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Upper Yough Downriver Rodeo 2023

2023 marked the first official Upper Yough Downriver Rodeo. When I heard about this event, I knew I needed to make a strong effort to be there. It sounded right up my alley. The Upper Yough is one of my all-time favorite sections of river. It has, and always will, hold a special place in my heart. The Yough holds so much significance to my wife and I, that our first born child is named after the Youghiogheny.

I first paddled the Upper Yough in the early 2000’s. At that time it was very popular to run the river in a play boat. I grew up playing my way down the Upper Yough. I was always looking for a new rock to splat, wave or hole to surf, eddy line to play, or any other river feature I could use for a trick. I noticed downriver play boating on that river decreased in popularity for a while but has been gaining really great momentum again over the last 5-10 years.

I had an absolute blast competing in the Upper Yough Downriver Rodeo. It was a true joy to play boat my way down one of my favorite rivers with a bunch of other paddlers who were stoked to be doing the same thing. The positive vibes and high stoke level were one of my favorite parts. Everyone was excited to watch and cheer each other on. It felt low stress, and high fun.

There was a diverse crowd of participants. It was really awesome to see solid junior and women’s classes out there representing.

The competition was held in 4 different rapids with a freestyle-through-the-rapid style where anything you do from point A to point B counts within your allotted time for your “run”. It was really cool to watch the variety of approaches and different moves and features used by different paddlers.

During the rodeo, I enjoyed getting creative and using as many different features as I could and trying to keep the tricks coming as quickly as possible before my time expired. Being the first year for the rodeo, I wasn’t sure what to expect with regards to scoring and results. I had a blast competing and playing my way down the river with a bunch of my friends and other stoked paddlers. Added bonus at the end of the day when I found out I had taken the overall win!

I am so happy to see this event take-off and hope to see it returning as an annual rodeo. Thanks to the organizers and volunteers who made it happen. And thanks to the companies that contributed prizes. And, as always, thanks to my amazing wife for continued support to make it possible for me to still do things like this while raising 2 young children (2 kids under 2 years old at the time of this rodeo).

Here is a highlight video from the rodeo:

And a video of my tricks in “Meat Cleaver” Rapid (1 of the 4 rapids used in the rodeo)

Cheers and happy paddling!

IG @sethc1