On the River: Full immersion
September 28, 2006
Wet suit? Check. Life jacket? Check. Helmet? Check. Kayak? Nope.Sunday I went down the Shoshone section of the Colorado River in Glenwood canyon on a riverboard.What’s a riverboard? It’s thicker version of an ocean boogie board designed for running whitewater rivers.Rick Leitner and Darryl Brown of Rocky Mountain Riverboards have been designing and building boards for four years and took me out on my first run.It was kind of awkward walking the rocky riverside wearing swim fins on my feet, but once in the water, it was easy to kick the fins and power the board around.I eddied out into the current, just like in a kayak, and swam the board downstream and back into the eddy. A riverboard is not as maneuverable as a kayak – you really just kind of guide the board down the river – but I felt solid.Darryl smiled and said, “Well, now you know as much as we do,” and the three of us dropped in to the class III-IV section.I’ve paddled the Shoshone stretch a number of times, which helped, but I started to doubt my sanity when we spilled over the V-shaped tongue of water at the first rapid. I felt “swallowed” by just this first short stretch of low river waves. Riverboarding is being “in” the rapids, not “on top” like in a boat.The board protects the upper body, but the legs kicking behind are prone to getting banged around. On rockier rapids the guys wear leg padding.I found myself yanked about by one hole, sliding over steep pourovers, losing grip of my board in some big waves, barrel-rolling for the fun of it and leaping from a rock outcrop to catch the All-Day Wave.After banging through the Wall, Tombstone and Maneater rapids, we whooped and hollered and slung the boards over our backs to walk up and do it again. And I’ve got a new wish for Santa this year.