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Several groups of river boarders reside in the area, each having a slightly different system. Some have bigger or different shaped boards, some use braided bungee for their stretch and some use a garage door spring to launch themselves upstream or into the air. The better riders will ride it backwards, without a handle or completely submerge themselves under the water and erupt out like some strange porpoise.
A River board is basically a large skimboard with a rope and handle that pass through the nose allowing the rider to lean back into the current and shoot upstream. The origins of the activity are unclear, but whisperings have been heard of Oregon coastal river denizens as late as 50 years ago using a deflated truck tire for stretch and homemade boards.
One of the great advantages of river boarding is the proximity of a great location within a few miles of downtown. The First Street rapids draw groups on any hot day taking turns bobbing back and forth with the current like a giant fishing lure. Since no company constructs the equipment needed for this sport, the best way to get involved would be to go to the rapids and check the action out, make some new friends and get in the water.
Banshee boarding works on the same premise as river boarding, using a bungee cord or other spring device to shoot a rider upstream, just much further.
Designed like a skimboard with a hook in the nose, the Banshee system is meant to cover long distances and generate speed, using the force of a river or friends to pull the bungee back. With a full pull the bungee can often send riders hundreds of feet, sometimes reaching speeds of 30 mph.
The Banshee bungee has expanded itself beyond just a river or ocean toy. Shorter models are made to use with a skateboard, on the snow, or for any other reason you might have to catapult your friends into fates unknown.
The idea for the Banshee system was hatched by Boise State University MBA student Kevin Veon. With backgrounds in engineering and river sports his design was a success. The Banshee system went on to win the ISPO Summer Hardware "BrandNew" award, a recognition of innovation in the sports industry.
For the system to work well riders need long stretches of fast current without rapids, which are hard to come by on this section of the Deschutes which is mostly a falls pool run. The best Banshee boarding can be found further downstream where the larger volume of water helps to stretch the bungee.
The banshee system is available at Daddies Board Shop in Portland, or online at BansheeBungee.com where you can check out videos of what the product is capable of.
River surfing is probably the most secretive of the three river board sports here in Central Oregon, given that the spots were veiled in secrecy after the first canal wave was discovered and shut down by the irrigation district.
The sport didn't originate in the area, however, or even the continent. The Isar River runs through Munich, Germany, fed by snowmelt from the nearby Alps. It cuts between historic buildings, churning through the heart of the city and forming what is arguably the world's most famous standing wave. Kayakers have been surfing these waves, both in the river and the canals, for years. Only recently have more than a handful of people in our area tackled the waves locally.
If you decide to take up the sport, keep in mind that rivers and canals are dangerous, possibly deadly, places, and in the case of the canals, illegal to be in. The waves are generally formed in areas where the water flow narrows and the pitch increases, or some obstruction lies just underneath. In some cases, river surfers have constructed wedges, which sit in the water just upstream and help shape the wave crest.
River surfing is growing worldwide as landlocked surfers turn their attention to the waters in their backyard with waves having been discovered all over the world from Canada to Zambia. Part of the experience is in the search, in the possibility of finding a great standing wave around the next bend.