By Eugene Buchanan
With above-average snowpack filling the river, the Paddling Life Creek Race kicked off the 34th Annual Yampa River Festival in Steamboat Springs, Colo., May 30-31, 2014, drawing top-notch competitors to Northwest Colorado before their visit to the GoPro Mountain Games June 4-8 in nearby Vail.
The race — sponsored by the City of Steamboat Springs, Rocky Mountain Remedies and more - took place on a bank-full Fish Creek, drawing such international competitors as Mathieu DuMoulin and Marlene Devillez from France, Martina Wegman from The Netherlands and England's Bren Orton. Other notables included Lucas Glick, Hunt Jennings, Jordan Poffernberger and more.
"It was a near-record turn-out, with our highest water flows yet," says organizer Eugene Buchanan. "The weather cooperated, though, bringing them down to a safe runnable level with blue skies and Colorado sunshine for the event. It was a great way to kick-off the Yampa River Festival weekend, which also included SUP races, downriver races, slalom races, freestyle events, a crazy river dog contest and more."
For the men, Pyranha's Dave Fusilli took the top spot in the race with a time of 2:44:03, followed by France's Mathieu DuMoulin just a half second back and Lucas Glick taking third. For the women, it was Martina Wegman from The Netherlands taking the top sot, followed by Steamboat Springs, Colo.'s Sarah Piano.
From there, after a hodge-podge of local events - including the three-event SUP Cup, downriver raft and kayak race, slalom races, tube rodeo, crazy river dog contest and more - it was time for the pros to take to Charlie's Hole on the Yampa River downtown, whose nearly 5,000 cfs had them launching into orbit.
For the men, England's Bren Orton took the top seat and lion's share of the freestyle purse, followed by Fusilli in second and Dumoulin in third. In the women's event, Devillez grabbed the top spot, followed by Wegman and Chile's Eva Luna.
Designed to raise awareness for and protect the 270-mile Yampa River in northwest Colorado, the event then headed to Carl's tavern downtown for a raucous river celebration before net bags were packed for the next stop on the Rocky Mountain river festival tour.
Info and full results: www.friendsoftheyampa.com, www.paddlinglife.net