Slurf's up: Teens create a sport that's uniquely Kingston

KINGSTON – When the tide rises off Arness County Park, Kolby Waggoner and friends know the “slurf” is up.

Kingston isn’t blessed with high cresting waves, and extreme water sports are mostly limited to skimboarding, wakeboarding and the occasional kiteboarding.

But Kingston does have “the tube,” a concrete culvert that funnels tidewater from Apple Tree Cove, under South Kingston Road, and into the sprawling Arness Slough.

It was about four years ago that Waggoner, 17, and his older brother Blake discovered that by standing on a skimboard and holding onto a rope tied to a guardrail above, they could surf the flood tide as it rocketed out of the tube.

Since then, “slurfing” (slough surfing) has been Waggoner’s summer sport of choice and he’s been teaching it to anyone willing to learn. The thrill might not be the same as riding a breaker, but Waggoner says slurfing makes the most of what his hometown has to offer.

“It’s Kingston,” Waggoner said. “It’s what we’ve got.”

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon, as children splashed on the beach nearby, Waggoner and friends Devin Lewis and Derek Watson spent an hour watching the tide creep higher on the barnacle-lined sides of the tube.

When the water built from a trickle to a torrent, they fastened a wakeboarding tow rope to a guardrail on the slough side of the road and dangled its handle down into the stream. On one side of the tube, Waggoner leaned back in the water and positioned his feet on the skimboard, then used the rope to work his way into the current, with the bottom of the skimboard facing the tube. After floundering momentarily, he managed to haul himself upright and began surfing back and forth on the frothing tidewater.

Watson took a turn next and rode well for a few seconds before a lip of the board dipped under, sending him face-first into the stream.

“That’s the nastiest water I’ve ever swallowed,” he said, still clutching the rope into the seaweed-strewn stream.

The boys are adamant that slurfing is safe. The water is deep enough that they can take a spill without smacking the bottom and they stay clear of the rocks on each side. Still, slurfers must be careful to dodge the driftwood logs, children on boogie boards and occasional stinging jellyfish that are spit out of the tube.

Hazards aside, slurfing can take time to perfect.

Lewis needed a few coaching sessions before he could get upright on the board, but soon he was carving the tide with one hand on the rope.

Lee Riutzel, 45, watched the slurfers for a few minutes before deciding to give it a try himself. After a few shaky starts he gave up and rode on his stomach.

“It’s a lot trickier than it looks,” Riutzel said after retreating back to the rocks. “But it’s a blast.”

Lewis, Waggoner and Watson will all be seniors at Kingston High School this year. Though his summers in Kingston may be dwindling, Waggoner said he’d be proud to leave slurfing as his legacy.

“A lot of kids say they can’t wait to get out of here,” Waggoner said. “But Kingston is what you make of it. We’re just out here hanging out and having fun.”

Arness Slough:

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