How technology is turning the South Platte River into a wavy, whitewater hot spot
The dawn hasn’t yet dimmed the early morning headlights when Ocky Koa, a data analyst in his mid-40s, hops out of his pickup and strolls just past the bike path at River Run Park, where the day’s first recreational cyclists and commuters zip by along Sheridan’s stretch of the South Platte River.
There, beneath metal doors flush to the side of the hill, sits the hydraulic control center for a contraption that helps carve a portion of the South Platte’s surging flow — 1,100 cubic feet per second on this morning — into a perpetual wave.
Later, enticed by hot weather and optimal conditions, dozens will gather on the banks of River Run Park to take turns surfing the feature that locals have nicknamed Benihanas, partly in honor of the boarding move of the same name and partly as a nod to Ben Nielsen, the designer who installed the mechanical WaveShaper.
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The urban South Platte River now has two of these adjustable systems — the other, newer one sits about a half-mile upstream from Benihanas — that are relatively rare in the U.S. Similar systems are installed in Bend, Oregon, and Boise, Idaho.