Colorado may be landlocked, but the state still offers plenty of water adventure. Two years ago, Stand Up Paddle Colorado founders Scotty Stoughton and Javier Placer set off on a journey to SUP the entire Grand Canyon from Lee’s Ferry to Lake Mead. While on the river, they began to conceive of a way to try and offer similar transformational experiences in remote canyons that possibly were less daunting or committed as the three week endeavor they were on. They were convinced that as the reaches of the sport continued to push boundaries and people became more enthralled and comfortable in rivers, raft supported SUP multi-days could become its own niche.
More than just a river outfitter SUP
Stand Up Paddle Colorado (SUPCO) was founded during the SUP genesis in the Rocky Mountains. Javier Placer had been one of the handful of pioneers in the Arkansas River Valley that were starting to push the whitewater portion of SUP. While guiding as a commercial river guide, he would spend his afternoons and time off charging the sections he knew well and seeing what was possible.
In 2009, Placer acquired the permit from Gore Canyon to State Bridge on the Upper Colorado River, and SUPCO still has it. He saw the Class 2 sections from Pumphouse to State Bridge as a perfect instructional and friendly section that had all the ideal flow and features perfect for downriver SUP outfitting.
In 2011 Javier Placer met musician, event producer and fellow paddler Scotty Stoughton while the company based itself in the resurrected riverside music venue State Bridge. While there he also met other SUP river chargers in the Vail Valley Joey Saputo and Craig Yarde.
“Out of many paddle sessions, the result was a perfect mixture of camaraderie, experience, muscle, connections and capital to attempt the first SUP focused outfitter in the state. Going on nine years now, SUPCO has evolved to more than just a river outfitter,” Placer explains. “With hubs in Dillon at the Dillon Marina and Nottingham Lake in Avon, we offer instructional and rental services with top caliber personnel and equipment. The unique three waterfront locations that SUPCO has had over the last four summers has made it a top resource for visitors, as well as an outlet for local camps, schools, families and community functions.”
Stand Up Paddle Colorado has created and coined the phrase the Family River Adventure for its multi disciplinary excursion on the Colorado River. Possibly one of the most inclusive water adventures you could do in the state, there is literally a place for everyone on the trip from two years old to 100-plus years old. With three different crafts to pick from: SUP, SUPsquatch (the giant family SUP) and rafting, there really is something for the thrill seeker and the tame of heart.
On the lakes, Lake Dillon is a world renowned sailing lake with unpredictable wind patterns and gusts that create white caps and small waves. With SUPCO’s 22-foot pontoon boat, they have created Rocky Mountain downwinders where they drop you off in a protected cove and then you paddle out of cover and ride the wind and micro swell on 14-foot performance boards. It’s a way to literally go surfing on a lake at over 9,000 feetin elevation.
To liven things up at Nottingham Lake in Avon, SUPCO purchased the only SUP Polo field and kit in the state.
“It’s one of the most fun activities you can do on a calm lake,” Placer says. “We found in our first years operating there that given the opportunity, most kids and teens wanted to paddle into each other and try to knock each other off the boards. When we found an inflatable field with goals that could contain six to eight people while they played a combination of lacrosse and water polo, we knew we were onto something fun and unique.”
The water “field” has been a hit for locals, wedding groups, bachelorette and bachelor parties as well camps and corporate groups.
Intimate with the natural world
Last year, Placer and his partners acquired Adrift Adventures Dinosaur.
“At Adrift, we have really been trying to think outside the box of traditional outfitting,” he said. “We are really trying to cultivate unique experiences and partner with yogis, chefs, musicians, NPO’s, schools and well known athletes to create specialty trips in these majestic canyons that are transformational.”
Adrift was the “missing piece,” Placer says.
“As far as mere progression goes, it’s the equivalent of taking someone from bunny slopes to double black diamonds,” he explains. “Adrift will always be first and foremost a rafting outfitter as it has been since the 1970s. Our twist on it though, definitely has a lot more SUP offerings. The rafts offer amazing support and the option for guests to rest or pass on a rapid if its too heavy for their comfort level.”
Placer says they are working in partnership with the Park Service in Dinosaur National Monument to create the safety protocols and equipment specifications for commercial SUP guiding on the Yampa and Green Rivers.
“We really feel like the canyons and rivers we provide access too are some of the best in the west,” Placer shares. “With limited launches and a max group of 25 people, you can’t help but feel intimate with the natural world you enter and the group you are sharing time with.”
These trips are what make lasting memories, Placer says, and the canyons and the river will leave an indelible impression on you.
Learn more at www.standuppaddlecolorado.com+ www.adrift.com, and check out the CO YOGA + Life® Magazine Adrift trip in August 2018.
Photos courtesy of Adrift and Philip Robinson.
Originally published in the Summer + Fall 2018 issue.