Vail Teva Games: Stand-up paddling makes debut
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL – Think of it as surfing meets kayaking meets snowboarding – stand-up paddling, or SUP, is the new star of the kayaking events at Vail’s Teva Mountain Games.
Stand-up paddling is exactly how it sounds – men and women stand up on inflatable boards and paddle through the ripping currents in the Gore Creek. The boards look like huge surfboards that rip down the river like kayaks, with one person standing up in the middle of it trying to paddle their way through the rapids.
“The is one of the first competitions of its kind,” said Dan Gavere, of Hood River, Oregon, who is also the whitewater specialist for the Teva Mountain Games. “It’s going to give the sport a lot of exposure.”
C4 Waterman, a company out of Hawaii, sponsored the event Saturday and brought along the Hawaiian contingent in the evolving sport. Most of the competitors are surfers and kayakers, and picked up stand-up paddling as something to do on the side.
The sport is gaining momentum, though, and the event Saturday had a mood about it that felt like this it’s a sport that won’t remain back-stage for long, although those involved in it still aren’t sure how to master it.
“I think we’re all still trying to figure out this sport,” said Ryan Guay, of Boulder. “It’s super fun.”
Saturday’s event began in East Vail and ended at the Covered Bridge in Vail Village. Paddlers had to deal with strong currents, a fast river flow, several drops and low bridges – all while standing up. There were few who managed to finish the entire course without falling.
“The idea is to stay in the middle of the groove,” said Archie Kalepa, of Maui, Hawaii.
Ken Hoeve, of Gypsum, stayed on his board throughout the race and was enjoying some bragging rights at the finish line.
“I could have worn just a jock strap on this one,” Hoeve said. “The water is absolutely freezing though.”
The Hawaiians may have had some advantages because of their surfing experience, but the Coloradoans had a higher advantage – acclimation to the high altitude in Vail.
Todd Bradley, owner of C4 Waterman, arrived in Vail Monday and paddled the course for three straight days leading up to Saturday’s event. Even that wasn’t enough to acclimate him.
“The problem is coming in from sea level,” Bradley said. “I can’t get my breath.”
When he finished the course, he said the river was better Saturday than any of his previous days on the course.
“That was so fun,” Bradley said.
Stand-up paddlers are planting the seeds for what’s to come in the sport, Gavere said. He said it’s evolving fast and athletes are pushing each other to get better.
“I think in 3 or 4 years, this will be a main component in kayaking,” Gavere said.