Is it possible that 60,000 people would go to an outdoor festival with Kayaking, SUP, rock climbing, running, biking?     If you want to see that in action, the Dominion River Rock Festival in Richmond is the place to go to be a believer!    Friday night through Sunday Afternoon was chalk full of fun stuff for everyone to participate in as well as watch.    High level competitions in Kayaking, SUP, bouldering, slack line, running, biking, and even Dog jumping brought top athletes to the venue.    Concerts, and activities as well as spectating brought the crowds to Brown’s Island on the James River in downtown, Richmond, Virgina.

Jon Lugbill, 5 time World Champion in C1 slalom is one of the main organizers.

Jon Lugbill and EJ- both on 1992 Olympic Team together

Sports Backers is the name of the group who put it on.   Sponsors like Dominion (power company), Subaru, and Red Bull funded this production.   Jackson Kayak and Appomattox River Company brought the boats and staff to provide free kayaking opportunities for everyone.       I am guessing close to 1,000 people had their first kayaking experience this past weekend in Richmond thanks to the hard work of the ARC and JK staff there.     There were little kids, big kids, young adults and old adults trying it.   Jackson Kayak and Boardworks brought SUPs to try as well.   People seemed to love the SUPerNatural and SUPerfishal for their stability and ease of paddling.   I was honored to be able to get Snowy’s Dad on one at 71 years old and all of the way here from England!

ARC and JK Demo team... (Mary and family missing from photo)

We had a boatercross and a freestyle through a rapid competitions.     The boatercross was a tough race at close to 1.5 minutes long and 5 rounds if you make finals.


In Boatercross- the 9’ rule was in effect allowing anyone to race even if they don’t have a slalom kayak, etc..    I chose the Zen 65 at 8’ 6” long and an awesome racing kayak.    First there was a time trial to assure that the fastest paddlers were not in the early heats together.     I won with a 1:22 with my Zen, Chris Gragtmans was second with a 1:26, and then Snowy was third with a 1:27.   The first two rounds of boatercross was fairly easy as I was able to pull ahead of the other guys and not get tangled up.    The semi-finals and finals were much more of a battle with lots of contact and struggling for the lead.   I won the Semi-finals after shaking off two guys before the first island slot and then keeping clean lines to the finish.   In the Finals I was against Chris G for the first time, the second fastest in the time trial.    He lined up next to me and rode my wake on my hip at first and then drove up my wake straight into the side of my boat.  I had to paddle over his boat to get a stroke and it was all I could do to keep from spinning out.    Chris almost caused me to miss the narrow slot in the island but right as I was passing through Tom hit his boat and he bumped the rock which slowed him down and he fell off of my wake.    I got a lead there and was able to pull ahead down the past the next two gates to the finish line.   It was a tough battle two runs in a row and my arms felt like it after that race!    I videoed the race with my GoPro from the bow of my Zen with the normal mount that comes with the boat.    Here are a few shots from the race…



In the Women’s Class it was Adrienne who won, followed by Courtney Kerin and then Katie Lemmet.


The freestyle event was on Sunday and the water was lower than last year but still a good level for freestyle through a rapid.     Dave Fusilli did a cool loop to splat on the bridge piling at the top that the judges liked.   I did a downstream pogo flip over the low head dam hole and then back into the hole for blast wheels as well as some flatwater moves.   Downstream before the 90 seconds runs out to an eddyline and then a sick rock-spin rock that is about 3 feet out of the water on the backside.   I missed the rockspin on my first ride after a good top section and realized that Dave was going to be beating me after that mess up.     Sure enough he was in first and I was in second.   Cooper Sallade was in third and Chris Gragtmans was 4th and I can’t remember who was 5th after first runs.    On second runs I got another good Pogo flip, flatwater,  a wavesurf, and I nailed my rock-spin 540/grab this time.    My score tied Dave’s for first place, but he beat me on the tie breaker which was the highest score on our other ride.     Cooper Stayed in 3rd and Chris in 4th and Issac Hull got 5th in his Shooting Star, a local kid who keeps getting better every year I come.


In the women’s class it was Adrienne Levkenct who took first, followed by Haley Mills, and then Courtney Kerin.


They had some great local bands playing on the big stage all weekend, as well as some bigger name bands at night.    It was a big enough event that I saw Aaron Chase, a slopestyle mountain bike Red Bull athlete and friend of mine (we were on the GoPro/Harley trip together last year) twice while competing, but could never find him off the bike in the crowds.


KC is a big fan of the “Big Air Dogs”, where people bring their dogs to see how far they can jump into the swimming pool after a toy.     Good dogs jump 11’, awesome dogs jump 18’!    KC literally gives them a thumbs up and tells them “good job” every time they jump in.    It is very cute.


Between the Demo and competitions it is a very busy weekend!   After each boatercross or freestyle run you get to take out of the river “backstage” of the stage.  I stopped on each run to listen and watch a little as the bands were super fun.


Good job Sportsbackers and Richmond, VA!