Not their first rodeo: Yampa River Festival regulars dazzle hundreds (with video)

The tube rodeo is one of the most anticipated events of the Yampa River Festival and features “the world’s most extreme athletes” according to the announcers. A small handful take on the challenge of riding an inner tube into Charlie’s Hole and riding the wave for as long as possible.

One of those who regularly does so, is Josh Burton

“This is my favorite holiday ever,” Burton said of the river festival.

Burton is a past champion, and his first attempt in the tube rodeo showed that. He popped into the wave backward, shifting his weight to keep himself from gliding right through. He popped up on his knees, then shifted to his side to give the crowd a wave.

Burton said he takes part in the wacky event because it’s a crowd favorite.

“It’s an opportunity that anybody can jump in and huck their meat into the hole and have a blast,” he said. “You can pull some tricks, give a little wave to the crowd. … My Dad told me if you do a cool thing on the river, it doesn’t count unless there’s a photo or a pretty girl sees it.”

He and his wife, Nadia, have taken part in the festival since 2009 and Josh’s participation is as wide as it is long, as he took part in multiple events.

The raft rodeo catapulted most participants into the chilly waters of the Yampa River at the 42nd annual Yampa River Festival on Saturday, June 4 , 2022, at Charlie's Hole.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Nadia was the first brave soul to jump into the Yampa on a tube. She blew through the wave the first time, but had an excellent second attempt, drawing whoops and cheers from the crowd as she surfed for seconds on end.

“I watch and learn and hope for the best,” she said.

The tube rodeo is one of the crowds favorites year in and year out at the annual Yampa River Festival on Saturday, June 4 at Charlie's Hole.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Her favorite event to take part in is anything with a stand-up paddleboard.

“It makes the river that much harder on a SUP. It’s the perfect course for a SUP event. I usually do both SUP events,” Nadia said. “Next year I’ll definitely do those again. It’s a wonderful event and a wonderful way to support Friends of the Yampa, which we love.”

Another river fest regular is Marty Smith. He won the Adam Mayo Fish Creek Kayak Race on Friday, June 3, and took part in nearly every other event including SUP cross. Smith made the finals and appeared to have earned his second-straight victory, but was later disqualified for not completing the first obstacle.

Josh Burton pushes up his goggles at the 42nd annual Yampa River Festival on Saturday, June 4, 2022, at Charlie's Hole.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Smith, who runs Mountain Sports Kayak School, is a kayaker through and through. He hadn’t been on a paddleboard since last year’s river festival. His favorite event is the kayak race, which this year, was named in honor of Adam Mayo, a longtime proponent of Friends of the Yampa who died in December.

“It’s great,” he said of the festival’s atmosphere. “Especially remembering Mayo, this year.”

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