New Spots For River Surfing The Mid West

'Claire Chappell - river surfing around her local spot - in Iowa 

DENVER, Colorado - There's something unique and refreshing about river surfing. It's a relatively new incarnation of the sport, and everyone doing it seems to be stoked out of their skins. And because of this, it's gaining popularity every year, offering more and more paddlers who live inland the chance to do what was once only afforded to costal dwellers. In a very real way, it almost makes 'North Shore' seem like a plausible plotline. Today we've got an article by Bad Fish team rider, Claire Chappell, who will talk us through some of her favorites spots around the Mid West.

Words by Claire Chappell

Whitewater paddling is transitioning from that extreme sport people only see in SUV commercials to something a bit more accessible. New river parks are sprouting up all over the country and it's slowly making a crazy idea, like surfing a board on a river, seem like something you might just wanna try. You don't have to go to the coast or the mountains anymore to find quality waves. Oklahoma, Iowa, Michigan, Arkansas, these are just a few places where whitewater projects are underway. Local governments are recognizing the long term value of investing in the construction of river features. If you build it....



I may not have noticed this phenomenon had I not moved from CO to Kansas for two years of school. I've put some miles on my car, but I've managed to find some gems in the Midwest. I'm almost bummed to move back home and away from the brand new waves being built (almost). One example that's captured my heart is Charles City Whitewater Park in Iowa on the Cedar River. It has actually been around a few years now and any given weekend in spring you may see five to twenty paddlers there. Mostly boats for sure, but I've seen four or five SUP surfers getting after it on the gorgeous dam drop wave. The engineers did a bang up job of shaping that wave for boards and the range of levels that it's surfable at is insane. Iowa is getting a second set of manmade waves in Manchester.




Arkansas was another surprise. From Dierks, which has tons of waves and a beautiful state park to Rockport with it's man-helped ledge and good fall/winter flows, to the newly opened park in Siloam Springs, the middle south is representing. Even in Kansas I've heard rumors of top secret meetings and local paddlers working hard to bring whitewater to Topeka or Lawrence. Dallas has a fantastic wave sitting just outside dowtown, crazy to look at skyscrapers while your standing on a wave. These are only a few I've found time to check out when I escape the books for a weekend here and there, I know there are so many more waves to be surfed.




I'm sure some of the longtime paddlers out there have mixed emotions about whitewater gaining too much popularity. Change is rough, eddies get crowded, my pfd is from 1978 and so on. But with new waves popping up, we can stay spread out enough to avoid bumper boats and sometimes the session turns out to be better with more people. More energy, more hoots n hollers and more chances that you'll find someone crazy enough to go with you on that impulse trip or the polar bear sessions. The river sup community is so positive and enthusiastic . I think the happiest folks I know are people surfing river waves. The more the merrier--that goes for waves and people.



On a side note, (allow me to step onto my soap box) I'm for anything that gets this country off the couch, outside and moving around enough to raise that heart rate for longer than a flight of stairs. I feel confident saying that the incidence of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes is relatively low in the paddle sport community. Let's share our passion with the masses, some will join, some will watch in awe, and mostly, we will have more waves to surf.

Further Reading

The Rules of River Surfing Ettiquette

Inland Surfing Champs

Last modified onTuesday, 24 March 2015 13:10

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