So You Want To Start Running Rivers on a Stand Up Paddleboard?

7 08 2017


You want to start running rivers on a board?

With all of the recent attention toward running rapids on a stand up board,  2017 is certain to see an explosion in paddlers giving the river a go. What was once seen as a fringe discipline of SUP, whitewater paddling on stand up paddleboards is quickly becoming a sought after adventure. And although flat water and ocean paddling are similar to river running, there are several differences that should be known to get SUPers prepared for the river.

While thinking about this article on a recent trip to California, I went back and forth on where to begin this series for StandUp Journal. It came down to two.”How to choose the proper stretch of river?” or  “What gear do I need to ensure I have a more successful river trip?”  I picked the later. And with that you know what our next edition will cover. Being dressed correctly along with the right board, paddle and leash set up is crucial to having a more successful trip on the rio.

Let’s get dressed. I’ll help. Heres the first thing you notice when getting into the river (falling off your board), its generally cold and rocky. One characteristic that really sets the river apart from oceans and lakes is it’s continuos flow.

You fall in and you keep moving in the quick, cold and sometimes shallow stream. Hypothermia is an ever present concern in river sup and dressing appropriately will not only aid in reducing this risk but will help protect you from any obstructions you may come in contact with.

You’ll find there are two different kinds of gear most commonly worn on the river; wetsuits or drysuits. Wetsuits work well and most paddlers are already comfortable in them. Fairly inexpensive, give the user an additional layer of skin when they scrape rocks, keep you warm(ish) and even offer some floatation. They work but I’m a firm believer in the next option.

The dry suit. I call it my safety suit. Key word to notice, dry. Paddling in the dead of Winter, surrounded by ice and snow I have found being dry is important to keep it fun but more importantly for safety. Rubber gaskets line the neck, wrists and sometimes ankles to ensure your body and warm base layers stay dry when you swim.

ken hoeveBecause you’re going to swim. A lot. Although, a drysuit keeps you dry, alone they don’t keep you warm. Wearing fleece layers underneath is a must. Some dry suits come with built in nylon socks. This is preferred and usually more efficient at keeping your feet warm allowing you to wear socks underneath. Other accessories include gloves and a neoprene beanie under your helmet. When I layer properly I am often roasting in conditions that make many shiver.

A brightly colored drysuit is encouraged giving your paddling partners an easier visual in the event you get swept away. Most dry suits come with relief zippers so when the cold water or a difficult rapid makes nature call, you can quickly take care of business.

Regardless of wetsuit or drysuit pads are nice. Rocks make rapids. Fall off in the middle of a rapid, even an easy one and land on a rock, it is going to hurt. River running is a lot like big wave shallow reef surfing without the wave chasing you. But this break has exposed reef heads you have to navigate around.

And remember, the river never stops flowing. There are no lulls between sets. The ocean is aggressive but the river is relentless. So be prepared. Not all runs will be as menacing as others. With a little research you can find a run that suits your paddling abilities.

For casual cruising and warm temperatures I go boardshorts, thin neoprene top, a pfd and helmet as well as a good solid river shoe. But when its time to fire it up with the boys I dress for a battle.  My whitewater career began 22 years ago and I have survived a lot because I wore the correct equipment. Its important to be prepared rather than just getting a board and jumping in. Here’s a quick run down of the gear I dress myself in before a paddle on the river.



    1. A properly fitting helmet designed for whitewater. Not a bike or hockey helmet (I have seen it). For mine I prefer carbon fiber with no vents as it keeps you warmer. For warmer weather paddlers a vented plastic helmet works too. I also like it with a brim to block the sun as well as create an air pocket in the event I get pinned. Helmets can range from $45 for plastic to $200 for a composite. And keep an eye on kayak and raft shop swaps. Great place to find used ones for less. Mine is a WRSI Ttrident.


    1. We have already covered it but look into them. If you get a used one remember the gaskets can be replaced. And the suit can also be patched. Get the relief zipper if possible. For myself its a Kokatat Icon model. I have used their products for 20 years and know with no doubt they are superior. Tough, dry, and last for years. Use 303 Protectant on your gaskets to get them on easier and to keep them lasting longer.


    1. If I was to have only two choices for river gear #1 would be a pfd (life jacket) and #2 is proper shoes. With those two things I know I will float and when I get my ass to shore I can walk. Part of river running is walking on the bank. Scouting, portaging, chasing run away boards and hitching shuttles are all part of it. Get a river shoe that covers your ankles, has good support and traction on rocks and feels good when you are standing on your board. There are several styles depending on the conditions. But for the majority of runs I like my Sperry SON-R Pong.  They drain water, are light and have good traction when walking on slippery rocks.


