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Three New FiBARK SUP (Stand Up Paddle boarding) Events creates the Triple Crown
As a new sport for FiBARK the SUP players organized three events: SUP-Cross, SUP-Freestyle, and SUP-Downriver. If you are new to SUP then you can relax. As the writer of this piece I’m inexperienced too and asked all the right questions for us rookie wannabe SUP inland surfers and river runners to learn.
I caught up with Earl Richmond, Colorado Kayak Supply partner, immediately after the FiBARK events when he admits, “Competing could be hard on my psyche.” Earl at heart is not a sports competitor and was nervous going into FiBARK’s three SUP board competitions.
Tone of Event
It’s a small genre of the paddling industry with a handful of friends entering. Earl and board designer Mike Harvey were in opposite heats first surf competing, then lending their boards to friends, and next would walk drenched in wet suit to MC their peer competitors. And lucky they did as these experts shared SUP surf knowledge to help us rookies understand what’s happening. It was the kind of event that made you want to try surfing a SUP board for yourself. The day was sunny, the competitors seemed to be having fun surfing the wave and drinking from the title sponsor tap, New Belgium Beer.
The “SUP players” would be considered by many as SUP river-running and surfing pioneers. Why is that? You should understand that Mike Harvey, Zach Hughes, Charlie McArthur and Earl Richmond as paddling friends have led the Colorado charge in whitewater kayaking for years. Now, Colorado whitewater is expanding mainstream with the nations best river waves and play parks. These “SUP Pioneers” are designing and distributing SUP boards as they have fun promoting an easy to learn water sport.
Four person brackets began from an eddy exiting into downstream current. Racers had to cross an eddy fence and circle an upriver gate. The eddy returned to rapid downstream current. Just above the bridge the SUPr’s had to cross a challenging to balance large wave just prior to sprinting to the bridge.
Element of the Unknown- Keep it Chill
Not knowing the flows or the number of entrants the SUP course was finalized just five minutes prior to the event. The organizers had goals to show the public you can safely and effectively SUP whitewater. Each heat the top two advanced to the next round. And the bottom two went to a losers bracket. The cut went 16 to 8 to 4. The final four were Zach, Mike, Ryan Duffy, and Earl.
“Can you push or knock the other racer off their board?”
While the rules allow for knocking, tripping, or pushing an opponent off of their board these guys were too polite for hooligan tactics and kept the event clean. In the final round Earl edged Mike
out of the first gate behind leader Zach. Mike and Earl sprinted for the downstream wave with Earl’s early gate lead keeping him a nose in front. Earl hit the wave hole first and fell off his board losing valuable time as Mike continued paddling downstream. Now the race for second and third was neck and neck. Earl’s early advantage was just enough for him to hold on for a second place finish.
Breathing hard at the end the racers were floating high fives.
Liz Block Wins All in Women’s SUP-Cross
Liz Block was the only woman to enter the SUP-Cross. The cool thing was she competed with the
men and advanced to the quarter-finals. So not only did her courage of showing up as the only female win her a gold she also held her own against the men. I personally watched her neck and neck racing her boyfriend, but it’s probably best not to mention who won that race… ahmm… sensitive subject.
Was held at the “Office Wave,” named so because the wave is just outside of Mike’s office window. Earl jokes, “Since the wave is named after Harvey’s office he had a clear advantage.” Knowing Mike has been a huge part in designing Colorado Whitewater parks and the local great play features I state that Mike must have the dream job. Earl answers, “His title is Recreation Engineering and Planning and he does a great job, but like most businesses I’m sure he deals with some ‘unique people’ and has his own set of work related challenges.” I nod, “Point well taken, I’m still a little envious of his office view.”
About Mike’s “Office Wave”
We’ll call it Mike’s “Office Wave” since he also designed the wave and that should entitle some sort of ownership. But really on this day it was Zach Hughes who owned the wave. The Office
Wave is a flatter, less aggressive, and easier to surf wave. Organizer and competitors chose the upstream wave of the ramp wave for its convenience in seating and surfability for athletes.
How’s Freestyle SUP Scored?
The event chose to steer away from a definitive scoring system. Earl explains, “We simplified a complicated system to four areas of points: Technical ability; Fluidity and style; Length of ride offering a bonus for a full 45 second ride, and a Big Trick bonus. Surfers kept the top two rides and threw out the bottom two rides.
