River Run Park Tips and Etiquette

Denver’s River Run Park saw some pretty decent-sized lineups last spring, and with word getting out about how fun this sport is, I can imagine things will thin out this year (once we finally get flow, that is).┬áLike any surf lineup, RRP has its own informal rules of surf etiquette. If you’re new to the lineup, you may want to keep the following things in mind:

  • Take Turns. This is the only real mandatory rule. The lineup forms as lines of people on both sides of the wave. When you get geared up, stand in your preferred line. Regular-footers tend to have an easier time entering from surfer’s left and goofy-footers from surfer’s right, but some are ambidextrous. Alternate sides, and when it’s your turn, get onto the wave. A little hesitation here is okay if you’re a beginner, but don’t dilly-dally. When you get flushed off the wave, swim to your preferred side and take your spot in the lineup. Getting out-paddled isn’t much of an issue since most surfers coming off the wave end up in about the same place in the eddy, and the eddy does most of the work getting you back to the lineup.
  • Ride Length: this isn’t much of a factor for beginners – if you’re only making every fifth wave or every tenth wave starting out, feel free to surf your heart out once you’re on the wave. But if you’re making most or all of your waves and it’s in front of a busy lineup, give yourself 30-60 seconds of soul surfing time before you need to start trying things that are challenging for whatever your ability level might be.
  • Yield to Upstream Traffic: This is a bigger issue on waves like Glenwood, where rafters and other river travelers are more common. But if boats or other watercraft are coming downstream, don’t drop in on them, and get out of the way if they’re in the current and heading your way.
  • Don’t Drive Like a Maniac: Doesn’t matter how you drive for most of the trip to RRP, but drive slowly once you get to the parking lot we share with the Broken Tee Golf Course. Too many people tearing past the golfers could threaten our access.
  • Don’t Litter. Duh.
  • Be Nice to the Resident Night Heron: Her name is Sheron.

The rest of this falls more in the category of good etiquette/best practices:

  • Check On Your Buddy: Before you enter the wave, check to see that the surfer who just got washed off the wave popped up, along with their board.
  • Goofyfooter’s Revenge: Thanks to the miracle of genetics, often the line is shorter on the “goofyfoot side” of the lineup (surfer’s right). If there’s a significant disparity, it’s good form to let a couple people from the long line go for each surfer from the short line, depending on how out of whack the ratios are. We’re not looking for mathematical precision here, but if two goofyfooters are taking five times the rides of the ten regular footers on the other side of the river, they won’t be too popular. On the other hand, if you’ve mastered the skill of dropping in from either side of the wave, feel free to choose the shorter line.
  • Be Careful of Loose Boards:┬áLots of RRP surfers don’t wear leashes, so there are times where surfer and board are separated, and the board ends up in the eddy near the lineup somewhere. If the board is headed for the concrete near the wave, at the very least deflect it so it doesn’t smash into the rocks. Some surfers want their boards set on the dry rocks so they can retrieve it, others would rather you push their board into the current. If you can, make eye contact and see what the surfer wants. Be particularly cautious about trying to toss or skim the board from one side of the river to the other – it’s an easy way to smash up a board if done wrong.

Entering the Wave

The hardest part about surfing Benihana’s, the “main” wave at RRP, is the entry. On a busy day you’ll see a variety of different entry styles, from setting the board on the eddy in front of the wave and “skating” onto the face of the wave, to acid and suitcase drops, to the occasional pop-up. Pop-ups are pretty rare, but they get more common with higher water levels.

Riverbreak has a nice acid drop tutorial, illustrated with photos from RRP.

If you’re just starting out, experiment with different entry options and work with what feels most natural. Regardless of your approach, bent knees and a low center of gravity will help you stay balanced on the wave.