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Charles City Challenge Whitewater Festival returns for 12th year May 31-June 2


Charles City Challenge Whitewater Festival returns for 12th year May 31-June 2
Klayton Perreault of Mount Vernon (right) takes a turn doing tricks in the standup paddleboard Surf Competition at last year’s 2023 Whitewater challenge Saturday. Perreault placed first in the mens division of the contest. The 2024 event will be held Friday to Sunday, May 31 to June 2. Press file photo by Bob Steenson
By Bob Steenson,

Paddlers and spectators will gather this coming weekend for the 12th annual Charles City Challenge Whitewater Festival, taking place May 31 to June 2.

The event draws kayakers and stand-up paddleboard (SUP) competitors from across Iowa and the Midwest, according to Ginger Williams, marketing and tourism coordinator for the Charles City Chamber of Commerce and Charles City Whitewater.

Scheduled events include a kayak rodeo, river surf competition, slalom cross and more.

“Open boating opportunities will allow river enthusiasts of all skill levels to experience the course,” Williams said.

Organizers decided to hold this year’s event a couple of weeks earlier than in past years, aiming for better water conditions, she said. With recent rains, that shouldn’t be a problem this coming weekend.

The event begins on Friday, May 31, with a practice day and several activities, including river surfing clinics for youth and adults, a “Reading Water” session and a river cleanup, Williams said.

The cleanup will be 2 to 4 p.m. in the Whitewater Park, and people are asked to bring their own garbage bags. There will be an unofficial contest with bragging rights for the best piece of trophy trash found, she said.

Registration for Whitewater events starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, June 1, at the band shell near the Charles City Public Library. A $35 participant fee covers event registration and entry into a prize drawing, and medals will be awarded to the top finishers.

“I am pumped for the Charles City Challenge!” said competitor Klayten Perreault, of Mount Vernon. “It’s a fun weekend where kayakers, surfers and more can enjoy the whitewater course like nowhere else.”

Perreault said he was “excited to share the weekend with my river family and friends!”

Paddling events are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday and will run consecutively until completion.

The Inflatable Float Fest is set to start at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Participants are invited to float inner tubes or other inflatable crafts through the whitewater course for fun. Chamber Cash prizes will be awarded to judges’ favorites.

The Float Fest is free to enter and open to the public, with onsite registration available on the day of the event.

Additional activities on Saturday include a scavenger hunt, hidden rocks and a BookWalk for kids. A deejay and food truck will be on site, along with several whitewater-related vendors.

Sunday, June 2, features an open “Sunday Funday” paddling day for all interested to enjoy the course.

Charles City Whitewater at Riverfront Park opened in 2011 and encompasses 11 acres of water with three world-class whitewater features. The Charles City Challenge is a function of Charles City Whitewater in conjunction with the Charles City Area Chamber of Commerce, Williams said.

It is sponsored in part by Circle K Communications; CUSB Bank; Edward Jones-Jeremy Heyer, Jessie Schultz, Mark Sindlinger; Fidelity Bank & Trust; First Citizens Bank; First Security Bank & Trust; Larry Pump-CPA; Mike Molstead Motors; Quality Auto Service; Subway; Tellurian Brewing; and Winnebago Industries.

For registration forms and more information, including rules for competitive events, visit, contact the Charles City Area Chamber of Commerce at (641) 228-4234, or email

2024 Charles City Challenge Schedule of Events


Practice day – all welcome.

  • Noon-2 p.m. – Grom (youth) River Surf Clinic with Rob Pittman & Crew.
  • 2-3 p.m. – Reading Water with Carl Neubauer.
  • 2-4 p.m. – River Cleanup at the Whitewater Park.
  • 4-6 p.m. – River Surf Clinic with Rob Pittman & Crew.
  • 5-9 p.m. – Party in the Park, downtown Central Park.


  • 9 a.m. – Onsite registration.
  • 9:50 a.m. – Mandatory meeting for in-river participants.
  • 10 a.m. – Kayak Rodeo – Vertical Monkeys & Surf Machines.
  • 11:30 a.m. – Surf Comp – Prone and SUP.
  • 12:30 p.m. – Inflatable Float Fest.
  • 1 p.m. – River Runner Quad Slalom Cross, Downriver Dual Slalom SUP Cross.
  • 2:30 p.m. – Balls to the Wall Race.
  • 3 p.m. – Awards/Prize Giveaway.
  • 5-7 p.m. – Supper Social at Tellurian Brewing.

Additional Saturday Events

  • Paws Along The Cedar 5K – 5K or 1-mile walk/run along the Cedar River sponsored by PAWS Humane Society. Register at Tellurian Brewing beginning at 7:30 a.m.; 5K begins at 8:30 a.m.

Kids Activities All Day Saturday

  • BookWalk – Walk the trail to read the posted story. Return forms to the activity tent to receive a free gift.
  • CCWW Rocks – Multiple rocks are hidden around the riverfront area. Find one and return to the activity tent to receive a free gift.
  • Scavenger Hunt – Kids can stop by the activity tent to pick up a scavenger hunt form, then answer the questions and return to receive a special prize.


  • Sunday Funday! Course open to recreational use by all.
Charles City Challenge Whitewater Festival returns for 12th year May 31-June 2
Competitors take off from a beach start in a mens Boater X competition at last year’s 2023 Charles City Challenge Whitewater Festival. The kayakers go through the first whitewater feature then have to tap a floating marker on each side of the feature, then repeat the exercise at the next feature, then race to the finish. Press file photo by Bob Steenson
Charles City Challenge Whitewater Festival returns for 12th year May 31-June 2
Teams start out on the Hooligan Run for anything that floats – except for actual watercraft – at last year’s 2023 Charles City Whitewater Challenge. Press file photo by Bob Steenson

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