• Michael Chebatoris

Whitewater SUP: Golden Games Downriver SUP Sprint

Updated: Oct 19

My first whitewater SUP race


This year marked the seventh year of the Golden Games, an annual event to kick off the summer season of outdoor activities in Colorado. I participated in the Downriver SUP Sprint on Clear Creek in Golden, Saturday May 20th. The participants gathered around 9:45 am in the crisp air at the Golden Colorado whitewater park. While the temperature was in the 50’s, the sun was out in full force. The event organizer, Shaine from Shaboomee, gave a quick and concise safety briefing before the SUPers made the walk up the path to the start. Last year I was injured and only able to watch the race; this year I was pumped to participate!

Me paddling in Moab, Utah earlier this spring.


As the group walked up the path, I chatted with a few paddlers. Most seemed to be quite experienced. One paddler, Mike, recommended a few upcoming events I should check out including FIBArk in Salida, CO in the middle of June; there is a 10-mile downriver SUP race which is a lot of fun. He noticed I did not have a leash, commenting “if you want to get into more whitewater paddling, I’d recommend getting a leash which has a quick release draw-cord.” I mentioned I was going to hit-up REI later in the day, Mike said “I’d be surprised if they have one. Badfish actually makes a really good one which I use.” He showed it to me and the basics of how it works. It allows the paddler the ability to have a leash with the option to “bail” if the board gets stuck or wrapped around debris in the river. This seemed like a worthwhile investment; I made a mental note to lookup Badfish leashes online later.


Into the river


The start of the Golden Games whitewater SUP race was just past the 6th Avenue bridge. There is a break in the fence which leads to the water. There were an estimated 20 participates in this no-frills event. The paddlers started every minute. This provided the participants enough space so the course would not get congested. The entrance had some mild rapids to maneuver though before going under the bridge. During the walk up, one of the veteran whitewater paddlers I spoke with commented it was best to stay river left while passing under the bridge. As I paddled under the bridge and glanced to the right, I could see various rocks which would have been hazardous and challenging to navigate.


I made my way down the river to the series of drops in the whitewater park. On previous visits to the waterpark I’ve observed kayakers playing in the drops. I was now on my own adventure! As I approached the first one, I leaned too far forward and took a spill into the icy cold-water. I quickly climbed back on my board and started paddling again. I took the next drop on my knees.


After the series of drops, there was a flat stretch before finishing the race at Goose Poop Park. Upon arrival at the finish, I was greeted by a few of the paddlers who started before me, congratulating me on my first whitewater SUP race!


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