Hala Enthusiasts Unite!

Finding a group of passionate whitewater SUP enthusiasts is a great way to improve your skills and discover new rivers while staying safe. Last Fall, I met up with fellow Hala Ambassador Davide Sartoni and his crew on The South Fork of the American River! It was an absolute blast!

Reaching Out

Summer was winding down, and we were headed to the California coast.  Dropping down from Idaho, we stopped in Truckee for a few days, swam in Lake Tahoe, and hiked around Donner Pass. Then we headed to Camp Lotus, right on the banks of the South Fork of The American River in Lotus, California. We recommend it if you want a nice place to stay with easy river access. 

We had reached out to Davide prior to planning our trip, and he let us know that the South Fork of the American is a must-paddle river.  When we got to the area, we were thrilled to find out that he and his friends would be on the river that weekend and they kindly invited us to join them!  Diane Whitehouse organized the gathering and made plans for shuttles. 

South Fork of the American

Part of the group ran the Coloma to Greenwood Creek section (C to G), which is 5.5 miles of Class 2 whitewater. Part of the group continued on to run The Gorge section, which is 9 miles and contains Class 2 and Class 3 rapids.  We participated in both sections and were glad we did!  

The South Fork of The American River is absolutely beautiful.  The river and the surroundings are gorgeous and awe-inspiring.  This river runs several days of the week all year round and draws many Californians and visiting tourists to enjoy it.

Trying New Things

In our travels, as we check out different rivers, it is usually just myself or my husband and I on our Stand Up Paddle Boards going down the river. Having a group around us was such an incredible experience. We immediately bonded around our passion for whitewater paddleboarding and Hala Paddleboards.  

Traveling down the river with this group I felt inspired to try new things and had fun following the creative lines they had come up with to wind through the features of the river.  In spots where I might normally follow the main tongue, they encouraged me to try taking a plunge down a short, narrow drop followed by a quick turn. I felt my paddling skills improving in just a few hours time.  

We stopped at Barking Dog Wave, and I watched as many people in the group successfully surfed on their Hala boards.  I had fun making several attempts and staying on the wave briefly before we shoved off and continued downriver.  

In The Gorge, there were several challenging Class 3+ rapids.  It was so nice to get the low down prior to the approach and be able to follow someone ahead of me.  They also knew all of the sneak lines so one could take a more conservative line when desired.

Safety in Numbers

I was very impressed with the river safety displayed by the group.  They did a great job communicating with one another, and we discussed our plan ahead of time if certain scenarios were to unfold.  

They had SUP-specific whitewater safety training that they shared with me, such as how best to swim and get back on your board and how to rescue a swimmer with your paddle board. 

I am so stoked to realize that there are communities like this.  Wonderful people who enjoy whitewater paddleboarding and are progressing the sport while also encouraging newcomers and organizing group trips.

We’ll Be Back!

I can’t wait to return to The South Fork of The American River.  I will go for another paddle with new friends and see what they have been learning and innovating on their Hala boards with their year-round access to an amazing river.  

We still need to run the Chili Bar section, which we did not get to do on this last trip. Thank you to everyone who came out and SUPed with us.  It was truly a motivating and inspiring experience that I will always remember.


Emily Barnes discovered SUP 13 years ago as a way to cope with drug and alcohol addiction. She has since tried whitewater SUP, ocean surfing, and has even explored bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico, surfed in Mexico, and dropped waterfalls in California.

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