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Nadia Almuti | 03.26.2018

In 2015 the Whitewater Park located on the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon, opened to the public. In the summer the river channels teem with kayaks, paddle boards, and tubes. The tree-covered grassy park is filled with people doing yoga, grilling, or playing with their pets. As everyone searches for a place to cool off from the summer heat, the whitewater park becomes the most popular public space in Bend and brings everyone together.

The park’s design has three channels:

  • The floater or tubing channel is ideal for people looking to float through the park and keep it mellow. It cascades over shallow Class I-II features.
  • The whitewater channel was designed for surfing or for more advanced paddlers looking to paddle downstream through bigger Class III features and is great for punching holes and waves or catching eddies.
  • The habitat channel was created to provide habitat for birds, amphibians, and other wildlife. No people or pets are allowed in this sensitive area.

The second feature in the whitewater channel is called the Green Wave. It’s the best feature in the park for river surfing on a short board or paddleboard. Showing up for the first time to surf this feature, I was met with the most friendly and helpful community of surfers. Everyone helped ease my nerves and gave me pointers. They were filled with positive river surfing spirit. There was none of the territorial feel of ocean surfing. When someone had a great ride, we’d all be cheering!

I’ve been paddleboard surfing in Colorado and West Virginia for a few years, but short board river surfing was new to me. I’d tried it once in Boise and managed a few rides that lasted a couple of seconds. The Green Wave in Bend was a beautiful feature. The wave is about 40 feet wide, steep, and glassy. It took some time to learn how to get in using the concrete walls. After hitting the flaps forming the wave a few times, I learned to fall flat. My next lesson was that if you want to make it to shore without swimming the next few shallow features, ditch your board (as long as it’s on a leash) and swim to shore.

I come from a whitewater kayak background, so safety is a big deal to me. I always wear my Astral YTV or BlueJacket PFD with a releasable leash at my waist while surfing. In the horrible scenario that the board gets caught on a rock or man-made feature in the park, you can release yourself. I also always wear shoes while surfing because of the sharp basalt rock used to create the park features. In the summer my favorite shoes to surf in are the Loyaks because they’re low profile, flexible and lightweight. They provide my feet with protection while allowing me to feel barefoot.

If you ever come up to Bend and feel like checking out the Whitewater Park, you can stop by Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe to rent a tube or surfboard! Current conditions with descriptions of each wave from the shapers can be found here. There is also a webcam, which you can find here.

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