Surfers and kayakers united at Brennan’s Wave on Thursday afternoon for the Best in the West competition to raise money for a new play wave on the Clark Fork River in downtown Missoula.
The Max Wave will be a memorial to Max Lentz, a Hellgate High School student who died in 2007 in a kayaking accident in West Virginia. After his death, family and friends wanted to create a memorial that was something the community could enjoy.
All money from competitors registering for the event will go toward building the new wave, according to Zoo Town Surfers owner and vice president of the Max Wave project, Jason Shreder.
Participants vied for prizes donated by Big Sky Brewing, Community Medical Center and First Interstate Bank. Surfers competed for biggest air, best style and best carve, while kayakers faced off in a downriver race, biggest air and best freestyle ride.
Carter Thompson, of Frenchtown, has only been surfing for a month. But that didn’t stop him from signing up to compete in the event.
“There’s a lot of good surfers here, so I’m just here to have fun,” Thompson said.
Despite diligent fundraising efforts, the Max Wave project lags far behind projected goals.
It began in 2008 and was scheduled for completion this year, but has not yet passed the permitting phase. The new wave, proposed near the Osprey baseball stadium and McCormick Park, carries a nearly $1 million price tag.
Brendan’s Wave cost approximately $500,000 when it was built just downstream from the Higgins Avenue Bridge.
As the design stands, the Max Wave will consist of an upper and lower wave, with wheelchair access down to the shore.
Shreder said the organization hopes to acquire permits for the project within the next six months and have construction completed within two years.
He attributed the delays to the sheer size of the project, endangered fish species and the need to protect the natural ecosystem of the river.
The sluggish progress of the wave project is slowing development of Broadway Island Park, public land directly downriver from the proposed wave.
Missoula Redevelopment Agency assistant director Chris Behan said that developing safe access to the island has been stalled because they want to be sure how the new wave will affect the course of the river.