So I get a text from Madeline Bergon from Pagosa Outside.
"Junk Show tomorrow night! Come join and see what river shenanigans looks like."
Ok. I'm intrigued. But what the hell is a junk show?
"Fun things that you'll want to film."
If it seems like a good time and if there's beer involved, count me in. So I loaded up my camera gear and headed to downtown Pagosa Springs on a Friday night. Little did I know there's a much bigger purpose behind this thing called a Junk Show.
Upon arriving at Pagosa Outside, the river guides were getting ready for their shenanigans. Putting on their dry suits with beers in hand, there was a contagious spirit and energy behind everyone there. Smiles, laughter, dogs. I knew a good time was about to go down.
The crew loaded up their rafts and tubes and marched across the street to the San Juan River, where there's a section of man-made waves and rapids that are perfect for what I was about to witness. Everyone jumped in with tubes on rafts or even with nothing at all. And they floated down to one particular section in front of the Springs Resort.
It was here where they tried to surf the man made wave with anything possible. Tubes. Rafts. Bodies.
Crowds begun to assemble around this area. Every tourist and local was intrigued by what they were seeing. With the current flow of the river, it's common to see rafts and kayaks. But not tubes.
And here are the Pagosa Outside crew members...barreling down the San Juan rapids...on tubes.
River Guide Training
It's here where Tobi Rohwer, owner of Pagosa Outside, showed me that this Junk Show event is much more than just having a good time. All these shenanigans are an opportunity for these guides to get a feel for the river. How to maneuver boats and tubes in awkward scenarios when others are moving in and out of boats. To get comfortable flipping upside down and into the rushing water and rapids.
I quickly learned, to become a better guide you gotta get tossed.
Getting tossed into the water never looked so much fun. Everywhere I looked, there's smiles on everyone's faces. As each guide tried to surf waves on tubes, we were surrounded by woo-hoo's and laughter. It looked like these folks were having the time of their life. And they were.
Which means there was also a lot of bonding. This crew guides together. And now they were having fun together. They are a team of passionate individuals who love the lifestyle the river brings to this town.
It's clear Tobi has put together a fun group of guides who know what they're doing. And that's what this Junk Show was all about. People passionate about the river, guiding, learning and having a good time.
And as always, a little beer helps out too!
Whitewater & Cocktails
It’s that time of year...Spring!
The sun is out. Well, it’s always out in Pagosa Springs. But the aspens are blooming and the snow in the high country is melting. It could also be considered the beginning of festival season. And every year in May an event called “Pagosa Paddle” is held on the San Juan River.
It’s put on by Tim Brink, a local school psychologist and also the founder of the Colorado-Oregon Rafting Team. The mission is simple. Have a good time racing through whitewater while generating community support for river activities in the area and the cORT rafting team.
The Most Epic Whitewater Event
It also happens to have quite the motto…“The Most Epic Whitewater Event in Colorado.” But what makes it epic?
“It’s epic because you can sit in the hot springs and have a cocktail and watch everybody race and we’re the only type of whitewater event that has that type of a namesake” says Tim Brink. “Every other event I’ve done we’re hiking out in the boondocks and the weather might be nasty but this is just a great spectator venue. We have bike paths along both sides of the river and the hot springs is right there and it’s world famous. And geez, it’s nice to sit in a hot tub, watch people race and have a cocktail.”
Upon arriving to the event, locals were out in full force helping the event get underway. Many worked in the local school district. The kind of individuals that have a passion for education but also the active mountain lifestyle. Which means they are not only volunteers but also competitors.
It wasn’t long until various teams of families, local businesses businesses and even professional rafting teams like the USA Women’s Team, launched into the San Juan River and navigated the gates and rapids. And each competitor was just as encouraging to those they were racing against.
Rafts. Kayaks. Inflatable Kayaks. Stand Up Paddleboards.
Crowds quickly filled in along the river walk to watch the action with the best seats in the house being across the river at the The Springs Resort and Spa, cocktails in hand.
The head-to-head action was fast and intense. But the crowd favorite was a gigantic stand up paddle board that fit six adults. As it went through the wave “mother chucker”, the crowd cheered, laughed and hollered as somehow none of the riders fell into the water. For round two, they put the SUP board on top of a raft but weren’t quite as lucky getting through the first wave with one rider falling off.
At the end of the day, the participants reminisced the days events as they watched the highlights on the big screen at the after party.
“I want them to walk away with what we did the first year and that’s they had a hell of a lot of fun and it’s something they want to do again. And it’s just a good time to have fun with no consequences and to meet people and just have a good fond memory of the river in Pagosa Springs,” said Tim.
With over double the number of participants from the previous year, I think that’s exactly what happened.