    1. Yep, river SUP can be a contact sport. Thankfully lots of manufactures make all types of padding. Now, I don’t wear all this stuff all the time but if I know I’m going to get hammered in shallow water I wear forearm/elbow pads, hip pads, knee pads and shin protection. Personally I use GForm. They are beyond light, very flexible, take big hits and don’t absorb water. If you are on a budget, go to Goodwill. Especially in mountain towns. Our local thrift shop always a variety of second hand pads.


    1. Get at the minimum a coast guard approved type III. Whitewater is aerated. Its less buoyant. You want a jacket that fits snuggly as it will float with or without you. And since you are getting one, pick one with a safety harness and quick release. The reason is you are going to attach your leash to that quick release. NOT YOUR ANKLE!! Again, don’t EVER put a leash around your ankle in the river.The reason is that if you get tangled or entrapped by that leash you want to be able to free yourself of it immediately. Reaching down to your ankles in moving water is nearly impossible, it doesn’t matter how strong of a swimming you are.   You want to pop that quick release right on your chest. If you don’t have one with a quick release BadFish SUP makes an aftermarket one that works well called the Re-leash.Order one. My PFD is a type V Kokatat Maximus Prime. Has a quick release built in, keeps me high in the water, has a pocket for the basics and even has reflective material for extra low light visibility.


    1. The wider and thicker the better. Flotation is your friend and with all the variable currents, waves, holes and rocks you should have one adjective in mind when choosing: Stability. The material is your decision. There have been great strides in the inflatable market from brands like Starboard and Badfish. You can use composites and lightweight boards but they get hammered and probably won’t last you more than a couple of seasons.That said, Badfish makes a composite board with an extra layer of durable skin which increases cost and weight but also adds to the life of the board. My personal ride is the Jackson Kayak SUPerCharger, a rotomolded board that is specifically created for river running.  We are on rivers where things take a beating and the most proven craft for running this stuff is a plastic kayak.Rigid, nearly indestructible, shedding decks, rubber fins, several grab handles, areas to lash gear and insanely stable. They weigh a few pounds more but are the least expensive option. Board designs are evolving every year so be sure to do your research, demo, and make sure you’re picking a board designed to cater to your needs and abilities.


    1. I keep talking about rocks. You are going to hit them at some point, not just with your board and body but your paddle too. Don’t bring your $400 ultra lightweight carbon/kevlar/kryptonite reinforced custom made stick to the river. Get something durable and inexpensive for starters. And put your name and phone number on it right away! Makes it easier for that fisherman that finds it to get it back to you. Your paddle is used nearly as much to push off exposed rocks as it is to propel you down stream. Werner paddles Stinger is a solid design for river running. Its fiberglass and tough as nails. You will wear the blade down before you snap it.


  1. I saved the most controversial subject for last. Personally I hate them, but they are fairly necessary. While we sometimes run local class III stretches of the Colorado without a leash, its a good idea to use one as keeping a paddle, board and yourself together in moving water can be difficult. When I do use one I have a short straight leash. NOT a coiled one. When I fall in I have found its better to have that board on a short leash so I can get to it quicker and there is less line in the water to tangle on anything. And again, NEVER PUT IT AROUND YOUR ANKLE. Use that quick release on your fancy new PFD or Re-leash.

Remember that list of the two things I said I always want? A PFD and shoes. This one is right in there. Never, ever paddle alone.  Go with someone that has experience and better yet, take lessons from certified river outfitters. In our area we have shops like Alpinequest Sports and Colorado Kayak Supply that can introduce you in the right way. And look for paddle classes and clinics when guys like Dan Gavere or Charlie McAurther come to town. There is no way I can tell you everything there is to know, because as much as you learn from others you learn more through your own personal experiences.

The key is to start on the easiest water possible. Class 1, barely moving water. What I call “floatin’ down the road” type conditions. Deep, slow, warm water works well when getting started. We will get into that more on the next installment. For now make sure you have proper attire, board and paddle so that your first experience is pleasant.

SUP river running is growing quickly and for good reason. Its fun! And there are so many great stretches of water to do it on. When we return, we’ll find the right one for you. From never evers to experienced rivermen and women that want to try something new. Spring is coming, lets get after it!

Author: Ken Hoeve


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Berry Season

5 07 2017
Portland Farmers Market Strawberries

Portland Farmers Market (Photo credit: Allison Jones)

If you’ve been eagerly awaiting Oregon berry season, you aren’t alone. Portland’s Ken Forkish (owner of Ken’s Artisan Bakery and three-time semi-finalist for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef) fully embraces the bounty of Oregon berries each summer. “The joy is in the variety that we have. Once summer kicks in, it is a different berry every week,” he says. With local berries ripening throughout the season, you can enjoy a summer of fruit.

Look for strawberries from early May through June and then again in August through September. “Late season strawberries have more flavor because they get more sunshine,” Forkish says. Totem, Hood Tillamook, Firecracker, Puget Reliance, Puget Summer and Redcrest are popular varieties. Starting in June, the bakery turns out a lovely strawberry tart along with a macaron made with strawberries and buttercream.

