Innovation gives Vail kayak park a boost |

Innovation gives Vail kayak park a boost

Edward Stoner
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Pedestrians stop to watch as professional kayaker Brad Ludden tests out the Vail play hole on Gore Creek in Vail Village. (Dominique Taylor/Vail Daily)

VAIL, Colo. ” For Brad Ludden, the $376,000 that Vail spent on its Gore Creek kayak “hole” was worth it.

“It’s phenomenal,” Ludden said. “Way better than I ever expected.”

Ludden, a professional kayaker who lives in Gypsum, Colo., tested out the new kayak park last week. A system of computerized bladders was installed last fall at the International Bridge in Vail Village and went into use this spring. The bladders can be inflated and deflated to create the optimum “wave” in the water by directing water to the right places.

“At a touch of a button, we can tell the bladders to inflate or deflate,” said Gregg Barrie, who headed up the kayak park project for the town.

Kayakers surf the wave, doing spins and flips in the water. Ludden said he did some front loops and some back loops ” and even some of those creatively named tricks such as “McNastys” and “phonix monkeys.”

“It was really awesome of Vail to take that leap of faith and take those bladders and really pioneer that technology,” Ludden said. “No one’s really done that in the kayak industry.”

The Teva Mountain Games ” which are taking place this week ” will also benefit from the new kayak park, said organizer Joel Heath.

Several kayak competitions are held at the International Bridge. In past year, workers have used sand bags, jersey barriers and cardboard to make sure enough water flowed over the hole.

“We’re really thankful to have this technology in place,” Heath said.

Barrie said the new technology should allow the kayak park to stay open longer during the summer. In past years, the park was only usable for a few weeks in the spring, during the peak of the runoff.

Before Vail spent the $376,000 last year for its kayak park, it had already spent more than $250,000 over the last few years for several rounds of improvements for the park.

The town hopes the latest project will keep boaters happy. Now they’re collecting opinions from kayakers, via e-mail at whitewater@vailgov and a comment sheet that is left at the park.