Luke Farny paddles Sunday in the juniors rodeo during the Yampa River Festival. He tied for first place in the event with Karsten Thompson. The professionals hit the waves today for the Paddling Life Pro Invitational, which starts at 10 a.m. with a dash down Fish Creek. The freestyle portion of the event will start at 1 p.m. at Charlie’s Hole.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Luke Farny paddles Sunday in the juniors rodeo during the Yampa River Festival. He tied for first place in the event with Karsten Thompson. The professionals hit the waves today for the Paddling Life Pro Invitational, which starts at 10 a.m. with a dash down Fish Creek. The freestyle portion of the event will start at 1 p.m. at Charlie’s Hole.

Steamboat kayakers share 1st place in rodeo

Youths own C-Hole

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Rick Franken gives some last-minute advice to his 8-year-old son Kai Franken on Sunday before Kai rode in the junior rodeo at Charlie’s Hole in downtown Steamboat Springs.

— The pros take to the water today, with the Paddling Life Pro Invitational and some of the best kayakers in the world setting up camp in Steamboat Springs.

Sunday, though, it still was amateurs and locals who dominated the whitewater on the second day of the Yampa River Festival.

Steamboaters Luke Farny and Karsten Thompson tied for first place in the juniors rodeo, while 16-year-old Denver boater JP Griffith cut through the morning’s slalom course to win that competition.

“It was a great weekend,” Farny said. “That was a lot of fun.”

Action was intense at Charlie’s Hole in downtown Steamboat Springs on the Yampa River for the second consecutive day. Saturday was about area veterans plying their trade on the water, but Sunday was about the children.

They shined. Nearly a dozen kayakers took part, top performers ranging in age from 8 to 16.

Farny stood out with his ride in the finals. He landed a kick flip as an entry move, then hung in front of the wave, spinning and twisting in the surf for nearly his entire allotted 90-second ride time.

When he finally washed out, a second before a whistle signaled his time was over, he was able to paddle to shore with a wide smile.

“It was a good run. I stuck all the tricks I wanted to,” Farny said.

It would have been enough to win were it not for the day’s best trick, which came from Thompson. A sophomore at The Lowell Whiteman School, he took up kayaking just last year but showed he already had figured things out when he landed a McNasty, a front-flip started with the kayak backwards in the surf.

That one trick was enough to equal Farny’s sustained excellence.

Griffith, who said he frequents Steamboat’s waters when visiting cousins in town, turned in a nearly flawless run to win the morning’s slalom behind the Rabbit Ears Motel on the Yampa.

“There were some tricky parts where you had to work against the current,” he said. “The reason I won was because I didn’t hit anything and get penalties.”

Pros return today

All eyes will stay on the waters today when the Pro Invitational returns to Steamboat for the fifth year.

The event starts at 10 a.m. with a dash down the rocky and treacherous Fish Creek. It will then reconvene at 1 p.m. on the Yampa for a freestyle competition at Charlie’s Hole.

There will be no shortage of star power at this year’s event.

Australian Tanya Faux, who’s won the event three years running, will return, as will two-time men’s winner Stephen Wright. Nick Troutman and Emily Jackson also will compete again this year, now both as reigning world freestyle kayak champions.

“We’re going to have a great turnout of competitors and we’ll have great water,” organizer Eugene Buchanan said. “It’s hit or miss each year, as all river events are. Mother Nature calls the shots, but this year, the stars have aligned.”

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