River Surfers, Kayakers Brave High River Levels - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

River Surfers, Kayakers Brave High River Levels

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MISSOULA - Many western Montana river levels are still increasing, creating hazardous situations for people eager to get out on the water.

However, sketchy conditions out on the water aren't stopping one group of avid river recreators.

"For most people, you know, the general thought is to stay away from the river," said co-owner of Strongwater, Luke Rieker.

But high and fast waters actually encourage many river kayakers and surfers to dive on in.

"They're roller coaster rides, they're actually safer this time of year in some spots, because they're deeper," Rieker said.

Rieker said a crew of about 30 very experienced river rats hit the river year-round, even during flood conditions. However, Rieker said they've got to take some precautions.

"You've got to always keep your eyes upstream, and before you get in the water, you're looking for, you know, those hazards coming downstream," he explained.

Hazards can include hidden sinker logs floating about a foot underwater.

"And they kind of just rise and dip, just like a dolphin would, but a 2,000-pound dolphin coming straight at you," Rieker said.

Rieker said river surfers also utilize the "buddy system."

"We always have somebody looking out for logs, and we have a system for calling out for that."

Destin Harrell, a 9-year kayaking veteran, said it's wise to start out small, mastering the basics before hitting the big stuff during high waters.

Harrell said, "The water gets a lot swirlier, the eddy lines are bigger, there's a lot of reverse currents and all of that is really hard to manage in a kayak."

Harrell said  while it's dangerous, the thrill makes it all worth it.

"The wave is nice and big and powerful, which lets you do more tricks," he said.

The Clark Fork River level is actually slowly dropping, but flood conditions are expected to return next week.
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