After years of trying to get a riverboarding event at the US National Whitewater Center that dream came true on Saturday as riverboarders from around the Southeast and as far away as California and British Columbia showed up for a fun day of whitewater, live music, and a lot of laughs.
This event was a bit of a test to see what kind of draw an event in the US and at the USNWC could garner, and some 15 riverboarders competed in the various events, along with Bellyak demos all throughout the day. It was sponsored by the US National Whitewater Center who hosted it, along with nuun, Feed The Machine, and Darkfin.
The schedule was jam-packed with 3 events over the course of the afternoon and evening, with the long-distance Endurocross race taking place under the lights as the band rocked the riverside.
During the day the park was open to all sorts of watercraft even as the races were taking place, which made the competition even more interesting and in some ways, more like a video game as competitors raced and surfed but also had to avoid rafts, kayaks, and the SUPsquatch!
Only one time did another watercraft interfere with the competition however, when the SUPsquatch completely obliterated surfer Peter Cameron while he was on the wave, leading to a time stoppage and allowance for him to get back on the wave. Cameron would eventually win the surfing competition, apparently feeling no ill-effect from the massive inflatable SUP.
Here’s a great video recap put together by Erik Hamrick, one of the competitors at the event.
The afternoon began with the Boardercross race, with the heats being seeded by a solo timed run through the course in the absence of a slalom competition. Josh Galt and Peter Cameron ran the 2 fastest times and were given a bye in the first round, which featured two heats of 4 and one heat of 3.
Since the initial heats contained boarders of all different levels it was extremely entertaining, as racers gave it their all to run the right lines through the gates and recover from crashes with their fellow competitors.
Missing a gate was a 20 second penalty, and so racers did all they could to get all 3 gates and finish the course as quickly as possible, regardless of their position compared to other racers (who may have missed a gate).
In one heat Kevin Yount got thrown into the eddy warned about on the course description at the second gate, but knowing that his competitors had missed the first gate (and he hadn’t) he stuck with it and finally fought his way out of the eddy and finished the course, getting all 3 gates. It was not quite enough though as he couldn’t make up the 20 seconds on the guys ahead of him, but he was recognized at the bar later on for his never-give-up attitude and will to fight till the end!
The semi-final heats were run cleanly with the exception of some argument between Brandon and Rufio, two boarders who are also guides at the USNWC, the discussion being that the 2nd place competitor (Rufio) had not fully cleared the 3rd gate with his head. Video evidence was inconclusive to overturn the results and Rufio advanced to the final.
In the BX final Peter Cameron and Josh Galt fired out in front with Peter on the inside line to the first gate, but at the last second Galt slowed up and cut behind Cameron to take the upstream line to the post getting through the gate first and taking the lead. He was slowed slightly at gate number 2 by a kayaker trying to get out of the way, and Cameron was right on his tail coming through the gate, with Jusbyn Lockard a bit behind him.
Rufio skipped gate 2 and headed down pinball alley toward gate 3 ahead of the pack (but with a 20 second penalty), and his decision to try and get the 3rd gate caused a chain reaction as Galt was slowed and landed on him at the crux entry to the 3rd eddy.
As Galt fought to maintain the upstream eddy Peter Cameron took a tight line aiming to cut him off at the gate, but their collision pushed them both back toward the wall and Cameron slid by to the downstream, allowing Galt to continue upstream and around the gate with a split-second lead. Despite the chaos in Big Drop, including a whitewater Zorb that the boarders had to dive under (seriously, it was like a video game as these guys raced through all the craziness) the final 50 meters were run cleanly.
Much animated discussion took place at the finish line between Peter Cameron and Josh Galt regarding the contact at the final gate, but again video showed little more than normal contact and the results were upheld.
Later in the afternoon the group headed to the back channel and a powerful feature known as M-wave for the freestyle surfing competition. Quite a large crowd gathered to watch the guys spin, rollo, dropknee, and in less successful showings, flush 200m downriver chasing their boards.
It was a faster paced surfing competition than would normally be preferred, as there was little downtime between rounds. Competitors were given 2 rounds at 45 seconds each, with the top 5 scores advancing to the finals.
