Interviews Tanya Pavlis / Sidewayz Films

Published on October 21st, 2015 | by PhilB

Photo by Tanya Pavlis / Sidewayz Films |  2

Women in River Surfing: April Zastrow, Boise (ID)

April knew river surfing wasn’t going to just be a one-time thing. After competing in motocross for 15 years she has discovered her love for river surfing. Read how she got into it, what she thinks about her home break and sportsmanship, and her insights on the fear of failure.

Full name: April Zastrow
Age: 27
Years river surfing: 1
Homebreak: Boise River Park
Favourite trick: So far all I have been able to pull off are simple ollies. I plan on progressing into more air type of moves and 360’s.
Sponsors: Peterson surfboards, Roxy

April, who’s to blame for your passion for river surfing?

A friend and I were trying to figure out something to do and they told me that they river surfed. I never knew there was such a thing, but the second they told me about it I said I was going and knew it wasn’t going to just be a one-time thing. I immediately bought gear the day after my first try at river surfing.

Do you see river surfing as a typical male or female sport?

I do see it as more of a typical male sport, simply by the amount of men that do it compared to women. But I do not consider it being a sport that is predominately more of an advantage for men compared to women. I have competed in motocross for 15 years and have found motocross to be a lot harder as a woman compared to men. MX takes way more strength being one of the most physically demanding sports out there, but surfing involves a different type of strength. As a female I have found that my style in sports is usually smooth and effortless looking and I think this translates well into surfing.

Photo: Tanya Pavlis / Sidewayz Films

Are there other girls that you’ve been surfing with consistently?

There is a small group of core girls that consistently come out and surf: Kiley, Lucy, Katie, Katy and Ciam before she just recently moved. There is a lot of skill and heart between these girls and I love watching them all surf!

What’s your advice for girls who want to get into river surfing?

There is nothing holding you back except self-doubt. I think it is far worse to not try something than the fear of failure. Failure is necessary before you can experience success and the harder you fail, the greater the success feels. And of course do not give up if it’s something you are truly passionate about.

What makes river surfing so special (compared to ocean surfing)?

One major thing about river surfing is the sportsmanship. Everyone gets a shot at the wave no matter what skill level you are or how much time you have put in at the wave and people are courteous about taking turns and keeping the flow going. When someone who has been struggling for days, weeks or even months finally gets their first turn or finally stands on their board; you will hear every surfer cheer them on.

What is the surf culture like where you live?

It is a very small culture here, but everyone is so friendly and it feels like a family. There is an interesting diverse group of people who can all get together and have the same froth over the wave. We also get together occasionally for chill parties, gatherings or events.

How large is the river surf community at your home break?

I am really bad at guessing numbers, but on a crowded night there can be about 20 and have even counted up to almost 30 people. It is somewhat of a small community, but I like it small.

Tell us about one of your river surfing highlights (scariest, greatest, funniest…)

I have had to take one trip to the hospital already. Last year the board shot up out of the water and the rail pulled an uppercut on me. I had lockjaw for about a week, but there wasn’t any major damage except maybe a small fracture or something.

Photo: Tanya Pavlis / Sidewayz Films

What is the best river wave you’ve ever ridden?

I have only had the opportunity to surf our wave. I did have a trip planned to Munich this summer, but it fell through. I do plan on hitting some other northwest waves this fall or spring though.

Best river surf tip you have personally applied?

Never give up. I went a long time before I got more than a turn or two at the wave and there were many days that I thought I would never get it, but I kept trying and eventually it clicked one day. One guy made the comment “I never would have thought a year ago that you would be one of the smoothest surfers out here.”

Have you won any contests that you’re really proud of? Tell us about them!

I have yet to compete for river surfing, I have only heard of the Payette River Games locally and will maybe compete if they make the wave more fitting for surfing rather than SUP/Kayak.

Photo: Tanya Pavlis / Sidewayz Films

What are some of your “high hopes” for the future of river surfing?

I see a lot of potential in river surfing. There are so many people like myself who have always been landlocked and dreamed of surfing, they just don’t know about river surfing yet. There are also more river waves popping up around the states, that I can only see it grow from here. Maybe one day there will be an actual river surfing championship series that people can compete in around the states, but right now it is just fun to do without being too serious about it.

Photo: Tanya Pavlis / Sidewayz Films

Besides river surfing, what hobbies do you find the most pleasure in?

I have been a professional motocross racer since I was 15, but haven’t raced the last few years due to a change in the series with it taking a major step back in our progression as professional athletes. I am also a graphic designer for a motocross apparel company, Fly Racing. I have recently started painting (my boardshaper has even let me paint all of my boards) and picked up the guitar to help keep me busy when our wave gets shut down in the winter. I will occasionally road bike or snowboard. Just love to be active and have fun as much as possible!

Final shout outs?

From the late Kurt Caselli “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Fill in the blanks

  • I’ve always wanted to ___ be as rad as possible.
  • You’re not really a river surfer unless ___ you have chased your board down the river and have been held down long enough to spark some fear in you.
  • My favourite river surf buddy is ___ the core group of regulars at the river, they know who they are (can’t just pick one).
  • Happiness is ___ to love and be loved.

Thank you April for your time and all the best for the upcoming season!

More about:

Brought to you by


Phil is a passionate riversurfer based in the capital of urban hydro power, Graz / Austria. He graduated from the International University for Riversurfing (IUR) in 2008 before he got married (to PhilK) in 2009. Instead of children, they gave birth to the probably most awesome riversurfing magazine on the planet: Riverbreak.

  • Dave Green


  • Jacob Kelly

    What a great series! Sounds like you have a big heart April! Welcome to the river surfing community! Hope to see you on some of the other waves in the Spring… Pipeline?? Lunch counter???

Back to Top ↑
  • Spread the Word on Facebook

  • Spots on Rotation

  • Explore

  • Best of Photos

  • Filter