Hunter McKie learned how to surf originally on the East Coast, where the waves were smaller compared “to big California waves.”
But little did the Montrose native know that those smaller waves would be perfect practice for standup paddleboarding on the Uncompahgre River. Those East Coast waves are exactly the same size as those found at the Montrose Water Sports Park, said McKie.
On Wednesday, McKie made his first attempt to ride those waves during Montrose Kayak and Surf’s demo night. After a few tries, McKie was able to get his footing and sail for a few seconds.
“I knew it would be fun,” he said. “I really wanted to get into the water.”
The shop was able to kick off its free paddleboard demonstrations Wednesday evening after canceling the event last week due to high water levels.
The river is still on the higher side, Montrose Kayak and Surf co-owner Bill Glasscock said, but “with the right coaching and risk management, it’s a green light to go surfing.”
He said this isn’t the highest he’s seen the Uncompahgre in recent memory. When the Water Sports Park opened four years ago, there was a high-water warning for two weeks, then flood stages for three more weeks before an additional high-water alert for another fortnight, Glasscock added.
A portion of Baldridge Park was revamped into the Montrose Water Sports Park, which offers users a gradient of 11 feet for 1/5 miles, supporting a leisurely run with natural obstacles. It was designed for people with all levels of experience in the water — from those wanting to get their ankles wet to expert kayakers and anglers.
Having water lower now means visitors get the chance to see that Montrose has many recreational activities available to them, Glasscock said. But this demo also allows residents to witness “what they have in their backyards,” he added.
“The potential is to enjoy quality of life with recreation on the river,” said Glasscock, who’s been a river surfer for almost 40 years. “... There’s a resource in their (residents) backyard that is unique onto any other town with or without a river water park.”
Ultimately, the activity is “stress reducing and health inducing,” added Glasscock.
When river surfing is around, it also helps locals stay “out of trouble,” McKie and Glasscock agreed.
McKie said growing up in Montrose “boredom was the root cause of trouble” that his friends got into. With not only the Water Sports Park but the Montrose Community Recreation Center and Buzzard Gulch trails to the west, the city has a plethora of activities available nearby to keep locals busy, he added.
“It brings such a good thing to the community. It promotes such an awesome sport. And it keeps people out of trouble,” he said.
The free demo is from 6–8 p.m. each Wednesday unit Aug. 7 at the Montrose Water Sports Park. The shop provides surfboards, helmets and PFD, personal flotation devices and direction. Participants are asked to wear closed-toe footwear (such as booties/ sneakers) and must know how to swim. This event is typically for those 10 and older.
Andrew Kiser is the Montrose Daily Press’ sports/business writer. Follow him on Twitter @andrew_kpress.