Raspberries ripen mid-June through July with others coming in mid-August through September. Red, Black and Evergreen raspberries are common favorites.

From July into September you’ll find local blueberries — Berkeley, Bluetta, Bluejay, Bluecrop, Duke, Earliblue, Elliott, Jersey, Liberty, Powder Blue and Rubel.

The boysenberry — thought to be the result of a blackberry crossed with a Loganberry or red raspberry — reigns mid-July through mid-August.

Marionberry season also starts in mid-July and goes into August. This Chehalem blackberry and Olallieberry cross is named for Marion County where it was first cultivated in the 1950s and is known as the cabernet of blackberries.

Lucky Forkish has local farmers who deliver directly to his bakery. The rest of us can find fresh berries at many of the 100-plus farmers’ markets statewide. Do-it-yourselfers will enjoy U-pick farms on the Hood River County Fruit LoopThe Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route, Canby Farm Loop and farms throughout the Willamette Valley and Southern Oregon.

Celebrate with other berry lovers July 20-21 at the EcoTrust Building in Portland at the Oregon Berry Festival. Admission is free, and you’ll find Oregon berries transformed into ice creams, pies, cobblers, jams, shortcakes, sauces, liqueurs, chocolates, sodas and much more. Or check out these Oregon berry recipes and cook up your own delicious dessert.

Enjoy a season of berry goodness!

Author: Eileen Garvin


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Camp Confluence and Partners for Youth Empowerment.

5 07 2017

sara3By: Sarah Worl     Photos: Marty Oppenheimer and PYE Global

With support from our Instructor Development Funds, I was able to attend Camp Confluence, organized by Partners for Youth Empowerment (PYE) in Whidbey Island, Washington. Camp Confluence was a 6-day gathering of camp directors, lead facilitators, and staff that are involved with camps based on the Creative Community Model. The Creative Community Model was developed by PYE over decades of youth summer camps across the globe. In their own words from the PYE website:

“With arts-based practices and leading-edge group facilitation strategies, Creative Community Facilitators cultivate environments in which people can realize their potential. By embracing positive risk-taking and free creative expression, youth and adults alike open up to new possibilities. Research shows that creative expression—in a supportive setting—nurtures qualities like empathy, teamwork, and problem solving, while also fostering joy, hope, and the desire for a meaningful life”

At Camp Confluence we talked a lot about the “Emotional Arc” that a camper experiences from the day they enter camp to when they leave, and how to support that transformative experience with community agreements, plenary activities, supported creative risk-taking, free time, nature time, and more. I appreciated the emphasis on the camper’s experience and curating the week’s activities to support their journey.

We also spent a whole day talking about how to further Equity and Anti-Oppression in all levels of our summer camps; from camp staff demographics, to camper recruitment, to food and sleeping arrangements, to incorporating explicit community agreements around equity in the beginning of the camp. It is rare that I am in a space of people so committed, honest, and eager to talk about Anti-Oppression in their institutions and programs and I am very grateful to have participated in those conversations and to emerge with a greater awareness of actions I can bring back to my work. I am looking forward to my upcoming outdoor recreation and summer camp season to see how I can incorporate bits of the creative community model into my work.

I’ve learned a lot of very practical facilitation skills from the PYE trainings and camps I’ve been involved in over the years. I’ve also witnessed many young people and adults (including myself) overcome old stories of fear and self doubt as we explore our creativity, connection to ourselves, connection to others, and connections to nature together in a supportive environment. I believe many of you that work with youth know what I’m talking about when I say that those moments of witnessing youth light up with hope, joy, and connection are what keep me coming back to this work, and giving me hope for the present and future. I am so grateful to be a part of the community at the River House Outdoor Program; a community that is so committed to fostering these types of magical and transformative experiences for youth and adults.

P.S and Fun Fact: A local summer camp hosted by the Oregon Country Fair called Culture Jam is based on the Creative Community Model and brings in facilitators that have led PYE camps across the U.S and internationally. The River House supports Culture Jam each year with a couple days of outdoor play at Fern Ridge! PYE also offers facilitation trainings in the Pacific Northwest each year- check them out at  Their website also contains many great summer camp and youth program resources!

-The River House Instructor Development Fund (IDF) is an investment in our staff to seek extra training and experiences that can be brought back to their work and personal lives to help enrich experiences for both participants and instructors.


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How to Bike in the City

29 06 2017

Here’s an entertaining tutorial on building confidence when riding in Urban Areas.  Keep it simple and stay aware and arrive with more energy and a smile.

