June 17, 2014
by Mike Tavares

Mike Tavares Previews The Payette River Games And The Future Of Whitewater SUP

whitewater stand up paddling

Boss Man’s note: So the big Payette River Games are just a few days away… This weekend a whole stack of big names will be duking it out for the $50,000 prize purse on offer at Kelly’s Whitewater Park here in Cascade, Idaho.

We arrived in Cascade last night and spent a few hours testing out the river today. For those of us who have never set foot in the rapids, this weekend is going to be a serious challenge… After what we saw today it’s certainly going to be a lotta fun, but it’s also going to be very humbling for us ocean and flat water paddlers.

So to get a crash course on whitewater SUP and to give the whole paddling community some insights into this weekend’s big race, we asked Mike Tavares a few questions about the river.

Along with guys like Dan Gavere, Mike has been one of the pioneers of whitewater stand up paddling. The Badfish SUP team rider has been on the road the past few weeks, first at the GoPro Mountain Games and then on the weekend at the FIBArk, and will probably kick ass against some of the big international names this weekend.

If you wanna see how it all goes down, remember that we’ll be live streaming the Payette River Games webcast here on SUPracer.com all weekend…

Mike Tavares whitewater SUP#1. So what makes river SUP racing unique?

River Racing is completely unique for a few reasons… First off, you are moving downstream, sometimes at a very fast pace, so you have to continually read the river and make adjustments constantly to stay on course. Unlike the predictable racing conditions in flat water and even the ocean, the river is always changing and you’re literally always doing something different.

River Racing is more than just out-paddling someone, it’s about picking the correct lines, not crashing, and surviving through difficult rapids. River Racing is an untapped resource in the sport, because nearly everyone has access to a river.

#2. What unique skills does river racing require?

The most unique skill that river racing requires is the ability to read the moving water and whitewater. It’s a whole different ball game in the river and knowing how to properly interact with the it is a major bonus. High end board control and strokes play a huge part as well, because constant corrections and movement are necessary in the river.

#3: What’s one thing the ocean guys and girls are going to need to learn FAST?

The ocean guys and girls already know how to read water, but they’ll need to make those adjustments to whitewater and moving current. I get the same feeling when I spend lots of time away from the ocean. It takes a while to dial in those skills in order to be successful and to do what you want to do on the water.

Mike Tavares SUP#4. Where do you see whitewater sup going in the next few years?

Whitewater SUP has a bright future! We are literally just beginning to tap the available resources and show the rest of the SUP world that it is here to stay. This year has already seen exponential growth in whitewater SUP all across the country because of its ease of access and ease of paddling.

I have been lucky enough to work with Badfish SUP, who makes a whole line of whitewater products that make it super fun and easy to paddle on the river. Proper boards and gear make it super easy to paddle down the river, or surf a stationary wave.

The main thing to remember is that most of the population around the world has access to some moving river or body of water. It doesn’t have to be hardcore whitewater to be exciting and there are thousands of rivers waiting to be SUP’ed!

#5. Some tips on equipment? I’m guessing my 12’6 x 24″ won’t cut it?

Equipment choices in the river are just as important as board choices in the ocean. If you want to be set up for success, proper boards and safety gear are the key. Taking any old board in the river might get you down, but it won’t get you down with style and ease!

Whitewater-specific board companies like Badfish SUP have designed boards specifically with the river in mind. This includes different volume, rocker and materials that help you navigate the river with confidence and performance, not just holding on for dear life.

As an example, in the past few downriver races in Colorado I’ve been using a whitewater race board designed by Badfish called the MVP-X. The board is wider, has more volume than most and is slower in the flats than other race boards, but it excels in the rapids, enabling me to actually paddle hard though whitewater and accelerate in the craziness rather than just be holding on til the rapids end.

Mike Tavares whitewater Stand Up Paddle

Other essentials are a whitewater-approved PFD, helmet, footwear, a non ankle releasable leash system and whitewater fin.

Fins for a deep river like the Payette are not as important, but for shallow rivers I go with something that is flexible and can be cut down to shorter lengths. Lately I’ve been racing with an FCS Flexi dolphin fin that I cut from 6 inches down to 4.

Board choice for the Payette River Games has been the biggest talk over the last few weeks! The hard part about this particular race is that it’s a combination of flat water and whitewater… You can get down on anything fast on the flat water, but the whitewater section at Kelly’s Whitewater Park is going to be big and unforgiving!

A whitewater specific board will have huge advantages over ocean or flat water boards this weekend and it’s going to be interesting to watch it all unfold. I am just really excited to have this side of the sport showcased to the world this week.

Jeff Banks, Mark and Kristina Pickard, and the rest of the Kelly’s crew have put so much love and energy into this event and its going to be like nothing that has happened yet in this sport!

Be prepared for a big one!

Watch Mike Tavares take on Travis Grant, Kai Lenny, Jamie Mitchell, Dan Gavere, Slater Trout, Kelly Margetts and many more at the Payette River Games this weekend – we’ll be showing the live webcast here on SUPracer.com all day Saturday and Sunday.