RiverRocks goes Over the Edge today as members of the community rappel off the 20-story SunTrust Bank building downtown. Over the next two weekends, world-class athletes and more casual fans of adventure sports will participate in trail runs, bike rides, canoe and kayak races, long-distance open-water swim, rock climbing and a stand-up paddleboard race.
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The first day of RiverRocks competition this year includes the finale of another first.
Saturday afternoon at Ross's Landing, the RiverRocks Standup Paddleboard race will end the inaugural season of The Tennessee SUP Championship Series. It will be the sixth race in the series showcasing one of the world's fastest growing sports.
The first in the series was at the Chickamauga Dam recreation area. The third was the Ocoee Classic on Parksville Lake. Others were in Knoxville, Oak Ridge and Nashville, and anyone earning a championship in the 16 men's, women's and junior divisions must have taken part in four of the six.
Mark Weinzieri, for instance, won the men's elite races at Chickamauga Dam, Knoxville and Nashville but needs Saturday's event on the Tennessee River to certify his eligibility.
"A few of the top contenders [in the various categories] have done them all, but most of them will need this race," said Bethany Smithers, who manages the L2 Boards store in downtown Chattanooga. "And most of the contenders are competing here."
Mark Baldwin, the L2 Boards owner and the series director, said Wednesday that "about 40" racers have pre-registered but that he expects "80 or 90, hopefully about 100" with the prospect of good weather for Saturday. He competed last week in the "Battle of the Paddle" in the Los Angeles area, which he said had more than 1,000 participants.
"I think it's in its sixth or seventh year. It's probably the largest SUP race in the world," Baldwin said. "But the sport is growing all over. Last year there were just a handful of races in the Southeast, and this year there was a race somewhere in the South about every weekend. One at Lake Murray in South Carolina last weekend had probably 200 competitors."
He said the SUP "racing scene has probably quadrupled in the last year" and the Tennessee state series has been "about what I'd hoped for" in its first year but with a lot of expectation for growth.
Probably about 30 percent of Saturday's participants here will be series-eligible, he said. First-timers are welcome. Registration is available at www.l2boards.com and during packet pickup time Friday from noon to 8 p.m. at the store on Market Street, or from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Ross's Landing.
But to those thinking of signing up then or already signed up, Baldwin reminded that another RiverRocks event, the Rock/Creek Canoe/Kayak Race, precedes the SUP competition at the same site, and the 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival begins there at noon.
"I'd recommend getting there early," he said.
Entry costs $65 for the elite or beginner divisions. The beginners have a three-mile course; the elite racers do that one twice.
Contact Ron Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6291.