RENO, NV - The Truckee River is a popular place to cool off during these hot summer months but cold water and fast currents make it potentially dangerous as well. For the last seven years the Truckee River Foundation has hosted the Stay Afloat Safety Fair to teach area youth about water safety. Hundreds of kids and parents gathered at Reno’s Truckee River Whitewater Park on Saturday to learn some tips from the pros.
“Obviously the river is a very dynamic environment,” TRF liaison Toby Ebens said. “It’s also a very dangerous environment and you need to use life jackets and helmets to be safe. Not everybody realizes that down here at the Whitewater Park we see a lot of things that aren’t so safe so hopefully we’re having an impact on some people and training them on what they need to be safe.”
About 200 kids were fitted with life vests, helmets and footwear. It’s theirs to keep, thanks to local sponsors and donations.
“Oh, it’s great,” 7-year-old Anthony Marines said of his new gear. “I’ve learned not to be afraid in the water, to keep going and I got to go down the whitewater and the waves.”
9-year-old Brandon Williams and 7-year-old Tyler Harris were trying out their new gear after a lesson.
“We’re learning about how to stay safe in the river, like always laying on your back you’re going down currents,” Williams said.
“I’ve learned to stay away from rocks and to go down on your back if you’re going down currents,” Harris said.
Boogie boarder Harland Dubois, 8, says he felt safe in the rapids.
“That’s because I’m wearing a life vest and helmet and I can see above the waves a little bit,” Dubois said. “Yesterday when I was at Rock Park lots of people were coming down but I got out of the way. I’ve learned to be safe and share the river with others.”
Local whitewater enthusiasts volunteer their time to teach the classes.
“We’ve got a lot of great volunteers, in fact every person here at this event is a volunteer, nobody is paid,” Ebens said. “We’re all out here because of we love the river, we love to give back to our community and these people are all out on the river on a regular basis and they want everyone else to be safe and have the same experience that we do.”
That means wearing the proper gear and keeping an eye out for others in the water.
“If you have kids, bring them down to the river but stay down at the river with them and keep your eye on them,” Ebens said. “We don’t want any more river rescues. Being safe on the river starts before you even get in the water; it starts by being smart about what you’re doing.