-Plan Route   -Suite Up  -Check your bike  -Mind the Door Zone  -Claim the Lane                 -Careful in Turns  -Don’t Run over Pedestrians

For a free Eugene/Springfield biking map:

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Crow students roll through semester on skateboards they made themselves

7 06 2017


Crow students spent months building their own skateboards. They tested them out at Washington Jefferson Park in Eugene Tuesday, May 6, 2017 with help from the City of Eugene River House Outdoor Center skateboard instructors.

Crow Middle/High School is incorporating skateboards into classes.

Students are celebrating the end of a semester-long project with a ride at Washington Jefferson Park.

Teachers said the project used techniques from math to art to teach kids how to create their own skateboard.

“It’s pretty cool that we get to, like, make them in school and stuff ‘cause most schools don’t have the opportunity since they’re so big they can’t do the classes like these,” said Olivia Clark, a ninth grade student at Crow Middle/High School.

They said since the project began, more than 20 students have been staying longer in class and skipping lunch to put together their project.

The project was made possible by a grant from the Oregon Country Fair.

“Doing math and science and they don’t even know it. It becomes part of the thing; that’s the way real life is and you can’t fake it with these kids,” said Tina Dwoarakowski, a teacher at Crow Middle/High School. “You know they know when you’re giving them busy work. They know that it’s got to be the real deal; it’s got to be authentic.”

Teachers said they plan to continue this project for years in the future.

From: KVAL 13 news broadcast

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ACA Swiftwater Rescue Experience

2 06 2017

live bait

If I had to identify with just one sport, it would be cycling. I’m an instructor for Bike Safety Education and Mountain Bike Adventure summer camps through the River House Outdoor Center. I raced extensively for seven years, two at the national level, and worked at bike shops for several years.  I have taught numerous bike skills clinics. When it comes to biking, I know my stuff.

That is not the case with river sports. While I have enjoyed some time rafting, canoeing, SUP’ing, or just hanging out and playing in the water, I’m a total beginner at all river and paddle sports. The truth is, the river scares me a little. I have never been very sure of what’s going on under that blue shimmer and white splashes, so I have remained hesitant to get completely obsessed with any river sport. I tried learning to kayak years ago, and just couldn’t get the roll down, so I gave up.

This will be my first summer working for the River House, and I plan to utilize all the opportunities available to me to expand my knowledge and add to my skills. Oregon offers so many awesome rivers, full fun activity and adventure, so I set for myself the goal to learn more skills and become proficient in a variety of river activities. A big first step was taking a Swiftwater Rescue certification class through American Canoe Association (ACA). I had to miss a few great mountain bike rides, but dedicating my weekend to personal growth and education was absolutely worth it!

Our instructor, Marciel Bieg, also a River House employee, started by laying the groundwork and philosophy—our priorities when doing a rescue. Number one, don’t become another victim! Just a few hours in the classroom covered all the basics. Then we learned to use throw ropes on dry land. By afternoon we were practicing rescue techniques in a rapid near the Autzen Footbridge.

On day two we learned a variety of anchor systems and mechanical advantage systems. My knowledge of rock climbing anchors really helped here, but even those with little experience learned to create safe anchors from a variety of materials. Then we piled on a bus and took to Row River to practice our skills.

We floated down a small rapid, practiced throw ropes and live bait rescue techniques. One of my favorite parts was trying to wade across the swift-moving river. It was a huge challenge, and I found myself floating downstream, never making it to the other side. We crossed with partners, and even rescued a “victim” as a group.

This experience helped me gain an enormous amount of confidence in the river. I am now able to advance my skills and knowledge of rafting and SUP’ing, knowing that I can handle whatever situation arises and help keep myself and the people around me safe.

This course is not just for professional guides. Literally ANYONE spending time in and around the river—it’s Eugene, so that’s pretty much everyone—would benefit from taking a Swiftwater Rescue course, or some kind of river safety education material our course.

I’m looking forward to an awesome summer full of mountain biking and river adventures!

-Misha Fuller

(The River House Instructor Development Fund makes money available for staff to use to better their skills through classes and training. In return the River House receives highly skilled staff and blog posts describing their experiences.)


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Bier Stein and Elysian Brewing help support the River House and free skateboard lessons.

13 04 2017

Bier Stein of Eugene and Elysian Brewing of Seattle are teaming up to help our very own skateboard program and get more kids and adults on skateboards with free lesson at the WJ Skatepark.

Every Elysian beer purchased at the Bier Stein earns a raffle ticket and $1 for the River House Skateboard program.  Additional tickets can also be purchased for the final raffle drawing of an Elysian skateboard and other prizes on May 13.

The fundraising event runs April 7 – May 12.

Free skate lessons happen at the Washington Jefferson Skatepark April 18 – June 13.    Tuesdays 3:30 – 5:30 pm and Saturdays 10:00 – 12:00 pm.  Participants under 18 must have a guardian sign at the first visit.           BierStein-Elysian fundraise

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