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What Is River Surfing Like?


is river surfing hard?

It's been 5 years since I surfed, and that was on a nice warm beach. River surfing I realized today is totally different and way harder. Imagine the force you deal with when a big set of waves comes through at the beach, that's what you're dealing with the entire time here. You certainly don't really spend much time floating around chilling enjoying the view, the river is swift! You're either on your board trying to get into the wave or your walking back upstream to try again. 

              When you start your day you'll prob look all stoked like this...

river surfing gear


Realizing I didn't have the power yet to paddle into the wave from the side using the eddie, I went upstream and let the current take me into the wave..

how to river surf

And after a lot of tries, this is about as close as I got to standing to up..

what is river surfing

The wave feels so much bigger & intense than it looks there, with the loud rushing current and splashing waves everywhere. Add some frigid water to the mix and your heart rate can easily get sky high so it takes some conscious effort to remain focused and calm. It's really fun to try and slow it all down when it seems like a lot of chaos. 

I jumped right in with a bit of hubris thinking I'd pick it up quickly honestly. River surfing is way harder than I expected and I look forward to getting back out there to move (flail) my body around in the cold water. 

This isn't something I can see myself traveling for but since here in Durango we have multiple standing waves I figured why not add another activity to the quiver. Especially one that pairs well with a cold beer in the summertime hanging by the river. 

Some tips on your first time

Do not wear the typical surfing leash when river surfing as there are some bad stories about people drowning when their leash got caught on a submerged rock and forced them underwater because of the current. The straight quick release leashes are the way to go. Today I went without one and it wasn't the greatest thing chasing my board down river but doable. 

I used this 5'10" board, although I don't think it's the best (really heavy) it seemed to work. 

A lifejacket and helmet - the river is more powerful than your ego, wear these. 

My 4mm wetsuit seemed to do the trick keeping me warm in the 45 - 50-degree water.

Use the Eddies. Eddies are where the water moves back up river, in the opposite direction of the main flow, after passing a big rock. You can see these often next to where you're surfing and use them to get into the wave. It's a really cool dynamic of turbulent water.

Study what is downstream, obstacles to avoid when you get pushed out of the wave and where to get back onshore. 

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  • Bryant AuCoin
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