red bull rapids
Red Bull Rapids contestants build 'boats' ... sort of; (photo/Cooper Neill via Red Bull Content Pool)

‘Rafting Robots’ Reign Victorious at First US-Held Red Bull Rapids

This ‘whitewater competition’ might be the zaniest vehicle race we’ve ever seen — Flugtag included.

On Aug. 27, a handful of colorfully dressed paddling teams gathered at Oklahoma City’s Riversport OKC whitewater park with one directive to follow: launch the silliest “rafts” they could dream up into the chute.

Mayhem ensued.

On the ramp at the head of the course, five paddlers wearing raccoon onesies opened their dumpster-shaped boat (apparently made out of tarps) and emptied it of bags of garbage. Two of the mammalian-costumed individuals jumped in, and the rest got ready to push.

A small but excitable crowd did something you could almost call roaring. The “Trash Pandas” were in the water for about 3 seconds before their dinghy(?) capsized.

The crowd roared. Welcome to Red Bull Rapids.

“My mom had a pet raccoon when I was a kid, and it just inspired me — I wanted one at some point in my life,” one of the Pandas explained in a pre-launch interview.

Other river runners included The Farm Boys, whose roster included one man who cut his overalls into jorts (but only in the front), and another dressed as “just corn.”

Their contrivance relied on a steamboat-style paddle wheel mounted to the bow. But the frames of the wheel’s paddles didn’t have any material inside, so it didn’t move much water before the whole thing heaved over on its nose less than a second into its run.

What is Red Bull Rapids? You can read up on the details if you want, but the concept speaks for itself — sometimes, it’s best to just sit back and stop taking life so seriously.

Participants
(Photo/Cooper Neill via Red Bull Content Pool)

2022 Red Bull Rapids Results

In case you do harbor genuine curiosity over a competition based on people wearing silly costumes paddling boats designed to not work, here’s the nitty-gritty.

First, Red Bull approves 50 boat designs by teams from around the country. The teams then build the boats and bring them to the location. There, they take the ramp, do their interview, then perform a 30-second skit and launch.

Judges evaluate teams based on their theatrical performance and “race time,” which must mean how long it takes before they flip over.

The Rock’em Rafting Robots was the 2022 Red Bull Rapids winning team.

Participants
(Photo/Cooper Neill via Red Bull Content Pool)
Participants perform at Red Bull Flugtag in Budapest, Hungary on June 26, 2022 // Ádám Bertalan / Red Bull Content Pool
No-Fly Flugtag: Epic Fails From Red Bull's Amateur Airplane Contest
From gliding masterpieces to flying waffles, the Red Bull Flugtag has seen it all. This reel celebrates the very best of the worst. Read more…

Sam Anderson
By

Sam has roamed the American continent to follow adventures, explore natural wonders, and find good stories. After going to college to be a writer, he got distracted (or saved) by rock climbing and spent most of the next decade on the road, supporting himself with trade work. He's had addresses in the Adirondack Mountains, Las Vegas, and somehow Kansas, but his heart belongs in the Texas hill country.