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Banshee River surfing

A new sport launches, and Boise is ground zero

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It has been called "the place where surfing meets bungee jumping," and is the brainchild of Robert Geier of Boise-based company Banshee Riverboards.

Banshee uses an exclusive skim board design and bungee system, which gives new life to an old Northwest dream. This company is at the apex of a movement to make riverboarding a legitimate competitive sport.

People have been trying to surf the river for many years-usually on a big piece of plywood tied to a tree. Geier wanted something more versatile that young and old could share while still meeting safety concerns. He met Kevin Veon a few years ago in a business management class at Boise State. Their assignment was to come up with a marketing idea based upon an old concept. Both men had been building and riding riverboards since they were youngsters. "I could see that Robert had a great idea," said Veon. In fact, when the two men graduated, they decided to take the project to the next level. Banshee Riverboards was created, the first company to produce composite riverboards, related systems and products.

Denny Moony of Cascade River Rafting Adventures was at the Payette River for the recent National River Board Freestyle Competition and Demo in June. "I tried the Banshee Board for the first time on Saturday and I think this is something that could be a blast. We are the first local store to carry their products." Moony pointed out that riverboarding is currently illegal from Barber Park to Ann Morrison Park (ordinance J 5399). "This is understandable because it can get so congested on that stretch," Moony said. But it is legal everywhere else on the Boise and on the other rivers in the area. A proposed Whitewater Park planned for the Boise River right behind the Clock Tower Apartments may be just what the sport needs. Kayakers call this stretch the 36th Street Playways, and when completed, the project will include a riverboarding section.

The Banshee system is attached to anything stationary and without shuttling, you can ride all day in the same place. You simply let the current push you down stream by holding the board vertical, then when you have reached maximum stretch, you plane the board flat to the surface. A bungee at full stretch can propel a rider near 30 miles per hour, allowing for serious shredding. The handle and ripcord chute help to keep the board from floating or flying dangerously away if you fall.

"Today will be my first try," said Geri Lynn McElheney of Boise during a recent day on the river. "But I'm game. These guys have made it really safe. I mean, 6-year-olds are doing this!"

Seth Evenson of Minnesota moved here to attend classes at Boise State. "I've always been in the water," he said. "we have 10,000 lakes there. We have a lot of rivers too, but I've never seen this before." About nine months ago, Seth met up with Robert and has been riding for three months. "At first I just watched it, over and over and over. But once we started getting water in the Boise, I started riding."

Seth offered this advice to Geri and anyone new: "Stay low. Safety is a big thing with these guys. Get used to it; don't try to be a stud right away. Just like any other sport, you've got to practice. Start small."

Last year, Banshee attracted the attention of the National Riverboarding Association of southern Oregon and a group of hot-dog River Surfers from Washington called the Yakima Canyon Radboarders (their members reach speeds of 50 mph). These groups sent their best riders to the Payette recently for the First National Riverboard Competition, a show of river surfing unity that is unparalleled. "We are a close-knit group, always watching each other's backs. And, we are very impressed with what Banshee has produced," said Steve Bateman of Yakima Canyon Radboarders.

Dan Bryant, president of the National Riverboard Association added, "There are far more people who live along or near a river, than live near ocean surf. We know that there are other river surfers out there who we want to make contact with. Things are happening fast in this sport, and Banshee has produced the first marketable, shelf-ready products of a very high quality. All the new innovations have allowed river surfers to do things that we never dreamed of before. In a few years, kids will be doing stunts and tricks that we can't even imagine."

More demonstrations and events are scheduled around Boise this summer. In early July, Jackson Hole, Wyoming will host Banshee, NRBA and YCR together again-along with professional skim boarders from Florida for another "river party" where those interested can try out the Banshee Riverboard system. Contact Banshee Riversurfing, online at www.Bansheeriverboards.com.

Gordon Rich is an international freelance writer/teacher who lives in Boise.

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