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DSC_0087 DSC_0026Circling under an infinite cerulean sky, osprey peer down at the strange not-quite-prey below. A feast of color darts unpredictably in the water and along the banks of their river. A strange subspecies—surfer dude knock-offs—has invaded, bringing fans, camera’s and a phalanx of support in its wake.

Kelly’s Whitewater Park in mountain town of Cascade, Idaho has been in existence for only four years but has already drawn accolades from the national kayaking community. On this weekend of June 20 – 22, over 500 top-ranked athletes came prepared to duke it out for some pretty heady prizes in a host of river events at the Payette River Games.

Along with river surfing, Stand Up Paddling (SUP) has taken the rowdy whitewater crowd by storm. Initially trivialized as a flat water, urban, snoozer activity, whitewater aficionados have discovered that wet suits and tank tops are a lot sexier than tutu’s gone madly wrong in the form of kayak spray skirts.  In between events, competitors and soon-to-be competitors take turns practicing in waves of varying difficulty.DSC_0025DSC_0039DSC_0043DSC_0050There's an element of dance to this balancing act.                            There’s an element of dance to this balancing act.

DSC_0045Things can go well for only so long . . .

Things can go well for only so long . . .

DSC_0079The agony of de feet.

The agony of de feet.

The announcer clears the main wave for the coming herd of mens SUP sprinters who are just coming into view after a grueling half mile or more of flat water paddling. Strong leaders are well ahead of the pack, but things go wrong in a hurry as the athletes fight mad currents and riderless boards in the white water.DSC_0053Approaching in perfect form.                                        Approaching in perfect form.

Flawless entry.

Flawless entry.

But what's going on back here?

But what’s going on back here?

DSC_0065This is not looking good . .

This is not looking good . . .

 Survivors duke it out in the final hard sprint to the finish.

Survivors duke it out in the final hard sprint to the finish.

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All the while, drones compete with osprey for the best views.

DSC_0070Beaming it all back to command and control for live streaming.

Beaming it all back to command and control for live streaming.

Surfer dudes line up for their awards.

Surfer dudes line up for their awards.

DSC_0075DSC_0088Here come the women.

Here come the women.

These two are in a league of their own.

These two are in a league of their own.

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 She's down but not out!

She’s down but not out!

DSC_0097 DSC_0098Umm, what gives here?

Umm, what gives here?

Neck and neck as they approach the finish line.

Neck and neck as they approach the finish line.

Meanwhile, there's still a whole field of competitors.

Meanwhile, there’s still a whole field of competitors.

DSC_0114The winner gets the interview with mom looking on.

The winner gets the interview with mom looking on.

Soon these kayaks will devour the lower half of the kayakers' sexy bodies.

Soon these kayaks will devour the lower half of the kayakers’ sexy bodies.

DSC_0088DSC_0124There’s really something for everyone during the Payette River Games. Even river dogs get to compete. Who needs a beach when you’ve got pristine white water corralled by beautiful mountains?