Get in the swim of things with riverboarding

Charles Agar

When Rick Leitner and Darryl Brown, neighbors in Lafayette, Colo., went whitewater rafting about four years ago, they saw some guys riding the river on small kickboards. Thus, an idea was born: riverboarding

The pair built the prototype of their first Rocky Mountain Riverboard, and though they haven’t given up their day jobs, the two now turn out 20 to 30 boards per year.Whitewater boards come in all forms: Eurpoeans ride a plastic sled called the “hydrospeed”; New Zealanders pioneered the plastic-molded “sledge”; “riverboards,” made of foam with a backing of hard plastic, are smaller and more maneuverable.I boarded the Shoshone section of the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon last week with Leitner and Brown. As a kayaker, I admit I felt like I’d left the house naked when we were edging into the first rapid. Where’s my boat? But after we went through the first chute, I was hooked.Riverboarding is akin to swimming, while rafters and kayakers are busy doing all they can not to swim.

Leitner and Brown’s parabolic riverboards are easily maneuvered and designed to protect the body from sliding over rocks. Boarders surf waves and ride the foam of recirculating holes; use kick fins to power through the chaos of rapids; or use hands to swim or drag over rocks, what Leitner called “Flintstoning.” I’d say it’s a lot like boogie boarding, but in a river not the ocean.”We do it for the thrill,” said Leitner, who with Brown has boarded the Colorado River’s class V Gore Canyon and are always pushing the bounds of the sport.”We hope to grow our company along with the sport,” Brown said.In Aspen, Gary Pera runs a river-sledging guide company called Aspen Seals (

Pera, a New Zealander, starts beginners on easier stretches of the Roaring Fork River, but he has permits to take groups on the Arkansas. He competes in and promotes riverboarding and sledging and hopes it will someday become an Olympic sport.For more information about the riverboarding, visit And for unique Rocky Mountain boards, try Charles Agar’s e-mail address is