Surfers hit river in Glenwood Canyon |

Surfers hit river in Glenwood Canyon

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Surfboard shaper and former professional surfer Dave Parmenter tries stand-up paddle surfing on the Colorado River west of the Grizzly Creek rest area on Friday. (Courtesy Phillip Rainey)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Desiree Powell had never seen people surfing down the Colorado River.

Surfing ” on surfboards.

Powell was working ” driving fish to Sylvan Lake for stocking ” when she spotted the four surfers somewhere not far east of the No Name tunnels in Glenwood Canyon.

“I just thought they were crazy,” she said. “At first I thought they were standing on kayaks, then I was like, ‘No way, they’d fall over.'”

Sean O’Leary was somewhat surprised when the group from Hawaii and California came through the door of Glenwood Canyon Kayak asking for lifejackets for their stand-up paddle surfing excursion.

“I’ve heard about it before,” O’Leary said. “But you never think a bunch of guys from Hawaii are going to be in Glenwood.”

O’Leary has seen people surfing on the South Canyon wave with a surfboard, but hasn’t seen or heard of anyone actually traveling down the river on a surfboard. He was invited to try it out first-hand, having never surfed before. He fell a number of times but had a blast.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “It was just a different experience, a different way to see the water. I definitely want to do it again.”

He liked the challenge of balancing while standing and paddling and the increased view from standing instead of sitting in a kayak or raft.

“It’s just a totally different way to be on the water,” O’Leary said. “But it’s pretty wickedly cool.”

Glenwood Canyon Kayak will probably try to start selling the boards and paddles in the future, he added. O’Leary thought they could sell well, especially if a planned whitewater park comes to fruition in the river near Glenwood.

Brian Keaulana, Dave Parmenter and Mike Fox tested their boards on the Colorado River Friday morning. Parmenter is a respected surfboard shaper and former professional surfer. Keaulana is described by National Geographic Magazine as an innovator in water safety risk management who is routinely tapped to teach the best big-wave riders in the world how to react to wipeouts in 40-plus-foot waves. The magazine’s website says he competes in surfing competitions while working as one of the most sought-after surfing stuntmen in the industry. Phillip Rainey, a 1979 Glenwood Springs High School graduate working for California’s Boardworks shaping company, shot photos of the group.

They were traveling around testing the limits of what could be done on the boards and promoting them on beaches in the eastern U.S. and in places like the National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, N.C., before hitting the Colorado River from Grizzly Creek to Two Rivers Park in Glenwood. It was the first time they’d used them on a river.

“Unbelievable,” Fox said. “This is fantastic. We’re all like young kids again.”

Keaulana, Fox and Parmenter helped launch the C4 Waterman company that designs and sells stand-up paddle surf boards. According to their website, stand-up surfing became popular maybe 40 or 50 years ago when beach boys rode waves at Waikiki. It was started by beach boys who wanted to be able to more easily snap photos of tourists, to help them learn to surf or to stay dry and smoke cigarettes while on the water.

The sport experienced a resurgence several years ago when famous surfers like Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama and Keaulana began stand-up paddle surfing as an alternative way to train while surf was down, Parmenter said.

“This old traditional thing started morphing into a fitness thing for the big-wave surfers,” he said. “(Keaulana) figured out you could do more on these boards than just paddle around.”

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