Smiles and good spirits are the only prerequisites for a free introduction to whitewater kayaking Friday through Sunday at the Reno River Festival.
The event, in its second year, will bring together some of the best paddlers in the world for kayaking competitions and demos on the Truckee River. Festival organizers also invite first-timers and those with advanced skills to test the waters in free classes led by experts.
The $1.5 million Truckee River White-water Park in downtown Reno includes a slalom course and a 1,400-foot channel where kayakers maneuver through a series of Class II and III rapids, surfing waves, "rodeo holes" and drop pools. Spectator seating is on flat-topped rocks at Wingfield Park, a midstream island at the center of the action.
Competitive events, broken into men's and women's divisions, include the Open Freestyle on Friday and the Professional Freestyle Invitational on Saturday. Last year's festival champion and local icon Jay Kincaid will be among the paddlers, as will three-time world champion Brooke Winger.
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"Boater cross" preliminaries, pitting multiple paddlers charging horserace-style down the course, will be held Saturday, with finals to be staged on Sunday.
The separate, five-mile Down River Race is a more traditional test of endurance and speed.
Free clinics scheduled both days include sessions for "never-evers" as well as instruction in advanced skills such as rolling, bracing, play-boating, slalom and eddy-line techniques. Additional clinics are tailored for women, youths and people with impaired mobility.
The festival also will include food vendors, concerts in the park and an outdoor "expo" where exhibitors display paddle-sport wares.
What: Reno River Festival
When: Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Where: Truckee River Whitewater Park, downtown Reno
Getting there: Take Interstate 80 to Virginia Street in Reno. Exit south onto West First Street and follow it as it turns right. Street parking is available near the park.
How much: Free
More information: www.renoriverfestival.com or (800) 376-7366.