In 2015 the Whitewater Park located on the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon opened to the public. In the summer the river channels teem with kayaks, paddle boards, and tubes. The tree covered grassy park is filled with people doing yoga, grilling, or playing with their pets. With people trying to cool off from the heat of the summer, the whitewater park becomes the most popular public space in Bend bringing everyone together.
The park’s design has three channels:
- The floater or tubing channel for people looking to float through the park and keep it mellow cascades over shallow class I-II features.
- The whitewater channel was designed for surfing or for more advanced paddlers looking to paddle downstream through bigger class III features, punching holes and waves or catching eddies.
- The habitat channel was created to provide habitat for birds, amphibians, and other wildlife. No people or pets are allowed in this sensitive area.
The second feature in the whitewater channel is called the Green Wave. It’s the best feature in the park for river surfing on a short board or paddle board. Showing up for the first time to surf this feature, I was met with the most friendly and helpful community of surfers. Everyone helped ease my nerves and gave me pointers. They were filled with positive river surfing spirit. There was none of the territorial feel of ocean surfing. When someone had a great ride we’d all be cheering!
I’ve been paddle board surfing in Colorado and West Virginia for a few years, but short board river surfing was new to me. I’d tried it once in Boise and managed a few couple second rides. The Green Wave in Bend was a beautiful feature. The wave is about 40 feet wide, steep, and glassy. It took some time learning how to get in using the concrete walls. After hitting the flaps forming the wave a few times, I learned to fall flat. My next lesson was that if you want to make it to shore without swimming the next couple shallow features ditch your board (as long as it’s on a leash) and swim to shore.
I come from a whitewater kayak background so safety is a big deal to me. I always wear my Astral YTV or Blue Jacket with a releasable leash at my waist while surfing. In the horrible scenario the board gets caught on a rock or man made feature in the park, you can release yourself. I also always wear shoes while surfing because of the sharp basalt rock used to create the park features. In the summer my favorite shoes to surf in are the Loyaks because they’re low profile, flexible and lightweight. They provide my feet with protection while allowing me to feel barefoot.
If you ever come up to Bend and feel like checking out the Whitewater Park, you can stop by Tumalo Creek Kayak and Canoe to rent a tube or surfboard! For current conditions, with descriptions of each wave from the shapers, can be found here. There’s also a webcam, which you can find here.