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Disco, Poker and Scary Water

Sam Goff brings the party to the Payette (and the Boise)


When Sam Goff closes his eyes, he dreams of water. Not languid waters of meditation, but class IV and V rapids with frothing waves and crashing holes. It's not just himself that Goff thinks about on the river, however. He wants as many folks as possible involved in his whitewater dream, and he's making that dream a reality with an event called the Payette-Boise River Revival, or PBR Revival for short.

The first thing that gets most people's attention is the name, or more specifically, the acronym. A favorite beer among river enthusiasts also makes for a catchy event name. Goff explains, "We wanted something that was memorable and easily identified. The 'PBR' stands for the Payette-Boise Rivers. Hopefully, when the Boise Whitewater Park is built we can use it [and the Boise River] for freestyle venues and weekly boater cross races--incorporating both rivers into one single event."

This is not Goff's first foray into putting on a whitewater event. He organized the Boise County Throwdown a few years ago. "There hasn't been a whitewater event on the Payette river system in three years. There was some talk to put one together last year, but it didn't come to fruition," says Goff. "Since the last event I organized, I have had people ask every year when another event would be produced ... these were encouraging questions."

Goff took the encouraging questions and, together with the help of his friend Billy Driscoll, came up with the PBR Revival.

"The event was established to help raise money and awareness for the Boise Whitewater Park Project. We have put together an event that is broad and appealing to all whitewater enthusiasts, such as rafters, kayakers and river boarders," says Goff.

The PBR Revival spans three days. One of the most unique competitions of those three days is the first event of the PBR Revival, the Friday "Night Disco Rodeo." Picture accomplished kayakers spinning and flipping on a glassy wave with a DJ spinning vinyl and a mirror ball providing extra ambience. It's a competition that Goff first came up with for the Boise County Throwdown. Goff explains, "Well, this idea was a brain-child of my early 20s. The idea came as a challenge to have a freestyle event at night, with a disco-tech theme." Goff continues with a smile, "So, we got some lights, loud speakers, costumes and partied until we crowned a winner with the 'Night Disco Rodeo,' WWF-style title belt. The winner gets [his or her] name engraved on it ... pretty cool, huh?"

The disco event is just one in a weekend of competitions scheduled to take place. Saturday kicks off with a "Downriver Marathon Race"--a kayak race down the canyon section of the South Fork. That part of the river is riddled with more than a dozen class IV rapids (note: rapids are classified on a scale of I to VI--picture class I as flatwater and class VI as a giant, scary waterfall) and a mandatory class VI portage at Big Falls. It's a race that will undoubtedly be a show of endurance for competitors.

Immediately following the marathon kayak race is the Idaho Whitewater Association sponsored "Poker Run." The event is designed for folks who want to get out and enjoy the river with friends--rather than grit their teeth through the more challenging parts of the river. Rafters will float down the main fork of the Payette and, while on the river, be given playing cards. The winner of the event is the one with the best hand, not the first one to reach the end. Goff says it is going to be hard for folks to keep a "poker face" as they're dropping into some of the rapids.

For those looking to race rather than play cards, a rafting cross-race takes place at the bottom half of the South Fork right after the Poker Run. And that is one of the keys to the PBR event: Rather than focusing on kayakers only, the event also includes competitions for other river enthusiasts. Goff says it's been a bit of a challenge to shed the "kayaker only" image, but he knows it will happen eventually.

"It's hard to say how many people will participate," says Goff. "I would like to see 20 raft teams. I have been promoting the Rafter Cross and IWA Poker Raft Run rather relentlessly because whitewater is loved by [everyone] who navigates it."

Saturday wraps up with a film festival and party in Crouch. The band Buckskin Bible Review will perform and there will be a showing of Rapid Media's Reel Paddling Film Festival World Tour. But, believe it or not, the party is not the pinnacle of the PBR Revival.

On Sunday, the most challenging competition of the weekend occurs: a kayak race down the North Fork of the Payette. The kayak race down one of the most challenging sections of whitewater in the world is destined to draw not only some of the premier kayakers in the Northwest, but also plenty of folks whooping and hollering on the sidelines. The winner of that race gets some pretty major bragging rights for the whole year.

Goff hopes the PBR event has staying power, but he knows it's going to take some work. When asked about the future of the PBR event, Goff responds, "I should be thinking about next year's event? Yikes!" After some contemplation, Goff continues, "Staying communicative with our sponsors--the backbone to our event--the whitewater community at large, and having a good plan coupled with solid documentation is a good starting point. Also, getting as many people involved [this year] will help carry the event from year to year."

In the future Goff hopes to incorporate the Boise Whitewater Park venue and have a series that connects a summer-long event. It's work Goff is passionate about, pointing out that Idaho is the often called the "Whitewater State." With over 3,000 miles of the churning, swirling water in Idaho, there's quite a playground out there, and Goff is calling everyone out to play.

June 1-3, Horseshoe Bend, Banks and Crouch, Idaho. For more information or to register for the events, visit