Down by the river

Charles Albright


The Reno River Festival takes place on the Truckee River May 7-8. This year, the festival has been chosen to host the 2016 U.S. National Whitewater Freestyle Championships. Charles Albright is a local kayaking aficionado and instructor who played a part in getting the whitewater park built in downtown Reno more than a decade ago. The 65-year-old has been paddling on the Truckee for 40 years.

When you Google Charles Albright, it comes up with “Godfather of Reno kayaking.” Can you tell me how that got started?

Well, I started paddling in ’71, and I moved to Nevada in ’72, and then I started paddling here in Reno—lived in Reno—in ’76, end of ’76. And then the first thing I did was get introduced to what few local paddlers there were, and I ended up basically teaching kayaking to the public for 21 years straight, for free, every week at pools—either at Northwest or Moana, and then I also went to pools up in South Lake Tahoe, Truckee and Carson to help teach kayaking up there too. But that’s how it started. I sold gear and just arranged for people to find gear. And I do all kinds of competition. So I have lots of boats, and I’m willing to give them to anybody that wants to use them.

One of the last times we spoke with you, in 2004, the park was pretty new. Are you still kayaking here?

Oh, yeah. A good year’s at least 100 days of paddling here, or on the Truckee some place. The best year was 272 days of boating.

So, you’re out here in the winter and the summer.

All year ’round.

Last year the pro whitewater events were canceled because the river was just too low. How do you think it’s looking this year?

It’s looking a lot better. It’d be nice if there was a little more snow up there, and if we had a warm spell just before the competition, that would help immensely. It’d be ideal to have a 1000 cfs [cubic feet per second—a measurement for the rate of flow in a river]. Yesterday, it was at 800.

Very cool. That makes it so holes and eddies and stuff are really nice to get into?

Yeah. Well, these guys are throwing ends [flipping and rolling the kayak], so they have to have waters deep enough for the boats not to hit the bottom when they’re doing their tricks. And they’re the primary—what’s really the main attraction for the festival this year is the national championships.

Have you competed in the whitewater events?

I do the slaloms and the downriver races and boatercross quite often. I run the slaloms. I’ll help with boatercross—running it. I don’t do the freestyle. I have a bad shoulder, and I don’t do play boats like that, because I want to keep my shoulder as bad as it is, and not worse.

Anything else you want to say?

Well, it’s not just paddling. There’s going to be—there used to be the run. There’s no longer the run, but they’re having a bike ride for burner bikes. There’s yoga. There’s all kinds of music, lots of music. There’s going to be a craft beer thing for the public. There’s always food. There’s all kinds of vendors. It’s just going to be a really fun time. There’ll be a lot of stuff for kids to do. It’s going to be very enjoyable this year, and they’re linking it to several other things that are going on, like the Burning Man art thing that will be on the ReTRAC thing the same weekend.