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Paddling the Teva Mountain Games

This weekend’s Teva Mountain Games in Vail started as a local Memorial Day whitewater festival more than 15 years ago. These days it’s morphed into one of the largest multi-sport bonanzas in the country. Despite the addition of extreme fly fishing and dog jumping competitions, the river is still at the heart of the games. Here are the paddling events, people, and potential carnage to look out for.

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Narrow, drop-studded Homestake Creek falls 480 feet per mile off of Tennessee Pass. Paddlers race down a ¼ mile section and the rules are simple:…

Narrow, drop-studded Homestake Creek falls 480 feet per mile off of Tennessee Pass. Paddlers race down a ¼ mile section and the rules are simple: fastest time wins.

Contenders: Pay attention to strong creekers like Tao Berman, Rush Sturges, and Brad Ludden. On the women’s side, Teva-sponsored kayakers Nikki Kelly and Tanya Faux have historically been dominant.

Beta: If you get hungry during the race head to nearby Red Cliff for fish tacos at Mango’s Mountain Grill.

Held at the International Bridge right in the Vail village, the whitewater rodeo is one of the most exciting events to watch. Guys like Eric Jackson…

Held at the International Bridge right in the Vail village, the whitewater rodeo is one of the most exciting events to watch. Guys like Eric Jackson and Stephen Wright show off tricks that they invented, while teenage young guns proove just how big they can McNasty. Finals are Saturday at 4:15.

Contenders: The Jackson family is always a threat. Emily has won the women’s division of the event for the last six years in a row, and in the men’s department EJ, Dane, and Nick Troutman, her dad, brother, and husband respectively, are all strong competitors.

Beta: Try to get a spot upstream of the bridge for prime viewing. And keep an eye on stream flows. Rising river levels could mean that the event is cancelled.

Start with a passel of mass-started kayakers bombing down Gore Creek. Then add other kayakers staged in the course, dressed like 8 balls, with the…

Start with a passel of mass-started kayakers bombing down Gore Creek. Then add other kayakers staged in the course, dressed like 8 balls, with the intent to keep the racers from getting to the finish line. Mayhem, upside down kayaks, and general debauchery will ensue. 

Contenders: We’re going to call the field wide open on this one. 

Beta: Want to see more impressive kayaking? Go to a showing of the film “Kadoma,” the tragic story of Hendri Cotzee’s last trip down the Lukuga River. It’s hard to watch, but well worth it. 

Potentially the most carnage-heavy event of the games, the raft race sends three-team waves of rafts down a short, narrow section of Gore Creek.…

Potentially the most carnage-heavy event of the games, the raft race sends three-team waves of rafts down a short, narrow section of Gore Creek. Ramming, verbal abuse, and sabotage are all encouraged. First one down with everyone in the boat wins.

Contender: The national rafting teams are based in Vail, so any of their paddlers could finish strong. But, in the junk show that is the raft race, wily local raft guides, like Lakota Guides owner John Selig, can have the upper hand.

Beta: Need food to fuel your raft watching? Visit Pazzos, right down the road for pizza.

There are two stand up paddle events at this year’s games: a sprint race and a surf cross, an every-man-for-himself, mass start race. Contenders:…

There are two stand up paddle events at this year’s games: a sprint race and a surf cross, an every-man-for-himself, mass start race.

Contenders: U.S. Ski Teamer Steve Nyman is planning to compete. Also look for SUP power couple Nikki Gregg and Dan Gavere.

Beta: If you’re not ready to take on the river, C4 Watermen is putting on SUP demos in a pool in Gear Town.  

The Teva Mountain Ball aka Teva Prom is probably the only social event in the world where it’s acceptable to wear river sandals and an eighties prom…

The Teva Mountain Ball aka Teva Prom is probably the only social event in the world where it’s acceptable to wear river sandals and an eighties prom dress. That, in itself, makes it worth going to.

Contender: Everyone. Also, Brad Ludden.

Beta: If that sounds a little wild, there’s also a fundraiser at Vendettas on Friday for the Vail-based U.S. National rafting teams. Both the men’s and women’s teams recently earned the right to represent the Unites States in the IRF World Rafting Championships in Costa Rica this October.

Want to know more about the Teva Games? SKI’s got a run down of all of the events