Steamboat Springs Gary Lacy stood along the shores of the Yampa River Monday afternoon watching as paddlers tested their skills in the river's fast-moving waters.
While the smile on Lacy's face let everyone know that he enjoys watching the paddlers dance in the bubbling whitewater, his interest on this day was a little more personal.
Monday was the first time Lacy has visited this spot on the Yampa since last March when he finished designing and building the new hole the paddlers were playing in. So who could blame him for kneeling at the water's edge and snapping a few photographs?
He is thrilled that most local paddlers have greeted this new hole warmly. But on this day Lacy brought his own critics -- a group of elite level boaters and future stars in the kayaking world -- to evaluate his work.
Lacy's three-hour stop in Steamboat was part of what he calls the Sampling and Celebration tour, which includes taking 10 elite-level paddlers across three states in the course of the week to experience his latest creations.
The tour, which is actually one recreational vehicle followed by two other cars, will make several stops this week at different features that Lacy has built in the last 18 months.
"I have been building these over a two-year period, and this week will be the first time I've seen most of them with any significant water," Lacy said. "It's my chance to ask these guys what they think and come up with ways to improve in the future."
The tour has already made stops in Boulder, Lyons, Gunnison and Salida. On Monday, it stopped in Steamboat before continuing on to Utah and Wyoming.
"This is a great opportunity," former Olympic paddler Scott Shipley said of the tour. "There is no way I would miss this ride."
Shipley spent 13 years competing on the World Cup as a member of the U.S. Canoe and Kayak team. He is a three-time overall World Cup champion and competed in three different Olympic Games (Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney) before retiring.
"I get to play in five different holes in six days," Shipley said. "It doesn't get much better than this."
Shipley was one of several elite level kayakers who thought that Steamboat's new hole is one of the best in the state.
"This is a great place to play," said Jed Selby of Salida.
Selby recently finished second in the American River Festival in California and is currently ranked fifth in the country in the sport of whitewater rodeo.
"It offers something for paddlers at every level," Selby said of the Steamboat hole. "That's what you want in a hole like this."
That's what Lacy wanted also.
"I want a hole that guys like Selby and Shipley can come rip up," he said, "but I also want it to appeal to paddlers who aren't at that level."