In his own words: Kayaking expert Noah Fraser

Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about Reno River Festival and the responsibilities of your position.

Noah Fraser: The festival started out as a way to get people downtown to celebrate the whitewater park and the new beautified downtown. I run all the whitewater events and bring in all the athletes and make sure judging is up to international standards. Most kayaking events are kind of small-scale and local, even world championship events. Here in Reno, the kayakers are part of the show for the tens of thousands of people that are down there. You want it to be continuously flowing, so we have to keep things on point and keep the action moving all day for everybody to watch. That is my part of the show.

NNBW: How did you get into this job?

Fraser: I competed the first two years I lived here and was a sponsored professional kayaker for years. When I started my PhD. work, I wasn’t allowed to compete so I judged the freestyle competitions. I did that for a few years. Last year they asked me if I would run the whitewater events.

NNBW: What’s been the most difficult aspect of transitioning from the kayak to the judging side to the organizational side?

Fraser: It helps being someone who works with high-level consulting when you have meetings and deadlines — I am used to that sort of thing. When you go from just showing up, getting your mind right and competing and trying to do your best to judging, you have to be consistent. You are out there for eight to 10 hours a day in the sun, and every single ride has to be judged the exact same way. That’s another mindset. But once you have to run the whole thing, there is a lot more involvement with the social and communication aspects, making sure all the kayakers and all the different teams from all over the world know where to go, what times to be there and what to expect. It is more of a communications and networking role when you step into that position.

NNBW: What do you like most about the job?

Fraser: Out of the whole West Coast I moved to Reno because of the kayaking culture and the cool downtown scene here. I didn’t want to see that go away, and when the director stepped down last year there was no one to take her place so I stepped to the plate. I like being involved and keeping the festival going and keeping it a really cool internationally known event. It’s one of the top events around the world.

NNBW: Do you miss being on the water?

Fraser: Not really. I paddle four or five days a week. I kind of work it out so that I can get in the water too.

NNBW: How do the low water levels of the past two years impact the event?

Fraser: We always want to have it in hole 3, the third feature below the taphouse and next to the stage. But we also have hole 5, the bottom feature, which is good down to 400 cfs, which is usually where it is all summer. This year it is probably going to be around 500 (cubic feet per second), which is still a world-class feature.

NNBW: What about back in 2010, when flows were about 2,500 cubic feet per second — how did that change things for competitors?

Fraser: It is more of a wave and less of a hole. The goal of freestyle is to stay in the feature and do as many tricks as you can to score as many points as you can in a minute. If you flush out and you can paddle back up to it, then you can keep going. In 2010, it was hard to stay on and there was no way to paddle back in it once you came off. Instead of two rides, everybody got four rides, so as a judge that year went on forever. It was one of the longest days of judging.

NNBW: As an international event, do you run up against language barriers? If so, how do you counter that challenge?

Fraser: Most of the boaters who travel here are the top guys in the world, guys who have sponsorships that pay for them to travel to all the U.S. events and the European tour. These guys are well traveled and almost all of them speak English pretty well.

NNBW: What was your very first job?

Fraser: I worked for an insurance agency filing and doing stuff like that.

NNBW: What’s your dream job?

Fraser: To be a hydrology consultant who worked on a project basis, working really hard on a project for a month or two and then waiting around for the next project with a lot of international things to work on that will make a difference.

NNBW: How do you spend your time away from work?

Fraser: Usually kayaking and traveling to do fun stuff.

NNBW: What did you dream of becoming when you were a kid?

Fraser: Pretty much what I am doing now, something to do with water.

NNBW: If you had enough money to retire right now, would you?

Fraser: I don’t think I would fully retire.

NNBW: What’s the last concert or sporting event you attended?

Fraser: The last home UNR football game.

NNBW: What’s your idea of the perfect vacation?

Fraser: Usually for us it’s a beach or somewhere we can do something really athletic for a couple of hours and then just relax in a pool setting and have a few beers and hang out.

NNBW: Why did you choose a career in northern Nevada? What do you like most about working/living here?

Fraser: My wife finished her master’s at Georgia, and we said, “Let’s move out West.” She said to find somewhere we could do the outdoors stuff everyday after work or for our lunch breaks. Reno fit that bill perfectly. It is a growing city, the downtown is fun and there are a lot of young professionals in the city. The outdoor opportunities are fantastic. Work-life balance is the best way to say it.

To suggest a candidate for NNBW’s weekly question and answer column, look at our editorial calendar ( and contact reporter Rob Sabo at or call 775-850-2146.


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