Since inception, the four standing waves of the central channel at Bend's landmark Whitewater Park have ushered and welcomed rivergoers from novice to expert. On Aug. 30, the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance invites one and all to the first of what's hoped to be an annual Whitewater Festival in which paddlers can celebrate and showcase their skills. The festival will be held in tandem with the fundraising concert series, Pickin' & Paddlin' at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe.
In hometown throwdown style, a judge will be at each water feature, seeking winners in categories including best rider and trick. Spectators will enjoy play-by-play announcement, identifing competitors by bib numbers, and seeing standup paddle boarders, surfers and boogie boarders compete on their respective waves.
Whitewater Festival registration will also cover entrance costs to Pickin' & Paddlin', happening immediately after the competition.
"Bend's first Whitewater Festival will be a reflection of the kayaking and surf culture, a fun and informal expo of the talented water enthusiasts in Central Oregon," says Geoff Frank, lifelong kayaker and Tumalo Creek owner.
"Celebrating the river, celebrating the transformation of the dangerous Colorado Spillway into a community asset for novices, families and elite paddlers—that's what this event is all about."
Michelle Healy, Bend Park & Recreation District director of planning & park services, echoes that sentiment saying, "[The Whitewater Festival] demonstrates and shares with the public the uniqueness of the feature[s] and the amazing community of users and their relationships at the park. There is a camaraderie and special culture developing down there."
The story of the Bend Whitewater Park started about 15 years ago. Through the Pickin' & Paddlin' concert series, the BPTA raised over $1 million of private funds, eventually contributing to 2012's Bond Measure 9-86. In addition to spillway renovations, the bond measure included other community building projects including The Pavilion skating rink, a southeast area park, Pine Nursery recreational fields expansion and various trail connections.
"The vision for developing the spillway into a community recreation asset was a long time in the making and had many twists and turns," explains Jayson Bowerman of BPTA. "Even before the bond measure, the BPTA was promoting the vision of Oregon's first—and still, only—whitewater surf park. Along with our financial contributions, the BPTA has an agreement with Bend Park and Rec to act as the host for two yearly events at the park."
Competitors and spectators can look for future Whitewater Festivals starting next June, when it will coincide with Pickin' & Paddlin' and the nationally supported Subaru Outside Games. Bowerman even excitedly adds, "The BPTA is in conversations with the River Surfing National Championships for future events."
This year, registration is day-of only, from noon to 2pm at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe and from 2 to 3pm on site at the Whitewater Park (Mckay Park). Competitors meet at 3:15pm and the event starts at 3:30pm with awards at 5pm.
First Annual Whitewater and Surf Festival
Wed., Aug. 30
Registration Noon-2pm at Tumalo Creek; 2-3pm at McKay Park/Whitewater Park
Bend Whitewater Park
166 SW Shevlin Hixon Dr., Bend
Pickin' & Paddlin'
Music: Julie & the Wayves, Space Heaterz and Doc Ryan Band
Wed. Aug. 30
Kayak, Canoe & Paddlboard Demos 3-6pm
Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe
805 SW Industrial Way., Suite 6, Bend
A native Oregonian, K.M. Collins is a geologist-gone-writer. Covering everything outdoors and a spectrum of journalism, she's a jack of all whitewater sports and her favorite beat is anything river related. Don't blow her cover as a freshwater mermaid amongst humans.