Payette River Games carve out international niche; continue this weekend

If Cascade needed another claim to fame, it has one: The top five women in the world in stand-up paddle-board racing will compete this weekend at the Payette River Games.

The fame is not solely limited to women.

“We’ll have 50 of the 100 top world-ranking racers here,” says Mark Picard, co-founder of the games and also their venue, Kelly’s Whitewater Park. It’s also the world’s largest purse: $50,000 in prize money. And to put a fine point on it, the money is divided equally between men and women.

“There is not gender equality in these sports yet,” says Picard — except at the games. “We’re proud of it. Women compete on same course, on the same river. Nothing’s changed except they’re in a women’s group.”

Most SUP races are held on oceans. Some on lakes. The Payette River Games are one of the few that are on a river. “This is ranked as one of the best in the world in stand-up paddle-board races.”

In 2013, the Payette River Games dropped kayak races to focus solely on paddle-board competition; 30,000-40,000 people are expected this weekend. The games continue Saturday, with championship finals on Sunday. For a full schedule of events, go to PayetteRiverGames.com.