The Teva Mountain Games have become one of the largest outdoor adventure sports festivals in the world by sticking to its roots. In 1990, Vail, Colo.'s first-ever Memorial Day Whitewater Festival featured slalom races on Eagle River. Fast-forward 20 years and the 2010 incarnation still has more kayaking, rafting and standup paddleboard competitions than anything else. The ninth-annual Teva-sponsored festival begins today and runs through the weekend.

"Whitewater kayaking was the impetus of what Teva Mountain Games is today," says Michael Imhof, the vice president of sales and operations for the Vail Valley Foundation, the nonprofit group that organizes the four-day festival. "The event was built by whitewater people for whitewater people."

The original locals-only slalom race has morphed into a competition that's open to amateurs as well as some of the best paddlers in the world. Things changed in 2002, when industry giant Teva signed on and mountain biking, trail running and climbing competitions were added. But to this day, paddling remains the festival's keystone attraction, drawing pro boaters like Eric Jackson, Tao Berman and Tanya Faux.

Imhof expects more than 40,000 spectators to watch the athletes battle for $100,000 in prize money. More importantly, the four-day festival contributes to the coffers of the Vail Valley Foundation, which has the mandate of "raising and distributing funds for charitable purposes through the organization of educational, cultural, historical, artistic and athletic performances, events and attractions for the education and benefit of the community."

New for 2010 are two standup paddleboard (SUP) events on Vail's Class II-III Gore Creek—a downriver "surf sprint" in which competitors race against the clock, and a head-to-head "surf cross" event. Headline competitors include veteran whitewater boater and SUP convert Dan Gavere, a strong contingent of Hawaiians including Archie Kalupa (who was the first to SUP all 187 miles of the Grand Canyon), Jen Koki and Nikki Gregg, Tahiti big wave expert Raimana Von Bastolaer, and C4 Waterman co-founders Todd Bradley and Brian Keaulana.

The new SUP events will only add to the other wildly popular whitewater competitions, including a technical steep creek race on Homestake Creek and a freestyle competition at International wave in the Vail Whitewater Park. Imhof's says the games' 8-Ball competition—" basically NASCAR crash derby meet kayaking" is another crowd favorite. – Conor Mihell

For a schedule of events visit