What’s SUP Glenwood? Paddling championships Sunday
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Of all the things to fall in love with on his honeymoon, Charlie MacArthur picked a dandy. Six years ago, MacArthur returned from a post-wedding sojourn to tropical Fiji with a surprising new passion ” stand-up paddling.
It’s a passion he married to the rivers of Western Colorado upon his return home and a passion that he’s still pushing.
MacArthur, who owns and operates Aspen Kayak Academy, and his longtime friend, and fellow whitewater fiend, Paul Tefft, are bringing the Whitewater Stand Up Paddling Championships to the Colorado River this weekend.
The event is the first of its kind, as far as MacArthur and Tefft know, and the pair hope it lends competitive legitimacy to a sport that’s still very much in its infancy.
With roots dating back to the early days of Polynesia, stand-up paddling, or 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 the flat water, SUP is catching on with inlanders in the Roaring Fork Valley, who are taking to this new way of tackling the rushing rapids of local rivers.
“It’s starting to grow,” said MacArthur, a California native who’s spent many a summer in Hawaii. “There are probably a dozen people in the valley, or more, doing it.”
MacArthur expects the inaugural Whitewater SUP Championships, which will draw elite competitors from as far away as Europe and Hawaii, to breed wider interest in the sport.
“It’s very recent in the river,” said MacArthur, who will be among Sunday’s competitors and recently teamed up with Hawaii-based stand-up board and paddle manufacturer C4 Waterman to develop a river-specific board. “This will probably explode a lot more this year, just because of the publicity.”
The sport’s appeal is a no-brainer to outdoor enthusiasts who’ve enjoyed their share of whitewater conquests in conventional vessels and are seeking a new challenge.
Tefft, a longtime paddler who’s more or less mastered local waters, took up SUP as a way to make kayaking trips over Class I and II rapids with his young children more fun ” for him.
“I got them into kayaking, and when I was first teaching them ” they were 8 or 9 ” I got them started by taking them out on Class I and II rapids,” Tefft relayed. “For me, it was fun to be with the kids, but I’m used to paddling Class IV and V. So I got an old windsurf board and started stand-up paddling with them. It made it challenging for me on Class I and II.”
And so Tefft’s love for SUP was born, a love he and MacArthur will take to the next level with Sunday’s three-phase championships, which will feature downriver and slalom races and a surfing competition.
All will run concurrent with the U.S. Freestyle Kayak Team Trials and Yagatta Regatta. Having all three water-sport events on the same weekend should boost exposure for all involved parties.
“Kudos to Bob Johnson’s Yagatta Regatta,” Tefft said. “He really took the stand-up paddlers under his wing and let us piggyback his event to make this happen. It’s all for a good cause. The whole point of the SUP Championships is to complement and enhance the Regatta and make it cool, fun and different, as well as with the kayak team trials. This should help bring Glenwood Springs to the forefront of all paddle sports.”
And, to think, the SUP component of all this started with MacArthur’s honeymoon trip.
“I grew up surfing and I moved out here and started kayaking,” recalled MacArthur. “On my honeymoon in 2003, I tried to stand on a paddle board. I tried it once when I was about 12 years old in Hawaii, on a regular board. And then I get on a tandem board and I got hooked. I got a long surfboard to bring back here.”
And what wasn’t there to love?
“It combines my two favorite sports ” paddling and surfing,” said MacArthur, who’s integrated SUP into his lesson offerings at Aspen Kayak Academy. “It’s just a neat, additional fun thing to do. It’s also really challenging. It makes Class I and II very fun. It makes everything a little different.”
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