Summer sports set to hit (H2O) overdrive
Spreading as veraciously as wildfire, stand-up paddleboarding in Summit County will have yet another chance to shine this summer at Jordanelle Reservoir July 27-29.
The fourth annual H2O Overdrive Summer Series returns to the Wasatch Back as some of the nation’s top talents converge to vie for titles. Formerly known as the H2O Overdrive SUP Cup, the summer series is expanding its offerings to four new events and changing its name as a result. Included in this year’s series will be a kids’ 16-and-under paddleboard race, a full-contact kayaking event known as "8-ball kayaking," and a whitewater stand-up paddleboard team race.
"Our goal is to build a series that rivals the Teva Mountain Games (Vail, Colo.) right here in Park City," said the event director, Parkite Bob Risner. "We started out with SUP and now have the 8-ball event and we are looking into adding downhill bike events next summer. We’re slowly expanding it. This year, I have competitors coming in from four different countries. It’s getting a reputation. It’s turned into a fun thing, but a very massive thing."
Risner recalls first participating in the local summertime stand-up paddleboard race when it was called Paddle Mountain four years ago. Since then, he and his wife Betsy, who is a world champion 50-and-over paddleboarder, have helped develop the sport in Utah and Summit County.
"Stand-up paddleboarding has blown up — literally, blown up," Risner said. "In my mind, we put on probably the best quality event in the country because that’s what keeps people coming back. And we’re landlocked. Why would people come here for a landlocked race? Because I think the real growth is the fact we put on such a quality event."
The three-day event is scheduled to commence July 27 with a kick-off party at Kimball Junction featuring live music. But the real party will start Saturday, July 28, when the spectators and competitors congregate on the shores of Jordanelle Reservoir. The open-water race will present a multitude of options, including a five-mile elite race and a three-mile "Ghost Town" open-age race.
"We’re ramping things up again," said Randy Olshen, co-founder of
Innovative Health Solutions, which makes H2O Overdrive hydration in a press release. "That is what keeps people coming back year after year. We like to keep them wondering, ‘What will we come up with next?’"
Risner said the event’s growth is both a blessing and a challenge.
"It’s a double-edged sword," he said. "That’s what we look at. When competitors come here, how can we make that experience similar to what they would get at, say, an Olympics Trials? There’s a lot of expectations when events are put on here."
Included this year will be a new timing system which should deliver accurate and immediate results on a 12-by-10-foot LED screen. Risner said this addition could set the H2O Summer Series apart.
"No one has been able to time these kinds of events very well," he said. "We’re really trying to bump it up to a different type of level this year. When the athletes come, they feel like they’re special."
The addition of the 8-ball kayaking event is a glimpse into what the series is looking for in the future: adrenaline and innovation. The sport entails kayakers avoiding being knocked off by the 8-ballers, pre-determined kayakers in armor who are stalking the other kayakers and out to slow them down in the race.
"There’s a little bit of strategy and game-planning," Risner said with a chuckle. "There’s always that push more toward the adrenaline sports. We’re trying to get more and more extreme."
Following Saturday’s open-water race at Jordanelle, Sunday will take competitors to the banks of the testy Weber River at Tiger Falls where Risner says he has suffered a number of bumps, bruises and scrapes during his paddleboarding down the river.
According to the H2O Overdrive website, the event is giving away $10,000 in cash this year plus prizes to the elite-race and Weber River Challenge contestants, The Ultimate waterman and woman (best combined scores from elite race and Weber River Challenge), and the 8-ball kayak racers.
For more information on the H2O Overdrive Summer Series races and schedule, visit http://www.h2ooverdrivesummerseries.com/summer_series .
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