The First in Boating on the Arkansas festival is the oldest continually running whitewater event in North America. Founded in 1949 in Salida, Colorado FIBArk’s marquee event has always been the 26 mile downriver race from Salida to Cotopaxi during the height of the spring runoff. This year for the first time in 63 years Stand Up Paddling events were a part of the standard slate of kayak competitions.
For Zack and Mike it was our first chance to showcase Badfish boards at our local event. Both of us have volunteered, competed and enjoyed FIBArk since the early 90’s so to have a chance to compete in a brand new event on our own boards was something we were both looking forward to.
The event got started with a SUP cross. SUP cross is a head to head race, over a short distance where competitors have to make some whitewater moves, usually determined by having everyone paddle around a slalom gate or two. For the the FIBArk course racers had to catch an upstream gate in an eddy and then negotiate the boatramp hole. The boatramp hole at over 3000cfs is a large hydraulic that pushes the limits of navigability for most SUP boards.
The 9’0″ MVP has proved itself to be a very effective Cross racing board. In a short race that puts a premium on stability and being able to make whitewater moves the MVP excels and both Zack and Mike worked their way through the elimination rounds to the final round to race against CKS owner Earl Richmond and Boardworks Surf rep Ryan Guay.
In the final round Mike got the early lead only to blow the eddy turn wide opening up the backdoor for Zack to squirt through. Zack ran away with the victory while Earl battled Mike for second. After some bumping and grinding Earl took second with Mike taking third. Cross racing is new to whitewater SUP racing and it seems to hold great potential for being a spectator friendly event.
On Saturday the second event of the triple crown was the surf contest. Held at the Office Wave (the feature built by Mike right outside his office) it may have well been called the Zack show as Zack put on a clinic, spinning 360’s at will and dominating the event. The final order looked the same again as Earl took second and Mike third. Nicole Duke a professional bike racer from Boulder took the women’s crown. Every single competitor in the surf event rode a Badfish board with the vast majority choosing on of our River Surfer demos. For surfing standing waves there just isn’t another board right now that even comes close in terms of performance to the River Surfer.
Sunday is the the day of the marquee event at FIBArk the 26mile “kayak marathon” race from Salida to Cotopaxi. This year there was a SUP class racing 10miles from Salida to Rincon which would put racers into one of the largest rapids on that reach, Bear Creek. The downriver race had the largest turnout yet with stalwart SUP paddler Charlie “CMac” MacArthur coming over from Aspen to crush the field and several other racers showing up from around Colorado. Zack and Mike raced on 9’0″ MVP’s. Right now there is no perfect SUP whitewater racing board out there. Your choice is either a longer inflatelable or epoxy board made for ocean or flatwater and what you gain in speed you loose in stability.
The 9’0″ is a bit of a compromise for us a as a race board. The board is much more stable and able to make whitewater moves than other boards, but definitely slower that boards over 3 feet longer in flatwater. Zack and Mike had a respectable showing in 4th and 6th respectively, but there is no doubt that a longer MVP would be a potentially dominant whitewater racing board (stay tuned).
The triple crown was a great chance to showcase whitewater SUP and Badfish boards were highlighted throughout the weekend. As the sport progresses these events will be a great tool for Mike and Zack to test designs and gain inspirations for new boards to keep making paddling whitewater on a SUP board more fun. In the end Zack won the first triple crown with Mike taking the bronze. The entire event season this year was a really fun opportunity to get Badfish boards out to wider audience. We are already poltting and scheming ways to improve the competitive events through better board design in 2012. For the rest of the summer look for Badfish at your local whitewater park and around Colorado with demos and clinics. Stay tuned to Badfishsup.com and Facebook for details.