Paul E. Anna: High Points | AspenTimes.com
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Paul E. Anna: High Points

Paul E. Anna
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

So it was Wednesday afternoon about 4:30 when I saw what I thought was an apparition.

I was running the Rio Grande trail from mile 8 to 9 just north of the Aspen Glen Golf Course on the section that looks like it is perfectly flat, but is actually uphill both ways. As I looked over the big bend in the river I said to myself: “Self, I need a new game. This running stuff is just whack.”

And that’s when I saw it. A guy in a wetsuit traveling down river at moderate speed while, get this, standing up on a surfboard. I blinked, rubbed my eyes, and he was gone. But just an instant later there he was again, a little further down, using a long paddle to help him progress around the little rapids that fluttered under his feet.

It was a Eureka moment. I could do that, I thought, as my gait slowed to a trot and I watched him roll on down the river. In fact, I have. The sport is called stand up paddling and it has quickly gained traction in the last couple of years with those in the surfing and kayaking community. I spent a considerable amount of time atop a stand up board on a recent trip to Hawaii but have never tried it on a roaring river.

Originally the provenance of Hawaiians back in the day, professional surfer and all-around water man Laird Hamilton began to stand up on an oversized surfboard and use a paddle a few years back in the bay at Hanalei near his Kauai home.

It was, at first, a great way to stay in shape and get in a workout on days when there was no surf, but soon it became an obsession. Hamilton commissioned the construction of boards that provided stability and could be easily paddled and started to use the lightweight paddles made for kayakers. He began paddling into waves and a sport was born. Today stand up paddle surfing can be seen at just about every major surf break but it is still in its infancy on lakes and rivers.

Here in the Roaring Fork Valley watermen Charlie MacArthur and Paul Tefft are pioneering the sport of stand up paddling on the white water found in our area. The two were instrumental in the running of the Whitewater Stand Up Paddling Championships in Glenwood Springs a couple of weeks ago in conjunction with the U.S. Freestyle Kayak Trials and the Yagatta Regatta.

The rapid improvement of equipment, from boards to paddles, have made the sport instantly accessible for those who want to get on the lakes and rivers here in Colorado. It is not only fun – it feels like you are walking on water – but is also a great core workout. I plan on getting on the Fork once the weather warms a bit.

The Aspen Kayak Academy, founded by MacArthur, is offering classes and demos in the sport on the Roaring Fork River this summer. They can be reached at 925-4433 or at aspenkayakacademy.com.

With the academy’s help it won’t be too long before the apparent apparition that I saw on the river becomes a regular occurrence.


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