I have been to every Reno River Fest, and for good reason,  they are very well done and super fun!   I don’t know how many spectators there were this year, but they said it was their biggest ever, and last year had over 40,000.    If you enjoy people watching,  just coming to the Reno River Fest on Saturday or Sunday and walking around will expose you to every type of gene pool,  social sector, drug effect, and economic status in one location.    The beauty is just how well everyone interacts with so much diversity.   Of course that is the spectators.  then you have the competitors judges, organizers, security, announcers, media, and vendors all doing their thing.     “Men Weilding Fire” was the top pick for food on the run, while Budweiser was the beer of choice here.  

for the event- Friday was the qualifier for Saturday’s invitational.   55 people competed in the World Kayak Hometown Throwdown for prizes and a chance to be in the big show on Saturday.    Only 9 people qualified.   Alec from Boise, only 12 year’s old, made the cut in the junior class with some great moves.  Alec is the newest member of Team JK and was here with his whole family and will represent Jk well.  

Eddie Hake and Luke Ricker tied for first in the qualifier followed by Billy Bob Malesky. (all paddling All-Stars or Super Stars)

Dr. Jessie Stone won the qualifier in her Star, showing she can master more than just the big waves of the Nile and has a diverse skill set in her playboat.

Erin Clancy got second in her Agent and gave Jessie a good run for her money making for a tight finals.

Diane Gaydos came in third, making the cut.

Saturday came quickly, and the competitors meeting started at 8:30 am sharp, lead by Jay Kincaid, the cheif Judge.    Lots of money and the pride of being Reno Fest Freestyle champion was on the line.   

In the junior men’s prelims Dane and Jason both had incredible rides over 1,000 points to dominate the round.   Emily Jackson (current women’s world cup champion, and junior women’s world champion) had a 700+ and 600+ point ride to win prelims by over 400 points, with Ruth Gordon (current Women’s world champion)  Tanya Faux (Australia) was third in that round.  

In the men’s class- Stephen Wright won the prelims with two solid rides and I got second just a few points behind.   Andrew Holcomb (team Dagger), Bryan Kirk (Team Wavesport), Jud Kiser (Team JK), and KB Brown (Team JK) all made the first big cut to 6 men.  

In Men’s semi-finals, cutting from 6 to 3,  Andrew Holcomb threw down a 1,300 point ride on his first ride, nailing every move.   Nick followed up with a 1295 point ride going off for the whole 60 seconds.   I followed up with my ride, gunning for 1800 points in my routine, but missed my blunt/backloop/mcnasty combo, twice and ended up with 1080 points in 4th after first rides.   Stephen nailed a 1,500 point ride looking like a man who was on his 5th Reno Fest and determined to take a win.   

On second rides, nobody improved, with me knowing I had to beat 1,295 points to knock Nick out and get myself into the finals.   i was confident going in, had done plenty of practice rides over that score, and did my best, but either my ends were too low on some of my combos to count (big bonuses for linking hard moves together), or I just didn’t get enough moves in on time.   I had a great ride going to the last 10 seconds where I switched up the Airwheel/splitwheel/tricky woo combo (i hadn’t nailed it yet) with two regular orbits which were scoring the same as the Lunar Orbit here and fell on my head and flushed on my righty.  I only needed two more moves to make it, but spent that time on my head or paddling back up the eddy.  

In the junior class- Dane nailed a 1,300 point ride to win Semis- and would have made the Men’s finals!    All of the men saw that one and were just glad he was competing in the junior class, along with Jason who did another 1,000 + point ride.

Women- Ruth nailed a 750 point ride to win, with Emily in second with 650, Tanya in third with 270. 

Finals:  Knock out- each person does a ride and lowest score drops.  Then the final two do a head to head run to determine the winner.

Women:  Emily, Ruth, Tanya-

in the first run- Both Emily and Ruth have 600+ point runs, with emily winning that round, with Tanya making a good run, but below that to get the bronze- “bling bling” .

In the final round- Ruth goes first and gets a 515 point ride leaving the door open for Emily to walk through.  Emily was nailing her Right McNasty, and right Phonix Monkey, and right Trickywoo without fail so far in the competition.  She started off with the McNasty, but then just barely missed her Phonix and trickywoo and didn’t go back for them doing lower scoring moves like clean cartwheels and splitwheels.   This was her lowest scoring ride and she picked a bad time to do that, but that is how it goes sometimes.  Ruth was consistently over 500 points and walked away with a fat check and a nice thick necklace for a prize.

In the men’s class- Nick went and was going for it really fast and furious but missed a couple of key moves.   Andrew Holcomb and Stephen Wright both nailed their routines to claim the final round, putting Nick in third place.     In the final round, Andrew “Ice Man” melted in the hot sun after incredible rounds leaded up to this moment and missed some of his key moves, getting a 700 point ride, leaving the door open for Stephen to walk through.   Stephen didn’t dissapoint, and was due for a win here.   Nobody other than Jay Kincaid or I have ever won the men’s class in the Reno River Festival, and Stephen has been top three 4 out of 5 times, but never winning.   NOW, he goes in and lays down an awesome ride, and won it in the first 40 seconds!   Good job!

in the junior class-  Kyle had a great ride but Jason and Dane were competing on the men’s pro level and he had to settle for third.  

for the final battle- Jason threw down an awesome ride- throwing “huge” air on his McNasties and Phonix Monkeys and doing the moves in perfect style, getting a 1,080 for score (good enough for second in the men’s class).    Dane came in and provided another clinch performance, nailing key moves like the back loop, and trickwoos, after a flurry of hard moves in the beginning.     Dane won this event, but what a closely matched couple of 15 year olds!    When these guys hit the senior class, look out!

