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5 River Surfing Spots West of 105

We all know Colorado is pretty much paradise on Earth. We may be landlocked, but what does that really mean? Can’t get good seafood? No beaches? Can’t surf? No, no and hell no.

With whitewater parks all over the state, Colorado is quickly becoming the go-to state for landlocked surfers. Photo: West of 105

River surfing was born, most people generally agree, in Germany in the 1970s. The story goes that a group of surfers took to the city’s Eisbach River by holding onto ropes attached to a bridge. They balanced on wooden planks in the river and a new sport was born. The Eisbach wave is considered the mother of all river waves, and it is certainly a gnarly one, but we have some awesome waves west of 105.

We spoke to Mike Harvey from Badfish SUP in Salida, one of the pioneers of river surfing in Colorado and whitewater park designer extraordinaire, about a few of his favorite spots and the best spots to pick up the gear you’ll need.


The Salida Whitewater Park on the Arkansas River is where Badfish was born. Good for everyone depending on the flow, it is bang in the middle of downtown Salida, making it super convenient. There are four waves that span 1,200 feet of the river for kayaks, paddleboards, and body boards in addition to river surfing.

Local Outfitter: Dvorak Rentals & Shuttles in nearby Nathrop


Montrose Water Sports Park (designed by Harvey) is unique in Colorado thanks to its really long season which in turn is thanks to irrigation releases on the Uncompahgre River — it is surfable until around Halloween every year. There are six drop features which vary in terms of difficulty making it a great place for everyone, from beginners to more advanced surfers. Montrose Water Sports Park and the adjacent Riverbottom Park is also home to FUNC Fest, a festival of water sports competitions, live music, activities, a food truck village, and a beer garden!

Local Outfitter: Montrose Surf and Cycle

The water sports park in Montrose is especially popular thanks to its longer surfing season. Photo: West of 105


Also on the Arkansas River, the Buena Vista Whitewater Park (also designed by Harvey) is the largest whitewater park in the state. Home to CKS Paddlefest, a celebration of river sports, the park has five waves/holes with a couple of spots that are perfect for beginners thanks to moderate flows and good places for recovery. Local Outfitter: CKS River Supply


The G-Wave (inside the Glenwood Springs Whitewater Activity Area) is an artificial wave that can be surfed in some capacity any time, but when it really gets flowing it is a true world-class wave that attracts surfers from around the state and beyond. Flow can vary from around 4,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 22,000 cfs, which is very high.

Local Outfitter: Glenwood Adventure Company


Finally, there is Big Sur near Palisade. Harvey says this is the “mysto” spot in Colorado. It might only run every five years after a massive winter, but when news spreads that it’s on, people drop everything to be there.

Local Outfitter: Rapid Creek Cycles


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