Rocky Mountain Surf Festival Saturday and Sunday at Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Special to the Daily/Paul TefftDespite low flows and a cancelled surf contest, the R.M. Surf Festival will go on as planned with various competitions and a luau party.

Mother Nature has no master, and Paul Tefft knows it.

In organizing the Whitewater Stand-Up Paddling Championship the past two years, he’s been dealt a little bit of everything in the weather department.

Last year, a wet winter and the resulting runoff made for epic conditions at the Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park wave, site of the Super Bowl of river stand-up paddling (SUP).

On the heels of one of the driest winters in recent memory, this year’s conditions pale in contrast, giving Tefft and fellow organizers a whole different extreme with which to contend.

“You can’t control Mother Nature,” he said. “We just have to make do with what we’ve been given.”

And that’s precisely what Tefft is doing as he and fellow organizers prepare for this weekend’s Rocky Mountain Surf Festival, of which the Whitewater SUP Championship is a part.

Low water forced him to cancel Sunday’s surf competition, the third and final event in the SUP triple crown. In its place will be an event dubbed circleSUP, a race with gates and buoys for competitors to maneuver around. They’ll also have to muscle their way through cross-current portions of the river course.

“There are some dynamic currents down there,” Tefft relayed. “They’ll basically be doing a circular course at the whitewater park. It’s pretty challenging.”

“You have to go with what Mother Nature gives you,” said Charlie MacArthur, owner of Aspen Kayak and SUP Academy and a Whitewater SUP Championship competitor. “It’ll be fun to do something else.”

Saturday’s action will feature downriver and SUPcross races.

Oregon’s Dan Gavere is the man to beat. He’s won the overall title three straight years.

“He’s going for the four-peat,” Tefft said.

MacArthur’s wife, Jenny, is the two-time defending champ on the women’s side.

Charlie, who’s finished in the top three in each of the first three years of the Whitewater SUP Championship, has seen SUP boom in popularity on local rivers in recent years.

“Stand-up has really picked up,” he said. “People who would never get in a kayak are all over the stand-up thing, largely because of the cool factor. Everybody wants to ride a board.”

With roots dating back to the early days of Polynesia, SUP is well rooted in coastal communities. It’s basically 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 flat water, SUP is catching on with inlanders, who are taking to this new way of navigating rushing river rapids.

MacArthur and Tefft staged the first whitewater world championship in 2009. They expanded it to a full-fledged surf festival last year.

Whitewater SUP’s competition schedule has only grown since. Big-name events are now commonplace.

“We’re the first in the country to put on a whitewater stand-up paddle event,” MacArthur said. “FIBArk followed. Reno followed. I’m not sure about the East Coast yet.”

The Teva Mountain Games in Vail added SUP to its list of events in 2011.

“Stand-up paddling’s getting huge in popularity,” Tefft said. “The sport’s been growing by leaps and bounds with competitions. There’s a lot more interest in stand-up paddling.”

And the Rocky Mountain Surf Festival will feature more than just SUP. The Polynesian-themed affair will be a veritable river party, with music, food, limbo contests, demos and more.

Also on the weekend schedule is Sunday’s American Rivers Raft Trash Rescue Regatta, which will feature raft teams floating from Two Rivers Park down the Colorado River to the surf festival. The goal: Pluck as much trash from the shoreline as possible.

“It’s a way to give something back,” Tefft said. “With the low water, a lot of trash will be exposed.”

And that’s probably the only positive byproduct of this year’s low water levels, which forced the cancellation of the SUP event at the Teva Games last weekend.

“The bright side is at least we have some water and can still run the event, unlike them,” Tefft said. “Regardless if it’s super low, we can still hold something.”


10:30 a.m. – SUP downriver launch

Noon – Beer garden opens

2 p.m. – SUPcross, followed by American Canoe Association SUP summit

4:30 p.m. – Great Goof Off, SUPsquatch demos

All day – Music, food, limbo contest and hula hooping with Betty Hoops, juggling/kids entertainment with Jammin’ Jim, surfer/SUP expression session on the wave


10 a.m. – First heats of circleSUP

11 a.m.-1 p.m. – American Rivers Raft Trash Rescue Regatta and SUPsquatch sprint (multi-person SUP race through the wave)

Noon – Beer garden opens

1:30 p.m. – CircleSUP finals

All day – River surfing expression session, music, food, limbo contests and hoola hooping with Betty Hoops, juggling/kids entertainment with Jammin’ Jim

5 p.m. – Award ceremony and riverside mountain luau

• Main event and party takes place at Glenwood Whitewater Park.

• No parking on Midland Avenue or Devereux Road.

• Park at the Glenwood Mall and take shuttle bus to the venue.

• No pets allowed.

• Costumes encouraged.

• Kayakers welcome.

• Visit for more information.

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