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First Time: Arkansas River Surfing

photo: @richmorganphotography

“Anything to be able to stand up on a wave”

Rob, Ocean Surfer

Jumping into it the first time it was . . .scary. I‘ve had some experience on the river. I’ve fished, floated, and swam across many rivers in the east coast, mid-west, and western states. I have always loved rivers. I just never been on a river with an inflatable surfboard.

As I stood on the bank looking at the wave, my dad instincts start to wrestle my younger day desire to just go for it. My kids are somewhere on the riverbank with the dog and my wife. What are they thinking right now? Is this weird? Am I too old for this new sport? I’m a late boomer to the dad world after all. I think about my glass bones to the rubber ones of my children. It probably sounds like I am a safety first dad. I know I’m not a safety third radster, but I’m probable more like safety second dad. The kind that doesn’t mind getting hurt-just doesn’t want to get injured, especially in front of the family.

All that said-I jump into the wave and before I know it I wipe out. I’m totally out of breath and am pretty confident at least one of my contacts may have popped out. I have no idea what happened when I jumped in and feel frustration for a moment.

photo: @richmorganphotography

There are two eddies on either side of the the wave. An eddy is . . . I swim upstream to the river bank and the eddy brings me back to where I started from. Though I was a bit shaken, I knew I would eventually figure out how to stand on the board.

I wipe out a dozen times and then finally I jump in and paddle a bit and then I am perfectly locked into this recirculating wave. I am able to pop up and stand on the board. Looking up stream I feel the same sensation as surfing in the ocean. Surfing on a river-amazing!. No paddle out, and all the stoke!

Getting Started: Places to go and Gear

I’d recommend renting a board to start. I went with CKS in Buena Vista. Their friendly staff was helpful with the entire rental process. I started with a Badfish IRS. The IRS is pretty wide with plenty of volume. My wife, the true athlete in the family, was standing on her second attempt. Knowing we acquired a new sport to our familie’s list, I decided to buy a board after my whole day rental.. We went with the Badfish Wavo. The board is 6’4”, a classic egg shape. Easy to stand up on but with enough rocker and rail to move around the wave. PRO TIP: purchase a kids paddle like the . . . And this board can double as a SUP for your young ones. I had an old pfd and Pro-Tec skate helmet that worked well to start. I also used my 3/2 wetsuit and a pair of alltrex water shoes with stealth rubber from Adidas. We ended up upgrading to an Astral PFD and a Shred Gear Scrappy .