Looking for a new and exciting way to live life to the fullest? Try surfing! Want to get even more adventurous? Try river surfing! This awesome sport is almost like a combination of surfing and white water rafting, offering an experience that even seasoned riders will find thrilling! Load up the RV and head out to do some river surfing, a whole new surfing experience!
How Does River Surfing Work?
There are two different types of waves to ride while river surfing: standing waves and tidal bores. Both provide a whole new surfing experience, and are worth a try for adrenaline junkies, thrill seekers, and extreme sport enthusiasts!
Unlike conventional surfing, the waves used during river surfing don’t flow and move, they stay stationary. This provides an awesome opportunity for surfing! To use these waves, surfers paddle with the river’s current until they reach the standing wave, which develops when a high volume of water is constricted by flowing over rocks, creating a wave behind it. Riders surf against the current, which in more turbulent waters provides some pretty great riding conditions.
Have a little trouble visualizing how it works? Think of those surf simulator attractions you find on cruise ships and at water parks. It’s a similar concept; the rider surfs against the current and performs tricks—and wipes out!
Unlike the standing waves that don’t flow, tidal bores allow surfers a more traditional surfing experience while on the river instead of the ocean. Tidal bores occur when a larger body of water, like a bay, flows into a smaller body of water, such as a river. This results in a series of rolling waves, which surfers can ride. The downside of tidal bores is that they only occur in a few places in the world, with one of the nearest, the Petitcodiac bore, occurring in the New Brunswick/Nova Scotia area of Canada. They can also occur at only certain times of the day, or only occasionally, so do your research before you plan a trip to try one out to make sure you’ll be getting some waves!
Fun fact—the longest single river wave ridden in North America lasted for 29 kilometers (~18 miles) on the Petitcodiac bore by two men from California!
Best Places To River Surf In the U.S.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Every spring, Jackson Hole is the place to be for river surfing! Snowmelt boosts the flow of the Snake River substantially, making for some fantastic standing waves. Sure, these waves can be a little iffy, sometimes laying dormant for days at a time, but on a good day, you’ll enjoy some of the best river surfing in the U.S. Jackson Hole is just outside Yellowstone National Park, so take some time to explore and set up camp on your off time from river surfing!
Whitewater Park, Pueblo, Colorado
There are plenty of prime river surfing spots in Colorado with one of the best being Whitewater Park! It features eight different waves, which are not only perfect for river surfers, but for kayakers as well!
This park was specially designed with kayakers in mind, so as long as the Arkansas River’s flow is good, you're sure to get good waves when you visit! Since it is manmade, it’s a safe place for beginners to practice, as they won’t have to worry about rocks and other dangerous obstacles. Pueblo is also home to Lake Pueblo State Park, which features gorgeous views of the lake, where you can camp and have fun with other water sports, go fishing, explore hiking trails, and more!
Kelly’s Whitewater Park, Cascade, Idaho
While it may seem laughable to think about surfing in Idaho, there are actually some awesome spots to go river surfing in this western state! Kelly’s Whitewater Park is another park that was originally intended for kayakers, but is also perfect for river surfers. There are several waves, ranging from ones ideal for beginners to more challenging waves for intermediate surfers. Again, it’s an awesome place to practice and is free to the public!
Pack up the RV and stay at Lake Cascade State Park, where you’ll get an eyeful of beautiful sunsets and snow-capped mountains over Lake Cascade! You can also make it a full river surfing trip of it out in Idaho and visit Boise River Park, another great white water park about a two-hour drive from Cascade, with great waves for kayakers and surfers. This park even features the world’s first adjustable wave, which modifies the wave as water levels and flow fluctuate.
Once you’ve built up enough skill, you could start thinking about an international river surfing trip! Some of the best river surfing spots are found in Germany, Switzerland, Uganda, Austria, and many other areas! This is a hobby that will have you visiting all corners of the globe!
Risks Of River Surfing
There are a lot of things to consider when thinking about taking up river surfing. Even to experienced ocean surfers, river surfing presents a whole new set of challenges and dangers that have to be taken into consideration, and should not be taken on by beginners, especially on natural rivers and not in whitewater parks.
You need experience in surfing and scouting. River surfing isn’t for the faint of heart, and certainly isn’t a sport that beginners should just dive right into! If you’re interested in getting into river surfing, you’ll want to talk to an experienced surfer, who can give you pointers on how to scout out the river to be able to identify the prime spot to surf, and any obstacles that need to be avoided. If you’re already a seasoned kayaker, you may already have these skills!
You’ll have to be a strong swimmer. This is true of any surfing, but because river surfing is at its most optimal time when the tide is high and the water moves fast, it’s a recipe for danger. You’ll have to have some experience in navigating turbulent waters, as wipeouts will happen, and you’ll want to know how to avoid rocks and also stay afloat as you get swept down the rapids. Even those who have been ocean surfing for years may have some trouble with this at first!
What do you think? Are you ready to give river surfing a try? Even if you aren’t an experienced surfer, there’s always time to learn! It’s a whole new surfing experience, and definitely worth a try if you’re up for it!
If you’re in the market for a new RV to go along with you from the coast to the river, check out our selection of pop-ups, travel trailers, fifth wheels, and toy haulers for sale in Grand Rapids, and save $1000s than with any of our top competitors! We’re sure to have something perfect for you and your surf board, so stop by or shop online today!
Have you tried river surfing before, or are you interested in trying it out? Leave us a comment and let us know!