SUP-erstars set to ride the wild Colorado |

SUP-erstars set to ride the wild Colorado

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jeff Caspersen/Post IndependentCharlie MacArthur prepares for this weekend's Whitewater Stand Up Paddling Championship at the Glenwood wave on Wednesday. The Rocky Mountain Surf Festival comes to Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park Saturday and Sunday.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Paul Tefft isn’t quite sure what to expect. Predicting Mother Nature’s next move is far from an exact science, after all.

What Tefft does know is a roaring wave and runoff-swollen Colorado River will make for quite the venue for the third annual Whitewater Stand Up Paddling Championship.

“You can’t predict Mother Nature,” said Tefft, who co-founded the event in 2009 with Aspen Kayak Academy owner Charlie MacArthur. “The day of the event, the wave could be like nothing we’ve seen.”

As snowmelt further broadens the Colorado in the coming days, the wave at Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park could be epic by the time Saturday rolls around. It’s already huge.

“It’s an unprecedented amount of snow we’re about to deal with,” said Tefft, who’s the owner of Aspen’s EnviroAction Productions. “It could be just crazy great.”

The Whitewater Stand Up Paddling Championship will have a different look in its third iteration.

The festivity-filled weekend is now dubbed the Rocky Mountain Surf Festival and will feature two full days of competition on the rushing river.

A downriver race at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday kicks off the weekend. Starting just above the whitewater park, paddlers stand tall atop their river boards and travel downriver roughly six miles to the Tibbet’s takeout.

A 1:30 p.m., SUP-cross is up. This action-heavy event, which also starts at the park, is akin to boardercross.

Racers compete in heats of four and have to paddle upriver and around a buoy at the start before braving the main current. The race continues through the wave before competitors eddy out and negotiate an upstream gate. Then it’s back downriver to the finish line.

On Sunday, short and long board surfing and boogie boarding competitions grace the schedule at 10:30 a.m.

At 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, a spectator-friendly SUP surfing contest will take center stage at the wave.

A plethora of activities will fill the time between competitions. Among them: music, food, a mountain luau, a costume contest and a Goof Off competition.

“Our goal really is to promote Glenwood Spring as the whitewater surfing capital of the world,” Tefft said. “This really is the perfect event for the perfect venue.”

Stand-up paddling, often referred to by the acronym SUP, has grown in popularity on the river in recent years.

With roots dating back to the early days of Polynesia, SUP is well rooted in coastal communities. It’s a lot like surfing, with boards longer and wider than your traditional surfboard, and with the aid of a long, single-bladed paddle.

While much of the sport’s history has played out on the flat water, SUP is catching on with inlanders in the Roaring Fork Valley, who are taking to this new way of tackling the rushing rapids of local rivers.

“It’s grown huge,” Tefft said. “There’s actually a series now, since we started the championships. The Teva Games got into it last year. There’s a river circuit in Colorado. … Events are popping up everywhere.”

And this weekend’s championship is the sport’s signature event. As it has in its first two years, the planet’s top stand-up paddlers will flock to Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park.

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