Watch Video of the Glenwood Springs "G-Wave"
In the Pacific Northwest where beautiful rivers flow all year you would suspect there would be a population of river paddle boarders. Alas, I often find myself on rivers alone to enjoy the splendor in solitude. As a "thing" river paddle boarding has not caught fire here. And whitewater SUP in particular is on nobody's radar.
In Colorado there is a different story brewing. Not only is there a large population of river running paddle boarders, some of the most well known paddlers and river SUP board brands call Colorado home. There are races, clubs, and outfitters specializing in SUP guided trips. Stand Up Colorado has safely offered trips on the upper Colorado river for a handful of years and has become the gold standard for such operations. Hala SUP is based in Steamboat producing arguably the most progressive river ready inflatable paddle boards on the market. Badfish is in Salida making both river SUP surf boards and a team of game changing athletes.
The most notable aspect of river paddle boarding in Colorado has to be the surf scene. Yes, surfing in Colorado!
I went to Colorado to attend the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail where paddle boarding has become a highlight event. I wasn't able to compete because my events (downriver race and SUP-Cross) were sold out before I was able to register. There were over 60 competitors. Compare that with the Reno whitewater festival where I was the only one to register. (Read my blog about that here.) The Clackamas River Festival in Oregon had more competitors with a total of eight. So 60 competitors and being sold out was a shock to me. I was okay with that, it allowed me to witness the spectacle and to photograph.
After the Games, many of the athletes made the hour drive west to Glenwood Springs, home of the famous "G-Wave." It's a river wide standing wave that resembles an ocean break. Kayakers, surf boarders, and SUP surfers all share the wave as river rafters float through. It's a scene. Some pretty progressive surfing takes place in Glenwood. The couple of days I had the opportunity to spend in Glenwood I shared the water with more river SUP athletes that live in all of the Pacific North West.
As I head back home to Bend I am encouraged that river SUP truly is a thing. I'm excited to head home also because I'm returning where the rivers flow all year. The snowmelt season in Colorado is ending. Peak flows are what fuel Colorado rivers. It's a short but inspired two months of paddling there. It's time to use that inspiration and build the scene here in the PNW.
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.