SILVERTHORNE - A group of 10, donning wet suits, life jackets and helmets, drifted across North Pond Park on what looks like extra-large surf boards without fins.
They're called stand up paddleboards, and it's the latest craze in paddling worldwide, according to a variety of sources. Local rafting company KODI Rafting is capitalizing on the increase in the sport's popularity, which isn't unfounded, owners say.
"We bought them for ourselves and we had so much fun," KODI owner Christy Campton said. She and her husband, owner Campy Campton, took them down a multi-day stretch of the Green River called Labyrinth Canyon.
It's an activity that makes Class I rapids a thrill when you're standing up through them, Campy Campton said - and he wanted to share that excitement.
"Since we're in the guiding business, and with our current water conditions, it makes for a good, challenging, fun activity," he said. KODI Rafting is among the few outfitters offering lessons and river trips. Matti Wade of Ten Mile Creek Kayaks does lessons on Dillon Reservoir, and the Camptons are working closely with him to move beginners on in the sport.
On Monday, the Camptons invited a handful of guides in paddleboard training and locals who had never been before to the "final dress rehearsal" before offering the product to customers starting Tuesday.
"It went really well," Campy Campton said. "Everyone was very impressed with how much fun it was."
Because guests are piloting their own craft, the company's guides held a brief training session at North Pond Park on Monday before continuing up Highway 9 to the Upper Colorado River. The visit to North Pond Park will be nixed from commercial trips, Campy Campton said, because there are enough large eddies to conduct instruction - and the initial training can be tied into learning how to maneuver small currents before hitting the four miles of Upper Colorado between Rancho del Rio and State Bridge.
Trips are limited to six guests and a guide, so "it's almost like a private lesson, class and trip all in one," Campy Campton said, explaining that beginners are offered a full day of stand up paddleboarding. Experienced paddleboarders can purchase a half-day option without the training session.
Karen Berg, owner of The Next Page bookstore in Frisco, was among the locals chosen to test the trip. She admits she's a little sore, but can't help but smile about the experience.
"I was a little nervous at first, because it wasn't anything I'd ever done," she said. "We had awesome instruction. (KODI guides) gave us plenty of confidence."
Everyone looked a little stiff and insecure while on the pond, but Berg said they loosened up halfway down the river portion.
"People were standing on their boards going through rapids," she said, though she added that everyone took at least one "cold, refreshing splash" into the river.
Like other rafting companies looking at low water levels this season, KODI is adding activities to the line-up.
Lower water is ideal for families who aren't looking for the risk and thrill of the extremely high water of last season. But it can deter those looking for more of a rush.
"We're trying to cater to the water levels we're going to see this year," Campy Campton said. "(stand up paddleboarding) is a different kind of challenge, but it's still physically and mentally challenging, just like going down the river in bigger flows. It's the ideal year to integrate that into what we offer."
Similarly, Colorado Adventure Center and Arkansas Valley Adventures' new zip lines could draw the adventurous clientele.
But KODI is going a little further, too. They're considering adding a stand up paddleboard yoga class, which would send the class out onto flatwater to do yoga poses on the boards.
"It's apparently a new big craze with the yogis," Campton said. "We're putting the pieces together right now, with yoga instructors getting together to chat about it. We're trying to find a place to do it."
Campton is also using his recent ordination to offer an elopement package that includes a river trip and wedding ceremony for the bride, groom and their hired photographer.
"People are getting married on ski lifts and on the slopes and mountain bike trails, but I'm not quite sure of other rafting companies that are offering that as one of their trips," Campton said. The trip includes a champagne toast at the take-out. Petal and Bean in Breckenridge is a partner, helping with more elaborate ceremonies that include flowers and more.
"We can do a lot of different things, catering to what the bride and groom are looking for," Campton said.