Kristen Lodge: Stand up paddling, a new way to experience the river
When you have close friends who come to visit you in the summer in Grand County, what do you do?
You want to show them a good time, give them a unique experience, and have a lot of laughs. That is exactly what a group of friends did Thursday morning at Rancho Del Rio.
Jace Brock, 41 of South Dakota, Maria Boutrous , 40, of North Dakota, and Kremmling resident, Rosie Stahl, 41 paddled down the Colorado River with Stand Up Paddle Colorado, an outfit based in State Bridge and Rancho Del Rio southwest of Kremmling.
This group of friends attended summer camp in Custer, S.D., from 1986 to 1992. After high school they drifted apart, but in the last four years got back in touch and started spending a week together each summer. One year they met in Las Vegas. One year was spent at the summer camp where they met, reminding them of the “hellions” they were.
“We would sneak out of camp all the time,” said Stahl.
“I had my first kiss at the camp,” said Boutrous.
As we sit on the shore of the Colorado River getting ready for the safety lesson on the paddle boards, Brock remembers how they met.
“The were too stuck-up to talk to me the first year. But we eventually all became friends,” he said laughing.
This year they decided to spend a week in Grand County, and one of the activities they decided on was paddle boarding since none of them had ever done it – and they were ready for a Colorado adventure.
Their guide is Javier Placer, 35, who lives in the teepee by the river all summer. He has spent time guiding on rivers in Costa Rica, California, and now Colorado. Erik Berg is helping get the gear situated. This is Berg’s first year and he is an apprentice guide.
Stevie Frazier is a guide and helped Placer start up the company last year.
“Rio Rancho to State Bridge is Class 2 rapids and perfect for beginners and people who want to get in the sport,” said Frazier.
“Stand up paddle boarding really focuses on core and a good sense of balance,” he said.
The boards the company uses on the Colorado River are inflatable and specifically designed to go in the rapids and flat water. The sport is gaining popularity and SUP Colorado is one of the first exclusive companies in the U.S., he said.
Each paddler wears a helmet and life jacket. Wetsuits are available; however these three friends opt for just their bathing suits.
Stand up paddling goes back to the ’40s in Waikiki, said Placer. “Top surfers were using it for additional exercise.”
“People are used to paddling in a raft or canoe in lakes or the ocean. They come to Colorado and want to do something different. Stand up paddling on the Colorado River is a new way to experience the river,” he said.
Placer demonstrates on land how to stand up and how to transfer kayaking skills to the paddle.
The group walks into the river and kneels on the boards. Drifting off down the river, they all stand up about five minutes later.
I meet them down river to see how they like it so far.
“It is more fun than kayaking,” said Brock.
“I’m going to buy one,” said Boutrous.
A thumbs up from Stahl, and they are back on the water preparing for the first
The verdict at the end of their two-hour tour – they love it and are doing it again the next day.
“With the basic instructions the rapids are doable, and you can kneel on the board if you can’t stand,” Stahl said.
“It was more aerobic than I thought because I fell off my board and had to swim,” said Brock.
The secret is to stay on your board, he said laughing. “It’s you and nature and you can push yourself as hard as you want, it’s a solo experience.”
Boutrous is hooked, and is already thinking of where she will paddle board when she gets home.
“It’s a great core workout. I used my yoga skills to balance. Yoga will help me with the sport, and I love yoga.”
When you hit a wave, you use the same skills when you are bump skiing, she said.
“You use your core, and stay strong and low to the ground. Javier, our guide was awesome.”
These three friends became life-long friends after canoeing on a lake at summer camp almost 30 years ago.
“I love these guys. I feel like a kid again every time we get together,” said Boutrous.
“The opportunity to keep these friendships alive is very important,” said Brock. “The friendships you build as a child – that bond is stronger later in life because you have a history.”
The next Colorado adventure these friends will go on this week is a a hike to Quandary Peak.
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