Straight Talk | Ken Hoeve Paddles the Planet

Ken Hoeve lives the dream. Every day. The Florida native and surfer came to the state more than 20 years ago and soon sated his need for water and waves on Colorado rivers. He soon became an early adopter of downriver stand-up paddleboarding, relishing the thrill of surfing the state’s whitewater and standing waves. Hoeve has also thrived in the local business scene in Eagle County, operating a ground transportation limo company for the past 15 years and owning a share in Bonfire Brewing. But most people know him as the host of “Good Morning Vail” on local TV8 or as the emcee of kayak competitions at the GoPro Mountain Games. The Jackson Kayak team member’s social media feed is a treat, too, featuring plenty of paddle-mounted GoPro shots of him running rapids, gripping and grinning with fat trout he caught off his board, shredding Vail powder and simply enjoying the local community with which he has forged such a close connection. He took the time to talk to us about life on the water.

How did you end up getting into the downriver Stand-up paddleboard scene so early on? Why do you think SUP has taken off here in Colorado?

I grew up surfing and when I moved here, I missed the beach. And then, seven or eight years ago, when the first inflatable SUPs started to show up, it changed everything. I mean, I used to make fun of stand-up paddleboarding. You know, surfers don’t really like SUPs. But SurfTech was one of the first brands to come out with inflatables, the material and the ability to take it anywhere made it possible to start running rivers and I realized I liked this thing. SUPs also work well on river waves, better than surf boards often, since they are thicker and wider.

Is SUP still evolving?

The next big thing in the stand-up world is SUP fishing. With a SUP you are no longer stuck to shore, but you don’t have to worry about all the costs of a boat—a trailer, gas, insurance, maintenance. People don’t realize just how stable a SUP is, and it can cost less than $1,000. It’s inflatable. You can travel with it. You don’t need a boat ramp. It’s a fish slaying machine! And it’s a huge, growing market. Just think about how many people fish.


Has SUP washed up the sport of kayaking?

I think it’s good for it. Getting any more attention to rivers is a good thing. And stand-up is fun in class II and III water. It actually makes kayaking look easier. There are plenty of class IV and V runs that you have to do in a kayak. But class I and II are more fun on a SUP. Anything that gets someone on the water raises the sport. Even tubing. Did I just say that?

And do all those people on the water help advocate for conservation issues?

It certainly helps water issues. And an even better consequence is that all these communities are putting in whitewater parks and river parks. Look at Montrose! Montrose is a surf town now. It’s unbelievable. Look at Glenwood, Pueblo, Salida, Buena Vista. The new Eagle river park (see page 15) will be right on I-70, so people from New York or Kansas will stop and say, we can do this in our town back home, too. And all these parks and waves go hand-in-hand with water conservation issues. There are a lot of people who want to steal our water. Parks make that harder to do.

What are you most excited about at this year’s GoPro Mountain Games?

My buddy Daniel Riley lost his legs from the knee down in Afghanistan, and now he has prosthetics. He’s also a super-athletic dude. He’s going to compete in the SUP downriver race, without legs, and I think he’s going to do well. And you have to check out the Homestake Creek race outside Redcliffe on Thursday during the day. The best kayakers in the world are competing in this creek and you are standing 20 feet away. I mean, if you live in Colorado, you should come to the Mountain Games. Some of the best athletes in the world are there, yet anyone can compete.

What’s the key to a powerful Instagram feed?

It’s funny. At times, I wish I did not have to do social media at all. But people do not understand the marketing dollars involved. If you are an athlete, your sponsors can compare you to all of the other athletes out there and track how much social media traffic you get. If you want all the gear and all the travel, you have to play that game. You have to have one of the top rankings, whether you want to or not.

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