Adventure games added to Chattanooga's RiverRocks in hopes of luring elite athletes

photo Each swimmer, like the one in this photo from a previous Swim the Suck 10-mile race, is assigned a pilot, or spotter, in a kayak who provides snacks and watches out for other boats. Photo by Phyllis Williams.

RiverRocks, the multiday, multievent, multilocation extravaganza designed to show off this area’s natural beauty and outdoor opportunities, has added a 10-event Adventure Sports Games to its lineup.

The Adventure Sports Games are expected to attract athletes from around the nation to compete in everything from rock climbing and long-distance swimming to trail running and stand-up paddleboard racing. The top men, women or team in the 10 sports games will be awarded medals made by craftsmen at Set in Stone, who will hand-craft the awards from local river rocks, according to Dave Santucci, vice president of communications with the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Santucci said the ideas behind creating the games were to attract elite athletes to Chattanooga and to add a new component to RiverRocks.

“For us Chattanoogans, there is also the great entertainment that is part of the event, and now we will be able to go and watch these athletes compete,” he said. About 100 events make up the entire schedule. While not an official part of RiverRocks, the 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival, for example, takes place on Oct. 4, making it part of the entertainment in place takes place Oct. 4, making it part of the entertainment during the event.

RiverRocks was started three years ago to celebrate the many outdoor activities in the area. It features some new elements created just for it and some events that existed previously. One of those is the 4-year-old Swim the Suck long-distance swimming race. Organizer and race director Karah Nazor said this year’s swim, a 10-mile race that will take about six hours to complete, will have about 80 swimmers, including 10 from California.

“We’ve got about 20 elite athletes and 60 more who are serious about swimming, but for a lot of them, this will be their first long-distance race,” she said.

Among the elite swimmers will be former Olympian Ashley Whitney, Nazor said.

Paul Brock, chairman of the board for RiverRocks, said creating the Adventure Sports Games unifies and adds to an already good event.

“We had the opportunity to build on the successes from previous years and take RiverRocks to a new level,” he said.

“We want to be the fall’s premiere outdoor sports games. We want to grow these games. When people come here they are pretty amazed, and I think RiverRocks is a piece of many things that help give us distinction and move us forward.”

Brock said the “quality and level of the games have already attracted some of the most elite athletes from around the country who are looking forward to visiting Chattanooga this year.”

The sports games will include the Rock/Creek StumpJump 50k and 11 Mile Trail Race, the Sequatchie Valley Century bike race, The RiverRocks Canoe and Kayak Race, which will all take place on Oct. 5; the Chattanooga Head Race, the Triple Crown of Bouldering, the Five Points Fifty trail bike race, Swim the Suck, a 10-mile swim, and the Urban Nature 10K, all on Oct. 12; a Duathalon on Oct. 13; and the Chattajack 31 kayak race on Oct. 26.

Opening ceremonies for RiverRocks on Oct. 2 will take place at Center Park, 725 Market St., with Over the Edge, an urban rappelling fund-raiser for the event. Closing ceremonies will be Oct. 12 in conjunction with the grand opening of The Block, a new 25,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor climbing facility where the old Bijou movie theater was on Broad Street.

“RiverRocks happens at the perfect time of year,” said Bob Doak, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, “when people are more inclined to get out and enjoy the beautiful fall weather. Because of the city’s outdoor appeal and amenities, we’ve seen some incredible accolades such as ‘Best Town Ever’ by Outside magazine, one of the ‘Best Adventure Towns in the U.S. to Live + Play’ by National Geographic Adventure magazine and Men’s Journal named us one of the ‘South’s New Adventure Meccas’ as well as one of the ‘50 Great American Places.’’

“Over the past three years, we’ve seen an increase in visitors, and we’re expecting tens of thousands of people to attend this year’s festivities,” Doak said. “It’s no surprise that people are traveling great distances to experience our outdoor opportunities.”

Contact staff writer Barry Courter at 423-757-6354 or