During one of the wettest springs in Colorado history, the rain kept falling in Durango. One day in June, marble size hail crashed down in sheets, thunder clapped across the valley and lightning started a house on fire.
Kent Goring grabbed his board and went for the river.
River boarding is on the fringe of whitewater sports– think body boarding in the grips of a gushing torrent, not the breaking waves of a shoreline.
Goring lives in Southwest Colorado, a long way from the Pacific Ocean shores where he was raised, and he brought his body board to the Rocky Mountains.
“I grew up body boarding on Oahu,” he said, his words dampened by the roaring waves at the Santa Rita Whitewater Park a few feet away. “I was born in Hawaii, so this is like an endless Waimea shore break right now.”
Goring hastily geared up- flippers, wet suit, helmet. He was driven. Focused.
“I’m nervous as hell,” he said before dunking himself in the eddy near Ponderosa Rapid. “I’ve been out everyday- went out yesterday but it’s up like 1,500 feet. I’m sure the hydraulics are pretty good.”
Kelly Emery, another river boarder stood by stoically, studying the breaking wave. He said when the river is at high water, it’s just like the ocean.
Goring went for it, almost disappearing in the river’s chaos. In fact at times he was gone, then reappearing, shaking the foam from his face and recapturing his rhythm – riding a enormous hydraulic jump like a cowboy rides a bull.
Only a few people were in the water. Goring’s daughter stood by among the hundred others that came down to see the river’s force- just standing at the edge of the water’s fury was show enough, and to see someone venture into brought a standing ovation.
Walking the rocky shoreline back to the eddy to put in again, Goring said the water was huge.
“I try to be out there longer but I get nervous,” he said, “You can feel it start to suck you in, and I just want to bail.”
He took a long look at the wave, stretched his back and went out for more.