Don't be surprised if your local rivers are a tad empty of their better boaters the weekend of June 20-22. Chances are anyone worth his or her weight in water will be making their way to Kelly's Whitewater Park on the Payette River in Cascade, Idaho, for the 2014 Payette River Games, whose more than $100,000 cash purse makes it the most lucrative river competition in the world.
"We have a great line-up of events that will be happening this year," says organizer Mark Picard. "It's going to be even bigger and better than last year, and last year was pretty epic." With over $100,000 up for grabs over the weekend, most anyone who's anyone in the world of competitive whitewater will be putting the Payette on his or her hit list.
The event offers cash prizes for everything from Boater X, Freestyle and 8 Ball to an Expression Session. It even pays out for kids events in junior and cadet classes. In all, the Games are offering a $50,000 prize purse for the kayaking events and another $50,000 for the stand up paddleboarding events, making it the biggest prize money paddlesports event in history. Win all the kayaking events and you could walk away with $6,750. Win all the SUP events also and the total could rise to $16,750, which is a lot of shuttle money. Lest you're afraid of running head-to-head against Dane Jackson the event also pays out all the way down to tenth place for men and women in Freestyle, Boater X and a few SUP events.
As excited as they are to earn a share of the purse, they're equally excited about the venue at Kelly's Whitewater Park. "It's one of the leading freestyle kayaking venues out there," says Picard, adding that so far he has athletes from 30 states and 13 counties already coming.
Competitors agree. "This really is a great event on a fantastic feature, at an amazing venue," says Clay Wright, who won the Men's Freestyle Kayak event in 2013.
Part of the excitement also stems from the red carpet rolled out for competitors. As long as competitors haven't been eliminated, they can eat fresh, organic food at the Athletes Food Tent for free throughout the weekend. Organizers are also providing entrants with free camping, airport shuttles, t-shirts, live music, free beer from the Payette River Brewery and free admission to the Roxy movie theatre in town. Plus every athlete gets entered to win a free iPad 4.
The event will also be streamed live all day Saturday and Sunday, and includes a great line-up of entertainment at http://www.payetterivergames.com/entertainment.html
"Between the warm water, snow-capped mountains, roaring crowd of 4,000 spectators, warm hospitality extended by the locals, organic food and great music, we are attracting the best athletes in the world," says Picard, adding that the event fits in perfectly into the competition circuit the weekend after the North Fork Championships and Fibark in Colorado. "It's going to be non-stop weekend of action sports, activities and music with a lot of the top taking part."