GOLD HILL — At first, it looks like Dan Bryant is just floating slowly down the Rogue River on a sunny Saturday afternoon, but a closer look shows he's clinging to a bungee cord that's anchored to a tree on the bank, with the cord getting tighter by the second.
When the line stretches to the point of no more give, Bryant rises from the water and shoots back upstream on a large board that carves a foamy line through the current before the line goes slack, allowing Bryant and the board to sink back down. Bryant, 46, claims it's nothing impressive.
"The water is just weak," he says of the river stretch at the Gold Hill Sports Park. "The faster the water, the easier it is."
Weak or not, Bryant, a Medford landscaper, is hoping to show that the 200-plus miles of the Rogue are actually 200-plus miles of playground for the boat-free, fuel-free sport of riverboarding. In an endeavor that has lasted for two years so far, he is cataloging all the places to riverboard along the river's full length.
Although his pastime has been slow to catch on with watersports enthusiasts, he still believes it can become as mainstream as wakeboarding or water skiing. "It's the Lewis and Clark expedition of 2013," Bryant says of his latest attempt to raise the visibility of riverboarding. "It's a big endeavor. I really believe the world would appreciate it."
Bryant, who has been riverboarding for more than 30 years and created an organization called the National River Board Association, so far has found 22 pristine spots along the Rogue where riverboarding is a good fit, including stretches along Valley of the Rogue State Park and near Dodge Bridge.
The Big Windy Complex fire that had torched more than 24,000 acres as of Saturday put a temporary crimp in Bryant's quest, but he hopes to get back out there soon, riders in tow.
"What I'm trying to do is tell the world that this is so much fun, and here are all the places to go to do it," he says.
Garland Carson of Central Point, another fan of the sport, says riverboarding is low-maintenance and great for getting in shape.
"It's inexpensive," Carson says. "No boat, no gas required. It's all free energy."
While the sport's exposure remains limited, Bryant believes it's growing one baby step at a time. He's heard of other watersports fans giving it a try in Russia, Europe and Canada.
"This stuff is branching out all over the place," he says.
And he's evolving with it. He has started a Facebook page, and he's producing literature on safety and specific maneuvers to execute on a board.
"This is not the Dan Bryant Show," Bryant says. "The bottom line is we need more people knowing what this sport is."
To learn more, see Bryant's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/NRBA-National-River-Board-Association/476993045664046.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or email@example.com.