River Run Park is a set of high-performance river surfing waves on the South Platte near the Broken Tee Golf Course in south Denver.
Chiclets, named for the gum-looking blocks that help shape the wave, is the furthest downstream and the most beginner-friendly wave in the park. At lower flows it forms a friendly green face, and at higher flows it forms more of a pile, but it’s still surfable with higher-volume boards. Shortboards can work, but given the foam, more volume is better. Works from about 100 cfs and up, depending on how bad you want to surf.
The second wave, Benihanas, is a high-speed, dynamic wave that gives up great rides but can be challenging to surf for beginners. Once you have it dialed, it’s one of the best high-performance waves in the state. It features a wave shaper – a set of three adjustable plates underneath the water that allow the wave to be dialed for particular flows. At higher flows (from 250 cfs to over 750 cfs) the wave creates a large A-Frame wave that can run from waist to chest high. Under 200 cfs, the wave is usually too weak to hold a surfer.
Given the high water speed, some surfers have been having success with wakesurf boards and other low-volume boards. Given the size of the wave and the trough, longer boards (over 6′) can be tough to surf here.
So far, we still have yet to see flows too high for a surfable wave, though the flows have not been particularly high since the wave was completed. Shaped appropriately, from 500-750 cfs it will form a high, big-shouldered v-wave. The highest sustained flows the park has seen since its creation have been in the range of 1,200 cfs, and the wave has been solid at those flows, though the eddies and swims get rowdier. Higher sustained flows (as opposed to rain spikes) are possible on the South Platte, and it remains to be seen how the wave will perform if it’s running higher.
The first couple of seasons was enough to develop some general etiquette rules and suggestions; you can find those here.
The Summer of 2019 brought a third wave online: Wave 6 (counted from the downstream end of the park, with Chiclets as number 1). The community hasn’t entirely settled on a name yet, but Nikki Sixx has been batted around; I’ll call it Nikki’s here.
Nikki’s is somewhat removed from the other two waves; it’s about half a mile upstream from Broken Tee. It’s character is a lot different, largely owing to the fact that it is a sheet wave, rather than a jump wave. It’s about three times wider than Benni’s, and it’s significantly shallower. The wave is fast, steep, and wide. Since it is shallower, falls are significantly more consequential, particularly if you fall forward. It’s also harder on surfboards and fins.
Entries are usually performed as a wheelchair maneuver, with surfers sitting on the concrete on the sides of the waves and stepping onto their boards. Given the speed and steepness of the wave, adjustments need to be quick, and it can take some time to find the right balance point on the wave.
Nikki’s saw some significant adjustments in late 2019. The adjustments raised the pool and added some blocks above the wave to narrow it slightly. As of mid-June 2020, it now works at lower flows – down to 120-130 cfs. Adjustments are still being made, so currently (June 18, 2020), the wave is only shaped when wave shapers are on-site. A photo from post-tweaks:
Shorter is generally better on Benni’s and Nikki’s. Particularly at lower flows and on Nikki’s, the wave troughs are so steep that it can be difficult to ride a longer (over 5’6″ or so) board, but at higher flows the angles are softer and you can surf a larger variety of craft. The Scott Burke 5’2″ Fish (link, review) is a popular beginner’s choice. So are wakesurf boards like the Slingshot Alien Twister or Ankle Biter. Short black-ball beaters or other short, thick ocean boards like the Catch Surf Beater are also pretty common. I’ve enjoyed my Flying Pig quite a bit. On Chiclets, more volume is usually better, and longboards , shorter SUPS, or high-volume hybrids do well.
The South Platte Below Union gives the best gauge here; look for 175+ cfs for Benni’s, and over 200 or 250 gives a much better opportunity for longer, more dynamic rides. Tuned right, it remains in great shape up to 1,200 cfs, and likely higher. In its earlier form, Chiclets wave could be surfed on a paddleboard all the way down to 60 cfs, but improvements at 130 cfs and above have led it to green out at low flows. Look for 100 cfs or more.
Look for 120 cfs or more for Nikki’s to work; stay tuned for the upper limit.
Occasionally late in the summer, the Union gauge gets somewhat fouled by sediment. You can double-check it by comparing the Chatfield Outflow and the Englewood gauges. If the Union gauge shows a higher flow than the Englewood gauge, it’s probably wrong.
For photos of the waves at specific flows, check out the River Surf Report.
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You can also get a peek at what’s coming down from Chatfield by keeping an eye on the Chatfield Outflow gauge. If flows change, they usually change around midday. Changes will take 3-3.5 hours to reach RRP.
The park shares a parking lot with the Broken Tee Golf Course; just park as close as you can to the river.