January 21, 2015
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

New Boards, New Courses And Even More Fun For The Payette River Games

Payette River Games stand up paddleboard race

Well it looks like one of the best events on the calendar just got even better.

The Payette River Games, one of the five major SUP races of 2015, will see two big changes this year: New courses and new boards.

While the 2015 website and registration won’t be opening until next week, I just chatted with the organisers and got a sneak peek at what’s in store for the 3rd annual edition of this big event.

Idaho’s Payette River Games, officially the richest SUP race in the world thanks to its $50,000 cash purse, will be happening from June 19-21 this year. And while there’s a whole festival with six or seven different events on offer (lumberjack!), stand up paddling appears to be the headline act of PRG15.

Payette River Games SUP

Fernando Stalla on his way to victory in the SUP Xross finals

There are two separate SUP races at the PRGs, with results combined to produce the overall event standings (and determine who walks away with the cash). One is the SUP Cross (or ‘SUP Xross’ as it’s spelled) while the other is now known as the SUPer G race, replacing the old Downriver Sprint.

If you were at Payette last year, or if you’ve seen the photos/videos, you’ll already be very familiar with the SUP Cross. This is the course race that crisscrosses half a dozen buoys directly in and around the main whitewater features of Kelly’s. The Cross follows a knockout format with heats of half a dozen paddlers. It’s short, it’s sharp and it’s full of carnage & chaos. In other words the SUP Cross is a lot of fun to compete in and even more fun to just watch.

But if you were at last year’s PRGs then you’ll also know the other race, the Downriver Sprint, was a bit of a bore in comparison. Not only was it far less exciting than the Cross, but the very nature of the downriver race meant everybody had to bring 2x boards to Idaho (including one 12’6 carbon board) just to be competitive. This was a massive pain to say the least.

Payette River Games 2015

The mile-long, straight-line ‘Downriver Sprint’ race was a bit mellow last year. This new SUPer G race should be a great replacement.

So to counter both these problems, new race director and whitewater SUP pioneer Dan Gavere, along with the organising team behind the event, have worked out a very smart solution to make it easier (and more fair) for everyone.

First: The old Downriver Sprint course is getting totally reworked into a giant slalom, with the new name of the “SUPer G” race.

Second: New rules mean we only need to bring one board to compete on for the whole weekend.

Payette River Games stand up paddling

Kai Lenny and Slater Trout were two of the standouts at PRG14. Kai did the SUP Cross on a 10’6″ inflatable.

The SUPer G race sounds pretty awesome. Not only does the name itself intrigue me, but the course layout sounds pretty rad as well. Instead of the old Downriver Sprint that started up river and basically acted like a regular flat water race, this new SUPer G will be far more interesting. And while I get the impression Gavere is keeping his cards close to his chest (and will look to surprise/humble us on race day), I believe the new SUPer G course will go something like this..

The giant slalom course will begin at the main event site (saving us from having to get trucked up to the start line), zig zag its way up the river, where a series of buoys will test paddlers’ knowledge of the river currents and eddies, before turning around and heading back through the course and then charging the rapids to the finish line.

Payette River Games Cascade Idaho

There will probably still be enough flat water involved to give the non-river specialists a bit of an advantage (as opposed to the SUP Cross, which definitely favours the river guys and girls), which will allow the ocean paddlers to be competitive in the overall standings. However the big advantage is that this new SUPer G course will be a lot more interesting for both the paddlers and the crowd.

This new SUPer G race, which is a world first as far as I know, also means that traditional race boards won’t be necessary at the 2015 Payette River Games. Only requiring one board for the entire weekend is a huge relief for the 95% of competitors that have to travel from out of state or overseas.

Though just to make sure the message gets through, organisers are introducing a couple of new board rules…

Payette River Games Idaho

Brittany Parker was one of the stand out women last year. We share the same name but alas I didn’t acquire her river paddling genes…

2015 Payette River Games – New Board Rules

1. You’ve gotta paddle the exact same board all weekend – only one board for the two races (unless you totally trash it, then you can swap to something similar).
2. All boards are a going to be a maximum of 11 feet in length. No more unwieldy 12’6 carbon boards, we’re all on the 10-11′ all rounders, inflatables and river boards.

This makes it not only easier but also a lot more fair.

It’s extremely difficult to fly in to Boise, Idaho with a 12’6 carbon race board (and the majority of competitors fly in). So removing carbon 12’6 boards from the equation is a huge headache out of the way. Plus for those who can only travel with one board, or who want to use an inflatable (which is probably going to be at least 50% of us), you can still be as competitive as anyone else.

Payette River Games stand up paddle

So while the very idea of introducing “board rules” is a bit of a taboo in racing, I think Dan and the crew have gotten this one spot on.

And another bonus, at least in my opinion, is that now we can be just as competitive on a 10’6 inflatable as anything else. I’m a newly-converted fan of inflatable SUP boards – I can’t wait to see who shows up in Idaho with what kind of equipment. There will now also be an additional element of strategy involved, as paddlers will need to select a board that suits both the SUPer G (which has more flat water) and the Cross (which has more whitewater) events.

So there you go. The 2015 Payette River Games: New boards, new courses.

Everything else we know and love about the PRGs will stay the same though (or improve…).

– It’s still got the same $50,000 prize purse (and it’s still gender equal all the way down to 10th place, with $10k for the 2x winners). However this year it’ll be paid in CASH at the awards ceremony, not cheques.

– Still got the legendary lumberjack tournament (axe throw and log rolling!). Plus this year the PRGs are adding Beach Flags, which should prove to be a headliner.

– It’ll still have that signature hot tub sitting beside the river. The water actually isn’t all that cold in the Payette, though it’s still super nice to finish your heat, jump in the jacuzzi and watch the carnage go down on the river below you.

Payette River Games Kelly's Whitewater Park

– Still got the free organic meals for the athletes.

– Still got free camping for all competitors.

– Still got 100% of registration dollars going straight to the non-profit/charitable host venue, Kelly’s Whitewater Park.

– Oh and if you bring an inflatable (which I’d say the majority of us will), there’s apparently some mega compressor station in the works, where you can inflate your blow up in a few seconds rather than killing your arms before you’ve even started paddling.

One of the funnest weekends of the year just got even more fun, so lock June 19-21 in on your calendar and get ready for registration when it opens next Tuesday at 9am.

And just because I post these two carnage shots in almost every article about the Payette River Games, here they are once again for your viewing pleasure…

Payette River Games SUP Cross

Payette River Games race