For the urban wave hunters of Colorado, there is no such thing as an off-season.
Any time of year they can be found squeezing a session between work shifts, home life and the daily grind.
You can pick them out a mile away. They’re the only people wandering the streets of downtown Denver with wet hair, and wearing board shorts under their parkas in February. You’ll spot them changing into dress pants and blazers in the parking lot next to the South Platte River, which drains snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains and flows through the capital, heading north towards Nebraska.
Confluence Park, a 100-yard whitewater run in the core of downtown Denver, offers a dam-controlled course with decent drops and eddies for squirt practice and play boating—a prime play spot in the cold season and the perfect location for a pre-work session.
The run begins under the swooping roller coasters of the Elitch Gardens Theme Park and travels under the ornate Speer Boulevard Bridge into the park basin.
For regular Confluence kayaker and pro photographer Peter Holcombe, it’s all about the scenery. Bikers, skateboarders, runners, hula-hoopers and hand-holding couples on park benches wallpaper the unique river run.
“While you’re sitting in the eddy trying to catch your breath there’s always something to look at,” he says. “I’ve had old retired couples out on a walk start cheering for me.”
Holcombe says the park gives a new meaning to a ‘quick and dirty’ session.
“It’s never like a beautiful mountain stream,” he says. The run has been nicknamed Confluenza Park for the gutter runoff that makes it into the river—piles of dog poop from city gutters flow downstream and mountains of sudsy foam collect in the eddies. It doesn’t stop Holcombe from getting out on the water.
“It’s urban boating so that’s just how it is,” he says, joking that if anything his time at Confluence has made his immune system stronger.
Holcombe gladly puts up with the city runoff for the benefits of boating year-round…