Down home fun is what you could call the 33rd annual Yampa River Festival in Steamboat Springs, Colo., held this year June 1-3. And wrapping it all up on the Monday afterward between the Lyons and GoPro Games in Vail was the eighth annual Paddling Life Creek Race, sponsored by the City of Steamboat Springs, Rocky Mountain Remedies, Kokatat, Rhino-Rack, Canoe & Kayak magazine and more…
While the river festival drew competitors from far and near to the Yampa, the creek race event saw top-notch creek racers battle it out for an $1,800 cash purse and bragging rights on Class IV-V Fish Creek, with Ireland transplant Mike Geary surging to top honors…
The event saw a talented contingent descend on raging Fish Creek, flowing at a perfect level for the race thanks to the recent warm spell by Mother Nature.
“It was a great event again, and the flows for it were perfect,” says co-organizer Adam Mayo, who paddled to fifth-place finish. “It’s a pretty fickle creek when it comes to flows, but it warmed up enough over festival weekend that it came up to the perfect level.”
Geary used the flows to his advantage, riding a nearly flawless run down the boulder-strewn creek to the fastest time, finishing at 3:03, just 3 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Ryan Panger at 3:06 and seven seconds ahead of third-place finisher Marty Smith, of Hood River, Ore., at 3:10.
“I did the race about four years ago and got last,” Geary says. “This was a good redemption, but it was tough the whole way. I had to work for it.” The key, he says, was making the needed moves in all the right places. “I had pretty clean lines,” he says. “I managed not to hit too many rocks, or get caught in slower water, both of which can suck up a lot of time.”
For the women, Sarah Piano took top honors.
The race was the final event related to the 33rd annual Yampa River Festival, which soaked in the weekend sun along the river downtown with a three-event SUP Cup event, where Salida’s Mike Harvey narrowly out-dueled Gypsum’s Ken Hoeve for top honors; a downriver race won by Boulder, Colo.’s Gary Lacy; a freestyle event at Charlie’s Hole downtown, won by local Dan Piano; a slalom race in Dr. Rich Weiss Park won by Luke Farney; and plenty more.
“It was the best turnout we’ve ever had,” says Sarah Piano, who also won the women’s division of Saturday’s kayaking freestyle rodeo. “The crowds were huge. It also coincided with the Steamboat Marathon this year, which drew even more spectators to the banks.”
Sums up North Carolina kayaker Justin Kleberg, who hit his first Steamboat Springs’ river festival three years ago and was so impressed he’s made a point of returning every year since. “Steamboat has such a wide variety. It appeals to the broadest spectrum of river users possible. I may be looking for a new place to move.”
Overall Creek Race Results
1. Mike Geary 3:03
2. Ryan Panger 3:06
3. Marty Smith 3:10
4. Justin Kleberg 3:12
5. Adam Mayo/Dan Piano 3:15
For complete River Festival results, click here