Ken “Hobie” Hoeve has run thousands of rivers in his life so Class II rapids rarely register on the butterfly meter anymore. But last week, he was carrying precious cargo when he took 13-year-old Sterling Winnegrad down the Upper Colorado River near Rancho Del Rio, 35 minutes from Vail. Sterling lives with cerebral palsy which severely affects movement, muscle control and posture.
Sterling’s dad Scott showed his son video and photos of Hoeve, a Class V kayaker and expert standup paddler, paddling the Colorado on his SUP and Sterling wanted to give it a try. And Hoeve suggested they go for it.
Sterling’s in the adaptive ski program at Vail so he was used to braving the elements. Scott and Hoeve attached Sterling’s walker to Hoeve’s Jackson standup board, a wide, stable, plastic SUP designed for river running and pushed off downstream. They greased every rapid on the run and the kid was stoked.
“This was more nerve racking than any of the rowdy rapids I’ve done,” Hoeve says. “His family trusted me to deliver him safely to the take out. “
Sterling doesn’t talk much but Hoeve could tell he was pumped by his hand motions and excited gestures.
“We made a great team,” he says. “Sterling styled it. He never complained about the cold, he listened to directions perfectly. I wish all my paddling partners were like him.”
Check out the video and the main rapid that they absolutely stomp.