The Teva Mountain Games are fast-becoming a must-compete event for standup athletes as this year's event attracted all stars like Candice Appleby and Slater Trout to the show.
But it was the river legends who made the biggest splash during the 2011 festivities in Vail, Colorado.
Longtime whitewater guru Dan Gavere won the SUP Surf Sprint, beating out Colorado's Charlie McAurthur and Hawaii's Noa Ginella who finished two and three respectively.
On the women's side, Hawaii's Mariko Strickland topped the pack but it was New Zealander Nikki Kelly who became the story of the event when she finished second, just ahead of three-time Battle of the Paddle winner Candice Appleby.
Kelly, who also finished second in the Steep Creek Challenge whitewater kayak race on Homestake Creek, is a longtime whitewater athlete who has set the bar for female kayakers worldwide. In the early 2000's she completed the Seven Rivers Project, an unprecedented mission where a group of kayakers ran seven of California's toughest Class V multi-day expeditions in a single summer. Rivers like Upper Cherry Creek, the Middle Kings and the Devil's Postpile. She's also the only women to have run Canada's Grand Canyon of the Stikine and has won the Homestake kayak race six times–a competition that's arguably the ocean equivalent to Pipeline regarding the gnar factor.
Some 78 paddlers registered for this years SUP Sprint, nearly double last year's 40 entrants. Among this year's competitors, 17 were women, up from just six last year. In 2010, all but a few competitors hailed from Colorado or Hawaii, while this year, there was a noticeable influx of contenders from Utah, California and as far away as New Zealand.
The SUP Surf Sprint, was held on a Class III section of Gore Creek that runs through Vail, Colorado.
Stay tuned as we update this story with pictures and video.