Stand-up paddlers return to Glenwood
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The world’s best river stand-up paddlers will be competing this Memorial Day at the second annual Whitewater Stand Up Paddling Championship on the Colorado River near Two Rivers Park.
Stand-up paddling is a fairly new whitewater sport, in which paddlers stand up on surf boards and use an oar to “surf” along the waves in the river. Charlie MacArthur, owner of Aspen Kayak Academy and last year’s runner-up in the competition, said the sport is the fastest-growing water sport in the world.
Stand-up paddlers from the Roaring Fork Valley will compete with athletes from as far away as Hawaii. MacArthur said they are expecting about 35 competitors this year.
Event promoter Paul Tefft said the event is truly one-of-a-kind.
“It’s new, different, and unique,” he said. “The sport is evolving as we speak. My favorite event is the surfing, it’s the most action packed. There are a bunch of new moves, and it’s evolving at a rapid pace.”
This year’s champion will be crowned after paddlers compete in three separate events on the Colorado River: A down-river race, a new event called Supercross, and the surfing contest on the wave at the whitewater park, the competition’s website said.
There are four divisions in the championship: men, women, youth male and youth female.
Todd Bradley, competitor and co-founder of equipment company C4 Waterman from Hawaii, said there is not much difference in the four divisions.
“It doesn’t really differ,” Bradley said. “They all are using the same water, speed, equipment. When you watch the kids do it, they look extremely agile.”
Liam Wilmott, who will be competing and is the event coordinator for C4 Waterman, said the sport is easy and fun to watch.
“It’s so spectator friendly,” Wilmott said. “Almost more [spectator friendly] than watching a surf competition at pipeline. You’re so close to the event. I encourage the community to get down and check it out.”
The race begins at 9:30 a.m. at Two Rivers Park. The paddlers will begin with a mass start at the park and race about six miles downriver to the finish at South Canyon.
Supercross starts at 11:30 a.m., adjacent to Two Rivers Park. The event is a race similar to the Winter Olympic snowboard event boardercross. Competitors line up at the launch site, paddle upriver around the first flag, then go into the main current, with one more upriver flag to cross, according to the competition’s website.
MacArthur said that the Supercross is one of the best spectator events.
“Everyone recognizes the format with boardercross and ski cross,” he said, “and they recognize it as an exciting format. It’s instantly exciting.”
The final event is a surfing contest with two or three one-minute rides per competitor, depending on number of competitors. The surfing begins at 2:30 p.m. at the whitewater park and is judged on a point system, with points being awarded for different types of moves.
Wilmott said that surfing here is quite different from surfing on the ocean.
“Surfing a wave that never ends is harder than it looks,” Wilmott said. “I think the best way to describe it is that the ocean is three-dimensional and the river is five-dimensional.”
The competitors will then head back to Two Rivers Park for the awards ceremony, trophy presentation to the overall champions, and some celebration.
Registration forms and information are available online at http://www.whitewatersupchampionship.com. Registration payment can be made in person at Two Rivers Park on May 30 from 5 to 7 p.m.