An Oregon man has created a new water sport on the Rogue River and believes it will be the next big thing.
WHITE CITY, Ore. — Dan Bryant pushes his feet down on the funky piece of plywood, sinking into an upper Rogue River riffle exactly by design.
His hands grip rope handles as he floats downstream, triggering tension on the long bungee cord attaching his riverboard to the bank.
When the tension hits its climax, Bryant and his board shoot forward at close to 40 mph and he digs the corner of the board into the river to throw a roostertail splash forward.
“That was probably a 50-footer,” says Bryant, 45, of Medford, Ore.
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That’s also 10 points on the National River Board Association score sheet Bryant devised 21 years ago, but only a few family members watching from shore notice.
“It’s ultimately you and the water,” Bryant says. “Once you have it, it’s yours to do anything you wish.”
Bryant’s been selling that image of riverboarding for 30 years now. And for the life of him, he can’t believe more people involved in the water sports world haven’t bought in.
He’s still waiting for that one endorsement check, that one national demonstration, that one shot at showing adrenaline junkies now on skateboards, snowboards and water skis what riverboarding has to offer.
Bryant believes that’s all riverboarding needs to be the next hot X Games competition.
“Once people find this, come to this and legitimize it as a sport, it’ll give every watersport a run for its money,” Bryant says. “This could even be done on the Olympic level.”
Still, only a handful of riverboarders sprinkled around the Pacific Northwest have drunk Bryant’s Kool-Aid. In Europe, the sport’s mild popularity ranks higher than in the United States.
“It’s a sport trapped in this little niche,” he says.
A recent weekend was supposed to be a breakout time. Bryant planned to have a representative from the Guinness Book of World Records on hand at his riverboarding playground on the Denman Wildlife Area to verify world records in dozens of trick categories. But Bryant, a landscaper by day, couldn’t raise the money to get Guinness to town.
“If I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth instead of a shovel, it would be a lot further along,” he says.
Had it happened, many of those records likely would have fallen to Bryant’s son, 20-year-old Andy Bryant, of Medford.
Andy Bryant grew up on a riverboard, and his command of this craft is unmatched here.
He can do double and triple spins as the board hurtles forward through the riffle. Front flips, back flips, toe drags and full submersions are part of a repertoire he exhibits during five- to 10-minute stints on his board.
The Bryants set up shop on what they call the Modoc Hole at Denman regularly. They boarded for 21 straight days before the local Jackson County Fair. Their record is 57 straight days of boarding.
Bryant sells riverboarding setups for about $300. You get a bungee, a shore anchor and a board. He sells a small handful a year.
Bryant has produced safety guides, formed his association, led an expedition throughout the Northwest and set up satellite chapters throughout the region.
And one of these days, he says, someone will step up and the next thing you know riverboarding will be on cable television some Saturday morning.