The world’s first tandem whitewater surf took place here yesterday when two-time tandem surfing world champion Kalani Vierra lifted Jen Koki into a series of three poses on the Colorado River. On their fifth attempt on the raging river, the duo succeeded in performing classic tandem moves such as the cradle, swan and “fake arm to arm” before flushing off the wave in the whitewater park.
Kayakers and other surfers in the river and on its banks screamed and applauded while cars honked their horns as they passed over the bridge above this one-year-old whitewater park as, on their fifth attempt, Vierra held Koki in his arms, then lifted her to his shoulders then over his head. â€œIt really blew people’s minds,â€ Vierra said. Many of the onlookers had never seen or heard of tandem surf before so Koki said she was swarmed with questions about the sport from people who she described as â€œreally stoked.â€
For her part, Koki said it was an honor to tandem surf with someone she had watched and admired for years especially while achieving a world first.
Vierra and Koki were in nearby Vail, CO this past week as part of a contingent of teammates from stand up paddle manufacturer C4 Waterman taking part in the inaugural stand up paddling (SUP) sprint and surfcross events at the prestigious Teva Mountain Games, dubbed the Olympics of mountain sports. When organizers of Teva Mountain Games cancelled all river events Sunday due to a high flow advisory, the duo took the unexpected free time to travel to Glenwood Springs to attempt to tandem surf at the whitewater park where the river was flowing at the highest levels so far this season, around 19,000 cfs (cubic feet per second).
Vierra and Koki both came to the Rockies with plenty of surf and stand up surfing competition credentials but neither had ever surfed on a whitewater river. Against a field of whitewater kayakers turned stand up paddlers who were far more acclimated to fast-running, ice-cold, high-altitude, snowmelt-fed rivers, Koki and Vierra who are most familiar with the warm ocean waters around their native Hawaiian homes quickly adapted to the new environment. Koki took third behind C4 Waterman teammates Jenny MacArthur and Nicole Duke of Colorado while Vierra placed ninth as C4 Waterman men locked down six of the top ten finishes during Teva Mountain Games’ inaugural three-mile downriver SUP Sprint event held Saturday on Gore Creek. The Games’ SUP events were sponsored by Eddie Bauer/First Ascent and presented by C4Waterman.
C4 Waterman co-founder Todd Bradley who brought a team of his top athletes to Vail in the company’s ongoing efforts to introduce stand up paddling inland said establishing a world first was the last thing he expected his team to be doing in Colorado but had no doubt in Vierra and Koki’s ability to do so. â€œIt was hard enough just getting onto that wave alone, let alone while simultaneously holding someone above your head and dodging debris including massive tree stumps and logs flowing down the flood-swollen waters” of the Colorado.
ABOUT C4 WATERMAN â€¨C4 Waterman, a Hawaii company, is a pioneer and leader in the evolution of the waterman lifestyle. With more than 100 years of research and development, C4 delivers unmatched design and technology in stand-up paddling. From their Hawaiian homeland, to the ultimate waves of Tahiti; from the whitewater of the Colorado River, to calm freshwater lakes and streams. C4 Waterman’s values are based on the four core principles of the waterman lifestyle: balance, endurance, strength and tradition. To see the complete line of C4 products including epoxy and inflatable boards, paddles, rash guards and accessories, visit www.c4waterman.com. For up-to-the-minute updates, follow the company on Twitter @C4Waterman and/or become a fan on Facebook.