A small, but enthusiastic group of boaters entered the river races at the 2022 Ridgway RiverFest on June 25. The winners of all race categories won a limited edition 2022 Ridgway RiverFest award, handcrafted by Ridgway artist Joanne Taplin and donated by Canyon Bridge. See our winners list below and read the interview with the Junk of the Unc Champions.
Hard-shell Boat Race Winners
1st place- William Krois
Inflatable Boat Race Winners
1st place- Chuck Heywood
2nd place- Rachel Moreno
Stand-up Paddleboard Race Winners
1st place- Scott Powers
2nd place- Ryan Stefas
3rd place- Jason Burnell
Rubber Ducky Race Winner
1st place- Kim Mitchell, Prize: Ridgway Lodge Stay & Soak Package
Junk of the Unc Winners
1st place- Wick family with “USS BOat-ly” made of Oat-ly oat milk cartons, Special Prize for best reuse of materials: HALA Carbon LeverLock Adjustable SUP Paddle donated by Marisa Murphy
2nd place- Orion Krois with “BRUTE by faberge” made out of trash cans and recycling bins
3rd place- Amanda Gabrielson with “F/V Let’s get Radical” (F/V = Floating Vessel) made out of old 5-gallon water jugs from Montrose Water Factory, an old kid’s sled and a paddle made in 1995 and used during the Ocean to Ocean Cayuco Race in Panama
Interview with the 2022 Junk of the Unc Champions
Nate Wick and his children, 13-year-old Sunny and 11-year-old Dory, impressed festivalgoers and judges alike with their style and skills on the Uncompahgre River at the 2022 Ridgway RiverFest on June 25. During the week after their achievement, the three champions shared their competitive strategy with their three-person, homemade watercraft and tips for future Junk of the Unc-ers.
What was your inspiration for your Junk?
Nate: My inspiration was watching last year’s race and saying, “I need to build a boat!” Both kids wanted to do it but there was an argument about who could ride in the boat, so we just built it big enough for all three of us to ride.
(Editor’s note: Most Junks can only carry one or two people, though the most ambitious competitors have three or four riders.)
Please tell me about the Oat-ly oat milk cartons that you constructed your Junk from.
Dory: We collected a ton in our living room!
Nate: It took 164 cartons to build, but we saved hundreds. We use so many of them at Cimmaron Coffee & Books (the Wick’s family business). I thought these things can float great, and I could see that I could easily build a boat.
Dory: We cut off the caps and taped over the holes so no water could get inside. Then we stuck two together and taped them with clear packing tape. We cut boards of different lengths and taped them together
Nate: It took three rolls of packing tape, one roll of duct tape, and one can of spray foam to fill the cracks.
How long did it take to build?
I remembered that RiverFest was coming up on Saturday on the Tuesday before the festival, and we started building on the Wednesday before the race. It took about eight hours.
How much did you spend on supplies, since the reused cartons were basically free?
Nate: We spent a total of $45. We bought a roll of really good Gorilla tape. Ridgway Hardware gave us broken foam insulation pieces, and Jim Courson (a Junk competitor in 2021 and a champion in 2019) gave us leftover plywood from one of his projects.
Did you do a practice run on the river before RiverFest?
Nate: No, the bottom was taped and we didn’t know if it would stay on after getting wet once.
Had you floated on the Uncompahgre River before?
Nate: Yes, on inflatable kayaks and standup paddleboards.
What was your racing technique?
Dory: One bucket of water ended up in the back of the boat and it started to leak.
Sunny: We had a rocky start.
Dory: Sunny and dad had paddles made out of broken pieces of wood and paint buckets.
Sunny: I would have to jam the paddle into rocks and push us away.
Dory: Anytime Sunny pushed away, I would lean on the other side of the boat.
Sunny: It had a flat bottom so it was pretty tippy. I failed to get in the boat right, fell over and broke one of the supports. I was stuck backwards on my back with my feet in the air.
Were you scared at all about falling into the river?
Dory: We got stuck on the little waterfall. Someone ran out and pushed us.
Sunny: We only hit the bottom of the river once or twice.
Nate: We bumped into the riverbanks in the areas where the water was flowing fast. We were leaning and pushing off the edges of the banks. To avoid hitting other objects in the water, we steered right into the bank. At the end, we ferried right into the bank.
Sunny: We were pretty behind when we first started, but then got ahead and were so far ahead when we went around the bend that we couldn’t see the other competitors.
Do you plan to compete in the Junk of the Unc next year?
Nate: Sunny and Dory will compete next year with two friends who are siblings.
Dory: Me and Sammy are lighter so we could be faster. I’ve thought about how to slant the sides and make our boat more buoyant.
Do you have advice for anyone who might consider building and racing a Junk of the Unc?
Dory: Do it! It’s super fun. You kind of have to think about your boat and if it will balance and if it will go fast and if it will float. You need: velocity, balance and buoyancy.
Sunny: Do it because it’s fun.
Nate: You don’t have to spend as much time on it as you think. It’s really just about the fun of it. I challenge anyone to try it. It’s so fun, and the more competition, the better. Don’t do it because you need to win – be creative.
Sunny: If you are racing just for the prize and award, it’s not worth the time that you put into it. But doing it is super fun, which is way better than the prize.
Dory: It was just fun and that was the whole point.
Nate: I want more people to enter but they should know right up front that the Wicks are going to win again. You should try it but be ready to lose!