Some top scoring moves included: the coffin (laying on the board as you surfed), front flips, full 360’s of the board, and ollying the board off the water. The event was dominated by Badfish co-owner Zack Huges, who showed the growing crowd why his river surf SUP designs are so far ahead of the pack. Zack ruled the event, surfing in style and pulling off multiple 360 spin moves on the Office Wave. It reminded me of watching the first kayakers pull off loops many years ago. The crowd was amazed and so were the competitors. His rides have set a new bench-mark for river SUP surfers, all are up for the challenge.
Last year the 26-mile event was too much for the SUP racers. This year FiBARK opened a SUP category cutting the event to a ten-mile race, Salida to Rincon. This section is primarily class II with a III hole at Bear Creek. The hole was intimidating for the racers as it was talked up as big. SUP as a group left one minute behind the kayakers. The river flowed fast, was not too technical, offered a safe race venue, required some river skills, and even some split currents to navigate. For many racers it was their first event.
A Funny Finish
Charlie McArthur known for winning the Gore and other reputable Colorado extreme races jumped out front and secured his gold medal early.
Not knowing the course second place racer Earl Richmond asked kayakers how far ‘til the finish. No one seemed to know. The Bear Creek hole tossed Earl into the drink ripping his earphones from his head. He climbed on his board and calmly adjusted his headphones. He could hear the crowd yelling but never looked back as he assumed he must be about five miles from the finish. As Earl nonchalantly paddled Bill Mellentime strolled up on his C4 Watermark 12’6”, “How much further we got?” Earl answered, “I think we’ve got about five miles.” As the pair cornered the next bend they spotted 100 yards downstream the finish.
After ten miles of navigating eddys, crossing currents, a swim at Bear Creek, and a relaxing paddle alone Earl and Bill found themselves in an all-out sprint to the 100-yard finish. Stroke for stroke they matched the other. The boards striding must’ve been magnetized by the current as they began gliding and bouncing in unison. Each man could only take a stroke on one side as the other side was blocked by an obtrusive board. With each stroke one would dart a foot in front of the other and vice versa as the pair were set for a Michael Phelps finish. Bounce. Stroke. Pull ahead. Fall behind. Then Bill’s paddle hit Earl’s board flipping Bill just 15’ from the finish.
Earl cruised the final 12’ to a second place finish. He pondered if his non-competitive nature would’ve allowed him to win or place third. Again, at the finish line the SUP pioneers found themselves in friendly fashion exhilarated at each other’s accomplishments and a successful event. Again, they enjoyed brews from the event sponsor New Belgium and spending time with their families.
Nicole Duke Leads
On the female side, Nichole Duke from Boulder lead the pack in the women’s field in both Surf
and Downriver events. She is a full-time cycle cross-national champ and uses SUP to keep herself in incredible shape. Nicole was stocked beyond belief during the events and kept the women’s fields excited to come back next year for a shot at the claimed title. That will be a challenging task, but as with most SUP folks, she is open for the fun challenge.
Any new event like SUP at FiBARK hopefully is fun, showcases the safety of the sport, and sets a foundation for 2012. The future looks very bright for SUP at FiBArk.
“Tell me something about the various boards and what is best for what.”
Badfish– is a shorter paddle-board should use a smaller blade for quicker paddling cadence.
Werner Carve- is a shorter aggressive paddle best for wave surfing. If you’re a Colorado SUP’r you’ll get the most out the waves with the Curve.
C4 Waterman Leash- Wave Surfers need a leash. You might go one way and your board the other and you’ll want that leash keeping you close to your board.
C4 Waterman SUP Surf Boards- the Subvector ISUPs 8’1”; 9’3”; and 10’0” for Surf and the ISUP 12’6” for downriver racing and the ISUP XXL for Boater X.
“Why would you want an Inflatable SUP?”
Earl answers, “Anyone running rivers has to consider an inflatable. They’ll standup best if you hit a rock. And you’ll find a huge travel advantage. For example, if you’re flying to South America to run rivers or surf you can pack all your gear conveniently into one check bag.”
SUP in general is giving kayakers another option to continue paddling or try for first time and for those who don’t like kayak competitions they have a great alternative. The SUP genre is low stress, perfect for people who don’t like competitive pressure, or just want to paddle into the best shape of their lives.
CKS Content Media Specialist
Owner- Pucon Kayak Hostel, now offering SUP boarding in Chile. “Keep Kayaking.”
Director- Huge Experiences’ New River Academy, “And that has made all the difference.”