The Men Who Ride Mountains

Jen Koki and Kalani Vierra
go tandem

The late Israel Kamakawiwo’ole loved the ocean and sang about the “Men Who Ride Mountains.”

Top to bottom side to side Looking for the ultimate ride O the men who ride mountains

The slopes of Vail, Colo., certainly weren’t the mountains Bruddah Iz was singing about, but chances are he’d approve the reference if he saw what recently happened at the annual Teva Mountain Games. The four-day event is often considered “X-games of summer.”

C4 Waterman members showed folks in Vail what’s SUP

An estimated 50,000 mountain, whitewater and outdoor lovers got a taste of Hawaii and the sport of stand-up paddle surfing thanks to a team of some of Hawaii’s finest ocean athletes. Brian Keaulana, Bruce Raymond, Todd Bradley, Kalani Vierra, Archie Kalepa, Jen Koki, Noa Ginella and Liam Wilmott of C4 Waterman put on a series of SUP introductory events.

“The response was amazing,” says C4 co-founder Bradley. “Everyone was really interested because they obviously had seen the sport before and now they were able to try it.”

The Teva Mountain Games features 27 different events. The Hawaii contingent added several more to the list of challenges, including a down-river whitewater race, surf-cross and a series of exhibitions and free clinics. One of the highlights was a tandem demonstration by Vierra and Koki on a stationary wave at Glenwood Springs. It was the first time tandem surfing had ever been seen there.

The goal of the trip was to promote one of the world’s fastest growing sports – inland.

“Archie, Brian and I said let’s go mauka,” laughs Bradley. “We had been running rivers in Aspen for several years so why not contact the guys in Vail and take surfing to the mountains?”

According to Bradley, river flow was at the highest levels since 1972, creating great surfing conditions in the bone-chillingly cold, snow-fed whitewater of Gore Creek.

“Even though we’re big-wave surfers, it was kind of frightening because the river is so powerful,” admits Bradley. “The water is moving so fast, and it never lets you go. At least when you get pounded by a big wave it eventually lets you go. The river never stops, it wants to suck you into the pits.”

The raging river also pulled all types of debris.

“People along the shore were yelling, ‘Watch out for the log,'” says Bradley. “You can either dodge it or, if it’s too big, just fall off the back and hope you don’t hit a stick or get your wetsuit caught in a branch. We ride big waves, but this was scary.”

Two different groups of athletes from different parts of the country, but their lifestyles and passion are very similar.

“Their lives revolve around the mountains, like ours do with the ocean,” says Bradley. “And like us, they too have many ways to enjoy what nature has to offer. We gave them a taste of something new, and that’s rewarding.”

The men and women who climb, bike and hike the mountains of Vail may soon be riding them as well, Hawaiian-style.

Bruddah Iz would be proud.

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