Reno River Festival: 2019 Recap

Nestled in the desert on the southwest outskirts of Nevada sits “the worlds biggest little city”, and every spring kayakers flock to the manmade whitewater park in downtown Reno to test their skills in front of huge crowds in the snow melt waters of the Truckee River during the Reno River Festival.

The park comes alive with watercraft of all sorts while the Reno fire brigade swift water rescue team sits vigilant. A city better known for its casinos is actually home to some of the worlds top athletes and amazing outdoor recreation.

Two weeks early we showed up to adjust to the altitude and cold waters, explore the trails, train on the river and hang out with friends. 2019 provided high water levels making the river features less than ideal, however with time to adapt and figure things out athletes managed to still put on an incredible display that kept the crowds amping.

The river festival is spread over Mothers day weekend and involves numerous whitewater competitions, market stalls, fair rides and live concerts.

Saturday morning kicked off with Freestyle Preliminaries in Hole 3 (which is more of a wave hole at current flows) where both Nick Troutman (Team Canada) and Courtney Kerin (Team New Zealand) took the lead, before moving into the SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) surf competition also in hole 3. It was awesome to showcase the different sports to the crowd and for many kayakers test their skills on their feet. It was a straight finals, best ride of three.

In the womens field local legend and freestyle kayaking world champion Ruth Ebens took the win with one incredible surf showing just how easy it can be on a small board and fellow surf local Jon O’Brien who can regularly be found training at the park year round took the win in the Mens.

Mens

1st Jon O’Brien

2nd Colin Kemp

3rd Chase Evans

Womens 

1st Ruth Ebens

2nd Courtney Kerin

3rd Abby Holcombe

Following this, with little recovery time we rolled straight into Freestyle Semi-Finals, here athletes had to pick up their game in order to prove themselves and decide their seeding for finals on Sunday. It became a tighter competition with some results changing however Nick Troutman and Courtney Kerin held onto their first place positions meaning they would get to compete last in finals, giving them the advantage of knowing the score to bet which allows the athletes to be more tactical.

This concluded day One of the Reno River Festival whitewater activities and meant time to enjoy a local brew and take in the music scene.

Mother’s day Sunday starts off strong with kayak and SUP slalom races through a technical 19 gate course (14 gates for SUP). Thanks to Charlie for providing some awesome race boats and Davide for bringing extra SUP’s for us limited distant travellers keeping the competition strong. 

Two laps per racer in each discipline with the fastest time taking the win kept both the awestruck crowd and the eager athletes busy.

Kayak Slalom

Mens

1st Sebastion Palluk

2nd Brian McClean

3rd Nick Troutman

Womens

1st Abby Holcombe

2nd Courtney Kerin

3rd Ruth Ebens

SUP Slalom

Mens

1st Davide Sartoni

2n Nick troutman

3rd Phil Sheppard

Womens

1st Courtney Kerin

2nd Jessica Yurtins 

3rd Abby Holcombe

After slalom the day just kept getting busier with rounds of Boatercross and SUPcross where athletes had to mass start race in heats of four to navigate their way through whitewater features, while being tactical about the other racers and hit three buoys first in order to move on through the round til finals. This provided plenty of excitement as always with lots of different tactics coming into play. Local boatercross winning legend Colin Kemp took out the mens class only seconds before taking a hard head shot from a boat coming up behind and fellow local Megan Degelsmith took out the womens by playing hard to get with the buoy. In SUPcross however it was a whole different story with the main aim being not only to get all three buoys but also to stay on your board for the duration of the race, in the mens “the paddle guy” Davide took an inspiring win as did Courtney in the womens as one of the only athletes to stay on their feet the entire race.

Boatercross

Mens

1st Colin Kemp

2nd Nick Troutman

3rd Jason Craig

Womens

1st Megan Degelsmith

2nd Jessica Yurtins

3rd Courtney Kerin

SUPcross

Mens

1st Davide Sartoni

2nd Nick Troutman

3rd Don Laury

Womens

1st Courtney Kerin

2nd Jessica Yurtins

3rd Evelyn Trosia

 

Finally with all the other events complete it was time for the big finale with the Freestyle Kayak finals next to the main concert stage. The crowds gather 360 degrees around the river ready for the biggest flying action of the day while a few of the athletes who raced all day searched for their reserve energy banks. Luckily the crowds energy was great fuel and with Scott Sady on the MC the finals were underway. Go big or go home empty handed was the deal, as only the best ride of three will be your final score.

Both the mens and womens fields picked up their game once again with multiple time team USA member Jessie Stone throwing down on her first ride sitting her in a strong position, ex World Champion Ruth Ebens also showed how comfortable she is on a wave showing off her moves to sit right on Jessies tail, 2nd round Courtney Kerin came back with some high flying tricks to take the lead and after the 3rd round the results didn’t change, meaning a stoke filled victory ride at the end too finish off the womens finals.

Next was the mens which was just as hotly contested with multiple ex World Champions battling it out. Phil Shepherd (Canada) showed even through he is an “Ottawa wave boater” he can still throw down some hole tricks too and narrowly pushed his way into third ahead of local boy Skye Vivian, and the battle for gold and silver remained between local man and 2009 Jr World Champion Jason Craig and 2009 Mens World Champion Nick Troutman. Nick sat in the lead by a mere 70 points in the second round which no-one managed to overcome, meaning a third round victory ride for Nick also to finish off the competition.

Freestyle

Mens

1st Nick Troutman

2nd Jason Craig

3rd Phil Sheppard

Womens

1st Courtney Kerin

2nd Jessie Stone

3rd Ruth Ebens

This concluded the 2019 Reno River Festival whitewater events, leaving time to enjoy the band and a brew before hoping on the podium!

A huge thanks to the city of Reno for another incredible event and to all those who helped organise and make it so great!

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