Whitewater Rodeo offers thrills

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— Charlie's Hole was a spectacle Saturday during the Whitewater Rodeo.

The weather -- cold and rainy all week -- finally cleared and the main event of the three-day Yampa River Festival drew crowds of cyclists, skateboarders, passers-by and fellow kayakers to the rocks behind Bud Werner Memorial Library.

The crowds saw kayakers of all skill levels compete.

"The action is nonstop," emcee David Maris said. "This is the best river festival ever."

Maris has been involved in the Yampa River Festival for several years with his fellow emcee, Roscoe Jones, his dog.

In the Whitewater Rodeo, kayakers compete one at a time in the C-Hole.

Spectators "oohed" and "ahhed" at the flips, turns and unique moves the kayakers used to garner points.

At one point, 2005 first-place winner Dave Gardner came out of his kayak and floated down the river.

"The swift waters got him but not before he put in a great performance," Maris said.

Gardner pulled himself out of the river a few feet down from the course.

The second group to compete was the Junior Men and it was a family affair for the Whiddon family.

Clay Whiddon, 17, won second in the class and was second last year in the race as well. Whiddon has been kayaking since he was five-years-old.

"I am very proud of Clay because I have been boating for about 15 years and last year he passed me like a sports car," said Clay's father, Tom Whiddon.

Tom Whiddon was an honorary emcee for the event and got to introduce his son before he competed.

"Stay in there, buddy," he said.

Dan Piano, who was one of the three judges, said the competitions went "pretty well."

The participants were judged in three areas: style, amplitude, and technical skills and scored on a one to 10 scale in each area making 30 points possible overall.

"We look for overall moves and they don't score very well if they just flop around," Piano said.

Greg Parker, 17, a Wisconsin native, enjoyed his first taste of the Yampa as he won first in Juniors Men.

"I was pretty tired by my last run but this is a fun spot to get in and bounce around," he said.

Parker is in Colorado for six different races in June and Steamboat was one of the competitions on his list.

Joe Carberry, who helped run the Whitewater Rodeo, said the event was all about fun competition and enjoying the river.

"This is the greatest manmade play spot in Colorado," Carberry said. "It's all about coming out here and having fun."

Today's events include the Fish Creek Race at 9 a.m. at the Mount Werner Water Treatment Plant and the Dr. Rich Weiss Memorial Slalom Race at 10 a.m. at Dr. Rich Weiss Park.


--To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234

or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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