers. Many day trips, entered some river races, and went on an amazing river trip to Japan on paddle boards. I have had the opportunity to meet many exciting people who are passionate about outdoor sports and rivers in particular. I have learned so much. I am now contributing to industry media, am a brand ambassador, and have begun coaching and giving clinics, and helping outfitters incorporate swift-water SUP in their offerings. And I was part of filming an episode with OPB's Oregon Field Guide this spring documenting SUP-supported river trips. Exciting!
Big Eddy has been my school and my playground. Perhaps I have fonder memories for this classroom than my more formal indoor schooling. Once I suspected I'd teach philosophy in a university setting. Now I am practicing my own form of philosophy standing on water.
Paul Clark is “the duffle bag paddle boarder” and adventure SUP correspondent based in Bend, Oregon. Visit www.suppaul.com for media, photography, and adventure paddle boarding resources.