Saturday Night was full of fun, with the main event being the “Hotel Charlie: At your own Risk” premier.    Jesse Coombs was MC, and Ben Stookesberry was in the audience, with Darin McQuoid giving us a presentation on the trip to Pakistan.    The movie was the best yet, and the Pakistan section was my favorite.  These guys ran some incredible big water, in remote mountain terrain, in November, in Pakistan.    impressive.   The Hero series was the boat of choice for most of the film, with the Rocker being the boat used as well.  

Sunday came fast, and is Mother’s Day.  they were nice enough to start the event at 11am, enough time to allow those of us with a mom here to go to breakfast and spend some quality time together.    we went to Pegs “glorified eggs” and had a great Mother’s Day breakfast before the big showdown in the boatercross event.

We started with a time trial in the boatercross where I got first with a 48.00 and Nick got second with a 48.28, which was only used to help them set up the elimination heats and not put the fastest guys all in the same heat in the beginning.   

men’s first rounds- 4 at a time- rolling start- only a foot apart and straight into a jet of current no wider than a single boat, makes for a battle no matter how you start it.      As Jim, the organizer put it, “there was more contact in this year’s race than ever before.”  That isn’t necessarily what he was looking for as the contact is not unlike “gladiators” but instead of weilding foam padded paddles, we all had solid carbon/glass weapons made for hitting the water, not bodies.    

Hobie was in my heat and I don’t know why i didn’t see it coming, but somehow his being in my heat was by choice and he had a single minded approach to it… Take EJ out.    i really was thinking Hobie would want to advance and would paddle in a way that would allow him to get to the next round… like drop in behind me and ride my wake, for example… BUT NOOOO, he wanted a battle to the death!     his intentions became apparrent by the time we hit the starting line and his bow immediately swung over to mine and his 6’3″ body with long arms were suddently in my face, reaching over my bow and taking one body stroke after the next.   Jeremy Lauks pulled ahead of us both and the 4th guy got stuck behind us as we were pulling ourselves foward with one water stroke and one wrestling stroke off each other.  I was trying to break free from hobie and he was trying to stay with me.   I managed a quick break in the second drop and went right of a rock that he went left.   the Left line is faster but i sprinted in vain as fast as I could to get away, but instead of pulling a lead it dropped me right at his side again.   this time I got wise and got my best  “See YA, wouldn’t want to be Ya” stroke in that included the patented/trademarked  “armpit/elbow/paddle squeeze and pass” where I rolled on his boat and sqeezed him back using my elbow and full power to push him behind me and thrust me foward.  A paddle blade can’t compete with an elbow for mechanical advantage and it worked this time getting me free of him for the final stretch and allowing me to come in second out of the 4 and make the next round.    it was fun hobie.     I’ll see it coming next time!

Emily was disqualified for a blatant reaching paddle only to the chest stroke at the 1/2 way mark in semis and didn’t make the finals in the single class.  (We had a Tandem boatercross too, in Dynamic Duos).

in the finals-

Women’s-   Devon Barker paddled her way down the course in the lead, battling hard at the top for that lead to take the win.    not sure who was second or third, sorry- i was in my boat ready to race.

Men’s- final heat was Blake, Noah, Nick, and I.     The goal for the start is to hit it moving fast in the middle of the current, right when the clock hits zero.    Jump the gun and you get no second chance you are disqualified.     i was going full speed and felt I was timing it right but got to the start in last place as the other guys were pushing the envelope of being fast but maybe crossing early.    I ran into a wall of plastic immediately with two boats in front and on my left angled over to the one boat on my right and in front of me. I had no place to put a paddle and had to back off and attempt to go around to the right.   I dropped in behind the 3rd place guy but found a pass at the second drop.  At the third drop Nick knocked Blake into the hole sideways and Blake tipped over and I paddled right over his upside down boat and dropped on Nick’s stern.  Nick was driving full speed for the final turn and took the right line and I hooked slightly inside and caught a faster jet of current, enough to allow me to be a few inches off the bank but come up on his side to his hip.  I reached for a passing stroke but did it one stroke to early and missed, sliding my paddle on the back of his boat and missing a key stroke.   We crossed with him about 1 foot in the lead.  Nick won.

Dynamic Duo races were next.   It started off with a “kids race” where young kids got to ride down and feel the fun in a non-contact, fun experience with Jason and Dane in the back as the “big kids”.    Jim litchfields’s kids Jackson and Griffith had a blast.  

The competitive races were about to start and my partner was Niki Kelly.  Emily and Nick, Jason and Dane,  Jessie and Jurge, etc. etc.  there were 9 teams.    in the first heat, Nicki and i made a great start and got out front for the whole thing.    The second heat had 5 boats and there was no clear winner at the start creating a 10 paddle, 10 person, 5 boat cluster with Dane and Jason, and Emily and Nick both coming from last place to pass and win at the end.   

The finals were crazy, with Stephen Wright doing the starting line, “back up EJ, OK, foward Nick, OK Back Kyle, etc. etc. … GO!   Niki and I got a good start but not good enough to break free; just good enough to get slightly sideways in the front and almost get pushed over by the other three boats.    both Niki and i got in good passing strokes to maintain our very minor lead through the second drop and finally Nick and Emily got tangled with another boat and we were able to hit the gas and break free for the win.  Awesome.

Awards were in good form as they always are here with Bud Light girls, etc..

This time we had a group of four ladies in bikinis, randomly from the crowd, decide to be a part of it all.   I got a couple of good shots of KC for his scrap book when he gets older.


See you in Durango, CO next week for USA Team Trials for Slalom!