Many river surfers learn the hard way that the dinged up shortboard they picked up for $50 and a six pack of beer on Craigslist doesn’t work very well for most river waves. Most (though certainly not all) ocean-bred surfboards are too narrow, too thin, too flat (without enough rocker), and/or too long to surf well on river waves. Some foamies work well for the aspiring river surfer; I like the Taquito for beginners and something shorter, like a 6’2 Fish or even 5’2” Fish once things are a little more dialed, but there are also some great shapers out there building river-specific boards. Here is a sampling of the shapers local to Colorado (or at least local-ish; it’s a small enough community that basically all of North America counts as “local;” I left out the shapers in Austria and Australia and the like. Some of the smaller operations don’t have online storefronts yet, so you’ll need to contact them directly if something strikes your fancy.
Ben is the other resident Denver shaper, and he was also an engineer on the new River Run Park. Keep an eye out for short, low-volume boards from Streamline that are designed for Benihanas, the upper high-performance wave in River Run Park, as well as more traditional designs.
I wouldn’t be surprised if more Colorado surfers have a Badfish board in their quiver than any other single manufacturer. This hometown favorite is still based in Salida, and has turned out a number of surfing-specific designs. The smaller River Surfer and the Cobra are small enough to be ridden paddle-less, if you’re a pop up surfer looking for something with a lot of volume. Check out our review of their IRS.
Based in Salt Lake, Glide produces the Lochsa, a downwater-specific board, as well as the Sesh, a surf-specific design. The Lochsa can surf in a pinch, but at 9’ it feels like a bit of a battleship – downriver performance is great though. The Sesh has a ton of volume, and it’s rockered egg shape stays in the pocket of lots of waves well.
Tuf’s founder has a story similar to mine – central Minnesota boy moves from the flatlands to the mountains and falls in love with river surifng. Tuf’s boards tend to be thicker than most shortboards, even thicker than most short riverboards, to perform better on mushier waves.
Strongwater boards are born in Missioula, Montana, and unsurprisingly their marquee “Runt” is well-tuned to Brennan’s Wave in downtown Missoula. They’re boxy and blunt, to maximize planing surface.
Custom surfboards from the Corridor Surf Shop in Boise, Idaho. Like the Missoula boards, the Corridor boards tend to be well-tuned to their home wave in the Boise River Park.
Another Boise shaper, with lots of designs that pop in photos and videos. More traditional shapes well-tuned for the Boise River Park.
Nexo produces boards in both San Diego and Spain, and their river surf designs show a european influence, shairng more in common with the boards you’ll see on the Eisbach wave than on American rivers. Most of their designs look more like ocean surfboards than riverboards from other manufacturers.
Dragorossi surfboard designs come from Corran Addison, who arguably had more of an impact on modern kayak designs than any other single person. His whitewater kayaks have a reputation for being high-performance, rewarding good paddling technique while punishing those that got sloppy. I wouldn’t be surprised if his company’s river boards share similar characteristics.
Have another shaper to add to this list? Email me at email@example.com