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,” said Bryant, 45, of Medford, Ore.
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. 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 water sport a run for its money,” Bryant said.
Still, only a handful of riverboarders sprinkled around the Pacific Northwest have taken 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 said.
Bryant would like to raise the sport’s profile by getting a representative from the Guinness Book of World Records at his riverboarding playground to verify world records in dozens of trick categories.
Riders from throughout the Northwest would attend.
But Bryant, a landscaper by day, hasn’t been able to raise the $700 needed 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 said.
Bryant’s son, 20-year-old Andy Bryant of Medford, likely would steal the show.
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 5- to 10-minute stints on his board.
If riverboarding were snowboarding, Andy Bryant would be the Flying Tomato (Shaun White) of his sport. But it’s not, so he’s not.
Bryant sells riverboarding set-ups 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. Then it’ll be on to the X Games, eventually to the Olympics, Bryant says.
And film crews will venture back to the Modoc Hole at Denman Wildlife Area.
“I’ve literally driven tens of thousands of miles promoting this sport, and my journey’s not over,” he said. “It’ll happen. You’ll see.”
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