On Friday, June 8th I had the opportunity to tag along with some friends to Rodeo Hole on the Wenatchee River in Dryden, but for the first time accessed it from the road as opposed to running through the rapid in a raft. What I witnessed was some amazing surfing skills in a variety of rafts, kayaks, river boards, and SUPs (stand-up paddle board).
Each year, teams of two rafters gather at Rodeo Hole for the R2 Rodeo Hole Surf Competition. Each team maneuvers their raft into the standing wave and attempts to surf the raft for as long as possible. This usually leads the rafts to spin around and rock violently, as the rafters attempt to maintain position in the wave, and in the raft. While there were some great extended surfs, there were even more amazing saves, recoveries, and near swims that got the audience cheering.
Rafters had 1 hour to attempt and pull-off as many surfs as possible and they showed tireless dedication and effort. Over 100 people lined the river bank on a big rock slab river-right just above Rodeo Hole to watch and cheer on the competitors. Following the raft surf competition was a river boarding competition, including one competitor who surfed on a big green inflatable alligator. I’m not sure who won the competitions, but I have my own ideas. I left before the winners were announced but I did overhear talk of some cool prizes that would be awarded. The vibe wasn’t too competitive, other than teams trying to do their own personal best. It was much more about having a good time with your fellow river folk while enjoying the river many of us work on or around every day.
If you’ve never been there, Rodeo Hole is one of the most popular surf spots along this Class III – IV section of the Wenatchee River between Leavenworth and Cashmere. I’d suggest contacting a rafting company to see it from the water. It’ll give you the best sense of what these competitors were up against.