- Kelsey Hawes
When the Payette River Games started in 2013, it quickly grew to be one of the largest river sporting events in the country, attracting hundreds of athletes—kayakers, stand up paddleboarders and river surfers alike—and offering some of the largest purses worldwide.
In 2014, the games, which take over Kelly's Whitewater Park in Cascade for three days each June, offered a $100,000 in prize money for kayakers and SUPers.
In 2015, organizers decided to scale back, focusing on stand up paddleboarding only and nixing kayak events. The purse dropped to $50,000 and left the kayaking community feeling a mix of understanding and downright bitterness.
In 2016, there will be no Payette River Games.
According to a Facebook post by the Payette River Games, the event was "not successful in attracting a sufficient amount of financial sponsorship support to become self-sustaining. This has put the financial burden on us personally to underwrite the vast majority of the costs to operate the PRGs since its inception."
The "us personally" refers to Mark and Kristina Pickard, who started the games three years ago and built Kelly's Whitewater Park in 2010.
"The Payette River Games was initially established with the hope of creating an economic stimulus to Cascade, Idaho and promote the whitewater sports of SUP, kayak and surfing," the announcement said. The games drew 35,000 spectators in 2014 alone.
Organizers no longer want to be the "financial engine."
The announcement garnered several comments on Facebook, most expressing sadness and disappointment. One athlete wrote a heartfelt thank-you to the Pickards for all they had offered to the river community.
"My heart is broken with this news," wrote Derek Rabelo, a blind surfer from Brazil whom BW featured in June 2014. "I had a lot of great experiences at the event that I will never forget. I just want to say many thanks for being a part of that incredible event."
The announcement stated the Pickards will continue to build on Kelly's Whitewater Park, adding 90 acres to the already existing 10-acre park. Green space will replace what was once a lumber mill along the Payette River.