As Kirsti Freeland and Andi Jobe crossed Canyon Boulevard in downtown Boulder on Friday morning, a driver stopped at the crosswalk leaned out his window to ask why the two were decked out in wetsuits and carrying inner tubes.

"We tubed to work," they shouted at the driver, who looked at the women with a mixture of disbelief and bemusement.

"I can see how some people in other places might think this is weird," said Freeland, in what might have been the understatement of the day. "But this is normal for me. This is normal for Boulder. That's why we live here."

"It's the Boulder way," Jobe said. "That's what I love about this."

About 1,000 people decided to tube to work along Boulder Creek during the 10th annual Tube to Work Day in Boulder on Friday.
About 1,000 people decided to tube to work along Boulder Creek during the 10th annual Tube to Work Day in Boulder on Friday. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

About 1,000 tubers joined Freeland and Jobe on Boulder Creek as Tube to Work Day celebrated its 10th year Friday morning with by far the largest commute in the event's history.

When Jeff Kagan and Andy Gruel took to Boulder Creek in 2008 for the inaugural Tube to Work Day, it was just the two of them. In 2017, so many people showed up that tubers had to wait in line and flash wristbands, as if Boulder Creek was the area's newest amusement park ride.

"So many smiles," Kagan said. "It felt really good to be part of the critical mass on the creek."

Kagan said he never imagined the event would grow to this size, but said it shows Boulder's love of embracing alternative commuting, helping the environment and having a good time.


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"It's just a bunch of people being wacky at 8 a.m.," Kagan said. "There is no better feeling than walking into the office with an inner tube."

And before you think tubing to work is just a fun name for people playing hookie on a summer Friday, Freeland and Jobe went straight from the creek to their office on Pearl Street.

"We literally tubed to work," Freeland said.

'Best commute ever'

The crowds for Tube to Work Day began amassing as early as 7 a.m., with all sorts of colorful tubes and people in costumes preparing for the wet commute.

Todd Ramquist showed up with a colorful outfit complete with a stuffed unicorn and a tie-dye "LOVE" kite strapped to his back.

"We hit all the thrift stores," Ramquist said, adding that the unicorn's name was Squatty Potty, which he said is a reference to a commercial about a unicorn that helps potty train children.

"I'm going to try to keep him dry," Ramquist said.

Nearby, Bijan Tuysserkani and Gavin Kistner were having a similar naming conundrum trying to christen the unicorn tube Tuysserkani planned to ride. They ultimately settled on Daphne.

"I upgraded this year," said Tuysserkani, who went down the creek last year on a mere spherical tube.

In addition to Daphne, Tuysserkani wore a suit, but — in true Boulder fashion — said the one day a year he goes to work in a river is actually the only day he truly dresses up.

"It's the one time of the year I get to wear a suit," Tuysserkani said.

While Tuysserkani was a tubing veteran, Kistner was a newbie.

"I'm actually embarrassed to say I've been in Boulder 15 years (and) this is my first time tubing," Kistner said. "I figured this was a good opportunity."

Kistner was in good company, as many of the tubers were first-timers. Freeland and Jobe also had their initial concerns.

"I was worried about the cold," Freeland said.

"I was worried about the rocks hitting my butt," Jobe said.

Fellow rookie Rachel Kastanek said she initially was "terrified," but said it was easier watching other people go first.

"It was good to watch other people go over the rapids," Kastanek said. "Unless I was going backwards, that was scary."

But standing in the middle of Central Park, soaking wet, Kastenek was hooked.

"Best commute ever," she said.

'Oh my God, I'm gonna die. Wait, this is amazing'

Kagan also has big plans for 2018.

"I hope this continues to grow," Kagan said. "What's so neat is this all started so organically."

This man has a used laptop for sale after riding down Boulder Creek during the 10th annual Tube to Work Day in Boulder on Friday.
This man has a used laptop for sale after riding down Boulder Creek during the 10th annual Tube to Work Day in Boulder on Friday. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

Tube to Work Day has become so big that a Denver TV news helicopter hovered over downtown Boulder during the whole event, while the city of Boulder even halted Civic Center construction just for the tubers.

LogRhythm, one of the sponsors, provided food and drinks, and also handled most of the coordination — all on the company's own dime in an effort to keep the event free for commuters.

"It's great how it's kind of blossomed every year," said LogRhythm CEO Andy Grolnick.

Kagan said the next step is trying to get other cities to participate.

"We want this coast to coast," Kagan said. "I want people tubing the Hudson, the Mississippi, the Thames — let's make this international."

And, of course, Kagan renewed a vow he made at Tube to Work Day in 2016 to get a certain politician on the water.

"We still want (Colorado Gov. John) Hickenlooper," Kagan said.

Grolnick said he, in fact, had tried to talk to Hickenlooper about it.

"He just gave me this blank look," Grolnick said.

Kagan isn't the only one with big plans.

This year was the first time tubing to work for NiteIze employees Michael Westfield and Kristin Butcher, but it certainly won't be their last.

"We signed up for this a few days ago," Butcher said. "We're going to start planning for 2018 tomorrow."

Westfield probably summed up best what it is like to tube to work for the first time when she said, "I thought, 'Oh my God, oh my God, I'm gonna die. Wait, this is amazing.'"

Mitchell Byars: 303-473-1329, byarsm@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/mitchellbyars