Reno Boy, 14, Tries to Defend Kayaking Title in his Backyard

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Jason Craig will have a bit of a home-field advantage when he attempts to defend his junior freestyle kayaking
title Saturday at the fifth annual Reno River Festival. The Truckee River is in the 14-year-old's backyard.

"My life is based around kayaking," said Craig, who lives with his mom and dad in a condo a block from the kayaking park on the river in downtown Reno.

This weekend he'll be competing against kayakers from across the

"The kid is just amazing," festival coordinator Jim Litchfield said. "He's just such an advanced kayaker for his age."

Craig is sponsored by Jackson Kayaks, which is a lead kayak maker in the United States. Everything in his life right now is propelling the teenager toward an outstanding kayaking career.

His parents, Lindsay and Karen, saw the potential in their son and moved to the condo, closer to the river so he could practice whenever he wanted. From his home, he walks about 200 feet to "Hole No. 5," a 40-foot wide spot in the river where competition will take place this weekend.

"Sometimes I think I might miss out on some of the things other kids do, but I get to travel all over the country and meet really cool people," he told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "You can't ask for anything more than that."

Craig travels around the country during the summer to events. Other events take place during the year, which is also during school. To combat the schedule conflict, he is enrolled in online classes through the Washoe School District.

Last week, he was in Canada visiting a high school solely for kayakers. He says he will attend a high school that allows him to travel the world, for competitions and training.

One of the countries he'd like to take his boat to is Chile.

"We're committed to him," Karen Craig said. "We want to see him succeed and we're doing a lot to give him that chance."

This past Sunday, Craig was at the water park polishing moves he plans to use in competition. He negotiated his boat so that it's facing upstream, perched on a rapid. He used his body and his ore to position himself for tricks. Then, he put the ore on his right side, dug the tip of the kayak into the stream and completed a flip underwater.

"That's the McNasty," he said. "I do a Phonics Monkey and Tricky Woos. Those are some of the tricks I'll do for competition."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)