2015 Payette River Games | Warm-Up Gallery

Ahhh, the Payette River Games. One of the world’s most adored SUP events and the richest one, too. This weekend, as the majority of the elite SUP community gathers at Kelly’s Whitewater Park in Cascade, Idaho—home to the Payette River—athletes of all backgrounds are charging through a course fit for carnage in hopes of a taste of that sweet, sweet $50,000 prize pot. River SUP icon, Dan Gavere, is calling the shots on the course layout, which is being reconfigured every day to keep things interesting. Let’s just say he’s setting the bar high.

Did someone say carnage?

Yesterday during practice, coordinators spiked the river flow (controlled by an upstream dam) to an ideal 2000 cubic feet per second (CFS). The course is compact and comprised of seven gates, each one set near a feature–rock, eddy, rapid, etc. If you’re racing, the last thing you want is to miss a gate. Doing so will earn racers a two-minute penalty, and paddling back to recover the turn is by no means convenient.

According to our onsite photographer, Greg Panas, multiple world-class athletes (Lina Augaitis, Chase Kosterlitz and Annabel Anderson, to name a few) have bailed face-first into the rock on the eddy turn. Needless to say, this isn’t your typical SUP race. Anyone is liable to claim victory in these conditions. That said…

If we were betting men…

We’d have our money on Dane Jackson (world champion kayaker and occasional river SUP competitor) and Mo Freitas (Standup World Tour SUP surfer from Haleiwa, Hawaii)—a seemingly random combo. But, Jackson’s innate river knowledge and world-champion paddling ability gives him a major advantage, and years of North Shore wave-riding and his freakish natural talent is playing well for Freitas’ finesse in the rapids.

Other likely contenders are river SUP specialists Mike Tavares and Ken Hoeve. Surprises could also come in the form of Slater Trout, Zane Schweitzer, Giorgio Gomez and Toby Cracknell, who have all looked strong over the past few days, according to Panas. And of course, last year’s PRG champ, Fernando Stalla, has a fighting chance as well.

As for the females, girls with river experience—Rebecca Giddens (Olympic kayaker) and Natalie Zollinger (winner of GoPro Mountain Games Sprint Race), to name a couple—are proving to handle the challenging course best. But elite racers like Shakira Westdorp, Annabel Anderson, Izzi Gomez and 2014 winner Candice Appleby are all in the running as well, and with stacked talent like that, we’d rather not put our money on the table for the ladies.

Let’s get ready to rumble!

The pretty, pretty pictures that you probably already clicked through above are from yesterday’s warm-up, and today starts the preliminary races for both the SUP-er G (the main race) and the SUPXross—a modified race in which five paddlers run the course simultaneously (did we mention carnage?). The races continue through the weekend, culminating on Sunday for the finals. But it’s not all face-smashing and paddle pushing at the PRG. There’s also a lumberjack event, organized yoga, beach volleyball and a dog fetch contest. People are camping, BBQing, hiking and hot springing through the weekend. All in all, it’s one big party with a little something for everyone. We’ll do our best to help you live it vicariously.