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Photo: Greg Panas

SUP Course, Conditions and Competition Report with Reigning Champ Mike Tavares

The gamut of outdoor adventure athletes is assembled in Vail, Colorado this weekend for the highly-anticipated 2016 GoPro Mountain Games. Running from June 9 – 12 and hosting more than 25 competitions across nine separate outdoor disciplines, the event’s a quintessential proving ground for mountain adventure sports. Events range from running to rafting, biking to kayaking, slacklining to dog-fetch. And with three different events in high river flows enhanced by rapid snowmelt, our perennial favorite—standup paddle racing—promises to be among the most entertaining. We’ll put it like this: athletes are literally laying down to clear the bridges.

We caught up with last year’s downriver champion, GPMG veteran Mike Tavares, for the onsite conditions and competition report.

Three SUP Events, One Raging River

Down River SUP Sprint – June 11 @ 9:30am – Just as it sounds, this classic whitewater SUP competition features an all-out sprint down the Gore Creek in a race against the clock. The three-mile run will take paddlers from the East Vail to Vail Village and while the paddlers won’t have to contend with each other on the course, they’ll face plenty of obstacles including class II/III rapids, low bridges, wave trains, and icy water. River paddling beast Mike Tavares will no doubt be a favorite to win after beating the field by over 13 seconds last year.

SUP Skills Invitational – June 11 @ 12:30pm – New to the GoPro agenda this year, this skills demo features some of the world’s top paddlers and certainly has an unknown factor going for it. Athletes will compete for top times through a series of challenging maneuvers on the difficult section of river from Covered Bridge to International Bridge. The winner will be decided after two rounds.

SUP Cross – June 12 @ 12pm –This one is a wild–albeit exiting–river SUP spectacle. Competitors will lineup paddle to paddle before going all-out in a 200-yard sprint for glory. Full-contact paddling through whitewater rapids easily makes this one of the most entertaining events of the entire weekend. Luke Hopkins and Anna Fisher came out atop the heap last year but in a competition as unpredictable as this, it’s anyone’s race.

Mike Tavares on Conditions and Competition

SUP: How’s everything looking for tomorrow’s downriver race?

Mike Tavares: For the downriver race tomorrow it's going to be perfect. I just did a practice run at about 800 cfs that was great. Later in the afternoon it will be too high to run—about 1500 or 1600 cfs—but luckily race time is during the morning low-point.

"It's definitely higher than it's been in the past few years. There's barely enough room to get under the bridges." Mikey T, feeling the, burn, in his quads. Photo: Tavares

“It's definitely higher than it's been in the past few years. There's barely enough room to get under the bridges.” Reigning downriver champ, Mike Tavares, feeling the Bern, er, burn, with a deep bridge-squat. Photo: Tavares

How does the river flow compare to years past and how does that affect competition?

It's definitely higher than it's been in the past few years. There's barely enough room to get under the bridges; you have to duck super low. But it's nice and deep compared to other years and it actually cleans up quite a bit at this level. That said, it’s not easy popping down to clear a bridge with four other guys right beside you like we do in the SUP Cross…should make things pretty interesting.”

Is there any chance the river flow might halt competition?

We’ll be good to go for the downriver tomorrow. For the rest of the events we’ll just have to wait and see. Today’s the hottest day of the week, so it will kind of depict what the flows are going to look like for the rest of the weekend. The bridges in town—especially the International Bridge—are hard to clear in the afternoon, but we’re hoping for the best.”

Thos trusses can't be soft...Mikey T with what we hope is a very solid helmet. Photo: Tavares

Those trusses can’t be soft…Mikey T and what we hope is a very solid helmet. Photo: Tavares

How’s the talent looking this year?

There were probably 15 or 20 guys doing laps during my practice run today. The usual river guys are here—Dan Gavere, Spencer Lacy, the Badfish guys, and four or five Japanese guys who came out. Charlie MaCarthur and the local guy Brent Redding are here, too. It’s going to be a tight race. With the good flows and smooth course, it’s going to come down to endurance at high altitude and sprints.

Speed, blur, and low-hanging bridges. This is going to be interesting. Photo: Greg Panas

Speed, blur, and low-hanging bridges. The 2016 GoPro Mountain Games will not disappoint. Photo: Greg Panas

Get visual with our SUP race video preview from the GoPro Mountain Games.

Check back for more coverage and results from the 2016 GoPro Mountain games.