Payette River Games serve up whitewater’s biggest purse

The Payette River Games will take place at Kelly's Whitewater Park, which is considered one of the most progressive venues in North America. Photo courtesy Mike Leed Photography/Payette River Games
The Payette River Games will take place at Kelly’s Whitewater Park, which is considered one of the most progressive venues in North America. Photo courtesy Mike Leed Photography/Payette River Games

Don't be surprised if your local rivers are a tad empty of their better boaters the weekend of June 20–22. Chances are anyone worth their weight in water will be making their way to Kelly's Whitewater Park on the Payette River in Cascade, Idaho, for the 2014 Payette River Games, whose $100,000 cash purse makes it the most lucrative river competition in the world.

"We have a great lineup of events that will be happening this year," says organizer Mark Pickard. "It's going to be even bigger and better than last year, and last year was pretty epic."

With more than $100,000 up for grabs over the weekend, most anyone who's anyone in the world of competitive whitewater will be there vying for top honors. The event offers cash prizes for everything from Boater X, Freestyle, and 8 Ball to an Expression Session. It even pays out for kids' events in junior and cadet classes. In all, the Games are dishing up a $50,000 prize purse for the kayaking events and another $50,000 for the standup paddleboarding events, marking the biggest paddlesports purse in history.

"Win all the kayaking events and you could walk away with $6,750," says Pickard. "Win all the SUP events also and the total could rise to $16,750."

Crowd on Sunday afternoon at the Payette River Games 2013; photo courtesy Mike Leed Photography/Payette River Games
Crowd on Sunday afternoon at the Payette River Games 2013; photo courtesy Mike Leed Photography/Payette River Games

For paddlers, that's a lot of shuttle money. And lest you're afraid of running head to head against three-time Whitewater Grand Prix winner Dane Jackson, the event also pays out all the way down to 10th place for men and women in Freestyle, Boater X, and a few SUP events.

As excited as they are about the purse, competitors are equally excited about the venue at Kelly's Whitewater Park, a manmade series of waves and holes on the upper North Fork of the Payette River. "It's one of the leading freestyle kayaking venues out there," says Pickard, adding that so far he has athletes from 30 states and 13 counties already coming.

Competitors agree. "This really is a great event on a fantastic feature at an amazing venue," says Clay Wright, who won the Men's Freestyle Kayak event in 2013.

The excitement also stems from the red carpet rolled out for competitors. As long as they're in the hunt, they can eat fresh, organic food at the Athletes Food Tent for free throughout the weekend. Organizers are also providing entrants with free camping, airport shuttles, T-shirts, live music, free beer from the Payette River Brewery, and free admission to the Roxy movie theater in town. Plus, every athlete gets entered to win an iPad 4.

The Payette River Games' $100,000 total prize purse will be split equally between kayaking and SUP events. Win 'em all and you could walk with more than $16,000. Photo courtesy Mike Leed Photography/Payette River Games
The Payette River Games’ $100,000 total prize purse will be split equally between kayaking and SUP events. Win ’em all and you could walk with more than $16,000. Photo courtesy Mike Leed Photography/Payette River Games

The event will also be streamed live all day Saturday and Sunday, including a great lineup of entertainment.

"Between the warm water, snow-capped mountains, roaring crowd, warm hospitality, organic food, and great music, we're attracting the best athletes in the world," says Pickard, adding that the event fits perfectly into the competition circuit, falling the weekend after the nearby North Fork Championships and two weeks after FIBark, Colorado's biggest whitewater event. "It's going to be [a] non-stop weekend of action sports, activities, and music with a lot of the top [competitors] taking part," he adds.

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