Freestyle was a very entertaining event with the crowd on one side of the river and the competitors on the other, and a lot of friendly trash talk going on between competitors, especially the Lockard brothers, who helped to keep things on the lighter side all throughout the day. Christian had been a pro surfer (the ocean wave kind of surfing) for many years and even though his brother Jusbyn has been riverboarding for much longer, there was no way Chris was going to lose to Jay on this day in a surfing comp of any kind.
In the final round the competitors pulled out all their best tricks including high-flying entries to the wave and as much style as they could throw out to wow the crowd. In the first round of 5, Christian Lockard was narrowly edged by Wes Heim in points and eliminated. In the next round Rufio went a little too big with a trick on his entry and washed completely downstream, effectively eliminating him, and leaving the final 3 of Wes Heim, Brandon, and Peter Cameron.
Wes Heim, in third, threw a number of rollos and backsurfing moves but washed out when getting up on his board to go vertical, and was not able to re-attain the wave in time to score more points. Peter Cameron and Brandon only needed to top his points which they did through a combination of drop-knee and big air tricks, in order to set up a final round between them.
Their strategies were slightly different, as Brandon scored points for his drop-knee tricks but also tried to get as much actual airtime as possible by bouncing off the smooth part of the wave, something impressive and rarely seen on a riverboard. In the end though Peter Cameron’s methodical approach to surf from his knees and board rotations won him the points with the judges, giving him the freestyle victory.
With the lights not yet on at the scheduled start time for the Endurocross, the guys took a breather and were cleared to wait until after dark to begin their event. As the sun dipped behind the horizon the temperatures also took a quick dip and cold set in, leading a number of the competitors to begin a back and forth from the group hangout to the hot-water showers to fill their wetsuits with hot water in an attempt to stay warm.
It worked while on shore, but once in the water there were no complaints of cold as the Endurocross was a brutal figure-8 loop through the whitewater park, beginning on the competition channel, then making their way across the pond at the bottom and up the hill to the upper pond for a roughly 75m swim to the wilderness channel, and then back across the bottom and top ponds to the competition channel for the finish.
It was a surreal and memorable experience for everybody as the group began en masse and took off through the raging waters of the comp channel, surrounded by people dancing to the music of the live band on shore, cheering the racers on as flashbulbs popped, reflecting off the chaotic whitewater.
Peter Cameron again shot out into the lead followed by Skye Mcloud and Josh Galt. Racers did not have to navigate gates so it was just a straight shot through the competition channel. At the midway point, in the surging waters near where gate 2 had been and where the band was rocking the park, Galt took over the lead and would not relinquish it the rest of the race.
After the short uphill portage between the ponds Galt had about a 50m lead, but as Cameron said later “I tried to find a faster current across the upper pond, but when I finally came into the wilderness channel he was just out of sight.” At his heels were Skye Mcloud, Kevin Yount, and the Lockard brothers determined to leave it all out on the water and powering their way through the course.
Endurocross is Cameron’s strongest race though, and he kept fighting, getting the leader into his sights and shortening the gap once again on the painful 200m crossing of the lower pond. In the end it was not enough as Galt tore across the upper pond and sprinted down the competition channel all alone, running it cleanly for the win.
It was a lively scene at the finish line as the boarders gathered one by one and recounted their races while waiting for the next guys to finish to a round of congratulations and high-fives.
After a quick change to dry clothes, the guys watched the wakeboarding trick demos for a while in front of the concert stage and then hit the bar to swap stories and collect their loot, which included TuckFest medals for the podium finishers…medals with a built-in bottle opener!
More photos and videos to follow.
FULL TUCKFEST RIVERBOARDING COMPETITION RESULTS
BOARDERCROSS (Final Heat of 4)
1st – Josh Galt
2nd – Peter Cameron
3rd – Jusbyn Lockard
4th – Rufio
FREESTYLE SURFING (Top 5)
1st – Peter Cameron
2nd – Brandon
3rd – Wes Heim
4th – Rufio
5th – Christian Lockard
1st – Josh Galt
2nd – Peter Cameron
3rd – Skye Mcloud
4th – Kevin Yount
5th – Jusbyn Lockard
6th – Christian Lockard
7th – Erik Hamrick
8th – Jack
9th – Zack