Stephen Wright crowned 2009 Reno River Festival Rodeo Champion!


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2009 was the biggest year for the Reno River Fest yet, with 43,420 spectators visiting the event throughout the Mother’s Day weekend. Those who braved the crowds were rewarded with a huge microbrew garden, 10 bands, a kickoff party featuring Hotel Charley 4, an up-close glimpse of the Budweiser Clydesdales and lots of whitewater competition. There was a Run Amuck Fun Run with 337 teams of costumed competitors, a rope course, a climbing wall and a bungee tower. In the words of event organizer Jim Litchfield, “It was a total circus.” Fortunately, only one member of Demshitz did something that wouldn’t have made his mom proud.

A record 55 competitors avoided the beer poured from over 160 kegs long enough to compete in the open qualifier for a chance to throw down with the pros in the invitational freestyle event on Saturday. The top three from the men’s, women’s and junior classes advanced, and with money and pride on the line, had to hold back on partying for one more night.

After back and forth battles in all classes of the freestyle competition on Saturday, Stephen Wright emerged victorious for men, Ruth Gordon for women and Dane Jackson for juniors. Stephen has made the podium four out of the five times he’s competed at Reno, but this was his first victory over the consistently dominating Eric Jackson and Jay Kincaid.

Paddlinglife caught up with Stephen Wright between victory laps on the granite steep-creek playgrounds surrounding Reno.

PL How did it feel to finally stand on the top of the podium at Reno?
SW It felt great to stand on the podium. I’ve been living with my girlfriend in Reno for the past 2 months paddling here in the whitewater park and enjoying Cali creeks—I was so happy that my training time paid off. Especially when 25,000 people came-out to watch on Saturday!
PL What did you do differently this year?
SW This year we had good water levels and I was confident that I could do every trick I wanted to. It just came together for me to have a win this year—It could have just as easily been EJ, Andrew, Bryan, or Nick.
PL What was the scene like at Reno this year?
SW It was crazy: 40,000 people came through the festival throughout the weekend. Everyone enjoyed great food, vendors, kayaking events, the Run Amuck, and good music. Most of the athletes are sticking around all week to run tons of the fun Cali creeks that are going. I spent Monday and Tuesday with Andrew and Nick (2nd and 3rd place Reno Freestyle) on Big Kimshew and the South Branch. It’s fun to have so much to enjoy with all the other competitors now.
PL Were the hot podium girls as excited about your victory as you were?
SW It was hard to say. They seemed excited enough, though my girlfriend was confident that their boobs were fake.
PL Haha, thanks Stephen!

For full results and photos, check out the festival’s website.
You can check out video from the 2009 festival on YouTube.

Staff Post
Staff Post
Paddlers writing about all things paddling.


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