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Bungee Surfing


After years as a computer programmer in a nice office with a window facing the Boise River, Robert Geier couldn't take it any longer. He gave his notice and cashed in his 401k to focus full-time on the populist revolution.

And right now, his revolution is rocketing me at roughly 40 mph up the Payette River, bouncing me across the surface, then pitching me skyward like a rag doll to land face-first in a beaten, bruised and gleeful tangle of my own limbs.

"Grab the cord," he offers from the riverbank. "Go again."

Even Surf Company is Geier's revolution. He wants to take surfing, previously isolated to coastal locations with good beaches and wave breaks--a relatively small group of elite destinations--and bring it to the masses by putting it on rivers.

Truthfully, when I met Geier at Boise Rec Fest, I wasn't entirely sure what I was getting myself into. The concept sounded interesting. No waves or boats required. Surfers tie a long bungee cord to the shore, attach it to the nose of their board, let the current pull them downstream until the cord is taut, then snap up and skim across the surface at dizzying speeds. Once it's slack, the cord automatically releases from Geier's patented catch, and a surfer is free to attempt spins, shove-its and other tricks. When the momentum lulls or a surfer catches an edge and eats it, they can grab the cord and reattach on the way back down, taking another run almost instantly.

Geier told me all about it. About how he got the idea from kids tying a plank to shore and river-surfing in a stationary position. About how Cascade Raft and Kayak started giving lessons. About how he's sold boards as far away as Russia and seen YouTube videos of people tearing up the rivers of the previously unknown surf paradise of Slovenia.

But fascinating as it was, I'm not fully prepared for the frothy rush of water in my mouth as I shoot forward, fingertips whitened by holding tight to a runaway demon, for the thrill of lurching upward like a baby's first step. It is panic paired with paradise and dropped in a dunk tank on a hot day while getting gut-punched. As I clamber from the water, a 10-year-old girl tells me how my weight distribution was off, that I needed to lean forward. She started at age 5 and is now an old pro.

Geier says he'd like to be as big as Quicksilver by getting kids to support a local surf company. He tells me about a spot on the Boise River near the Glenwood Bridge he thinks would make a good river boarding park as his friends and family shoot upriver and curious kayakers paddle closer to investigate. "Bungee-sniffers," Geier smiles.

Several gawkers from a barbecue amble over. They ask Geier most of the same starry-eyed questions I did. And then they ask the biggest question of all: "Can I give it a shot?"

"Sure," Geier says.

Now converted, I, too, welcome their patronage. But they can get in line. It's my turn.