Kananaskis Whitewater Festival
Alberta Rip Curl River Surfing Open - May 26-28, 2006
Presented by: Alberta River Surfing Association
Last year a few land-locked surfers started getting together on the weekends and heading out to the Kananaskis River to ride standing waves. Steadily our numbers grew, and so did our involvement in the river community. In order to help organize ourselves we created the Alberta River Surfing Association. ARSA is now involved in the planning of the Calgary Weir project, a construction project which will replace the downtown weir with a new set of Waves. We are also active members in river clean-ups and repairs with the Lower Kananaskis River Users Association.
The Kananaskis Whitewater Festival is an annual Kayak festival that draws kayakers from all over Canada for a weekend of kayak events, partying, and good times. A month prior to the 2006 KWF, ARSA was approached about organizing a surfing event as part of the KWF. We jumped at the opportunity, and within a month were able to line up several sponsors, work out a format, and find enough competitors to make it interesting.
May 26 2006: Friday evening guys started to show up to the KWF venue for a weekend of surfing and fun. In classic Canadian fashion, as soon as you go camping the clouds roll in, and the rain starts. Friday night we were able to round up a good group for a surf. We headed down to our favorite feature on the wave and surfed until it just got to dark. Everyone was riding really well, and it definitely looked like Saturdays main event was going to be a quality get together. Following the surf we headed up to our little corner of the campground to drink a few free bevies and talk story. Friday night was an easy going affair, and nobody went hard.
May 27 2006: Earlier in the week we had planned out a schedule for the comp. First off there was a riders meeting to be held at 8:30am. The event wasnít set to start until 10am, but these guys are never on time, so we set a super early wake-up time to ensure everyone got was on time for the event. At 8:45 we finally got the riders meeting going. We covered some safety issues, and set out our rescue plans in case someone got in trouble. We also enlisted the Girlfriends and gave them duties such as time keeping, watching upstream for anyone coming down, and so on. Because the river is such a different environment then the ocean we had to ensure that we had a safety plan worked out. Entanglement and entrapment on the bottom are two very real fears. As soon as the meeting was up, the local Rip Curl Rep headed over and handed out swag to the guys. Once we had stashed all our new Rip Curl gear we broke into our heats and headed for the river.
I think itís a sign of who these guys are and the nature of river surfing, but the heat formula went straight out the window once we hit the water.
Everyone just started to ride and the little comp quickly became a free surf. Guys were riding really well, and some of the newer river guys got there first rides ever! Thatís always exciting to see. The early standout was Ben Murphy. The Australian ex-pat, cult and Big Swell rider was ripping. The rest of us just sat back and enjoyed watching him, then trying to keep up when it was our turn. I donít really know how long the session was. But we rode and paddle until everyone was thoroughly licked, then headed for some dry warm cloths and lunch.
Following the mornings ďcompĒ most guys relaxed and chatted, and a few of us headed down to show some support for the kayaking rodeo. At about 3pm everyone was up for another session, so back to the river we headed. This session was by far the best of the weekend. Every single guy was riding well, and had this been the contest it would have been impossible to choose a winner. The session went for about 3 hours, before everyone was in need of a beer. The strange thing about river surfing is you usually call it quits when your legs get tired, and not your arms.
Saturday night was the big one; we selected a winner, Ben Murphy, and then went hard at it. Great thing about KWF is there is free beer involved. We did our best to drink the place dry, and I think we did pretty well!
All in all it was a great weekend. It was North Americaís first River surfing event, and only the second one in the world, outside of Munich Germany. The Alberta River Surfing Association would like to thank the Calgary Kayak Club for inviting us to attend KWF2006. Also, a big thanks to all the companies that stepped up and offered their support of this fledgling sport and our comp, Rip Curl, No Friends Clothing, Barracuda Surfboards, Sitka Surfboards, NSP Surfboards, INT Softboards, and Big Swell.
SPONSORS: Rip Curl, No Friends Clothing, Big Swell, Barracuda Surfboards, Sitka, INT Softboards, NSP Surfboards,
RIDERS: Ben Murphy (Cult and Big swell), Paul Barrett (Big Swell), Jake Quilan (University of Lethbridge Surf Club), Dave Roscoe (University of Lethbridge Surf Club), Alan Ford, Neil Egsgard, Justin Cobhain
Alberta River Surfing Association