Surf’s Up (in South Canyon?!) | PostIndependent.com
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Surf’s Up (in South Canyon?!)

Surf in Colorado should be rare. We live in a high desert. We have ski lifts, bears and tumbleweed. Beach bums and surfers should have a hard time living here. But somehow surf in Colorado is all over, though kayaks and kayakers often take the place of the beach bums and surfboards. And when the Colorado River runs in the spring and early summer, the surf scene in Colorado is best at a wave just west of Glenwood Springs near South Canyon. “It’s one of the best waves in the state,” said Dave Belcher, 25, who had driven from Steamboat on a Tuesday afternoon to surf his kayak at the South Canyon wave. “Next to Big Sur, this is the most notorious wave on the West Slope,” said Dave Scott. Big Sur is a wave that forms on the Colorado River an hour west of Glenwood. Scott drove to South Canyon first thing after unpacking his car in a move to Glenwood Springs.”I haven’t surfed it since I was about 13. It’s just been a legend,” he said, pulling on a helmet and life jacket in the small parking lot near the South Canyon bridge. South Canyon is a “legend” for a variety of reasons. The first is that it offers “park and play,” which means that kayakers can drive right up to the riverbank, put their boat in the water, go play on the wave, then take out at the same spot where they put in. Another thing that makes the South Canyon wave great is that it has a big eddy on the river-left side, which allows paddlers to catch the wave again and again. And it forms in low-water years when other river features don’t get enough water to form. “Colorado Rivers & Creeks” (“the Bible” to kayakers), says that South Canyon’s optimal level is from 2,500 to 3,200 cubic feet per second.On an average snow year the flows through South Canyon peak much higher than 3,200 cfs, which means kayakers get two shots at catching the wave – once as the river rises and once as it recedes. “It may last a couple of days, but you may get a week or two weeks,” said Dave Ozawa of Avon, who was taking an early afternoon off from work to visit South Canyon. It is also just a really fun wave. “It’s a beautiful wave,” said Ben Phillips of Carbondale. “You can just sit out there all day and surf.” “It’s so smooth it’s like surfing in the ocean,” said Belcher. Though the wave at South Canyon is what brings kayakers (and the occasional board surfer or boogie boarder), it also gives a paddlers a chance to meet or catch up with old friends. Early on Tuesday afternoon Belcher and Phillips were the only paddlers in the river and took turns carving turns on the face of the wave. But one by one more walked their boats down the steep bank to the water below the bridge. Friends of Belcher and Phillips eventually showed up and gave a holler down from the hillside above the river. Once in the eddy, Belcher, Phillips, and their friends, who drove in from Boulder, caught up with each other’s lives and shared stories about different paddling spots around the state.The crowd that gathers at South Canyon is also surprisingly diverse. In one afternoon everyone from medical students to unemployed 20-somethings to video producers lined up in the eddy for a turn on the wave. And they all come for the same reason.”What else would you rather be doing on a Tuesday?” asked Belcher.Contact Ryan Graff: 945-8515, ext. 520rgraff@postindependent.com


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