Stephen Wright 15/05/2017 | Posted in Nirvana, Playboating, Rockstar, Whitewater, Whitewater, Whitewater
I’ve been coming to the Reno River Festival for years and years. It’s always one of my favorite events, as it was one of my very first pro-level competitions back when no one had ever heard of a short guy named “Stephen Wright”. I also lived in Reno for a few years, and have spend a lot of time here with many great friends. This event started out as a “pro invitational”, meaning that a committee invited the top 10-15 men and 5-10 women in the sport. With thousands of spectators and a big cash payout, I (and most competitive freestyle kayakers) always dreamed of being invited.
Things have evolved here in Reno to a huge event that often includes freestyle, boater X, slalom, SUP races, running races, bike races, live music, a beer garden, a wine garden, live music, which makes for one of the best urban events in America. 2017 set records on water levels based on a MASSIVE snowpack in California. The closest ski/board hill, Mount Rose, actually had the most snow in recorded history! That meant that the Truckee river was flowing at a whopping 6,000 cfs just days before the event, which was DOUBLE the highest flow that I’ve ever seen it before now. High water meant that slalom and SUP events were cancelled and that the Freestyle competition was on a wave for the first time here.
The Boater X races were everything you can hope for: competitive, desperate, fun to watch, kayakers tangling and battling as they made their way from “gates” to the finish line. In the Jr. Class, Cameron O’Conner took the win, beating out his younger brother Nathan as well as Reno local Sky. The Women’s class was awesome as Emily Jackson and Sage Donnelly swapped leads a few times throughout the race, but Sage clawed her way to a big lead by the time she hit the finish and easily won. Sage was first, Emily second, and New England Patriots fan and Cast Iron chef Elaine Campbell took the third spot on the podium. The Men’s class was BRUTAL, as the racers clashed, battled, and crushed each other going from gate to gate. Nick Troutman once again demonstrated his ability to wriggle out of boxed-in spots and crowds of battling friends and won every round. Nick took the win, followed by Matt Anger (who came back from WAY behind in the finals), and California boater William Crenshaw finished in 3rd.
The Freestyle competition took place on a wave this year, which is a big change for an event that’s almost always held in a shallow hole. Most of the local kayakers have never tried an airscrew or helix before, instead having learned to loop and mcnasty. The competition was great: lots of spectators, great announcing from Jeff Campbell and his assistants, big moves from the athletes, more female than male competitors, and the highest scoring rides of the event all happened in Finals. In the Jr Class, younger brother Nathan O’Conner edged out his older brother for the win. The women’s class, the top spots was once again a battle between world champions Sage Donnelly and Emily Jackson. In an extremely tight event, Emily edged out Sage for the win. Dr. Erin Clancey finished in 3rd. The men’s competition was even tighter, with 20 points all that separated 1st place from 3rd–2nd and 3rd places even tied scores at 1190 points. Nick Troutman won this event as well (which made for an epic weekend for Nick!) with his high-flying airscrews and helixes. Stephen Wright took second place with Mcnasties and loops, while local boy Jason Craig came off the couch directly on the the third podium spot to dazzle the crowd with his high flying moves.
I speak for everyone who came out to the event this year when I say that I can’t wait to come back next year! Thanks to Peter Holcombe for the photos and video of the event!
Live from Reno, NV,