The best place to view the Great Falls Invitational Slalom on April 18 and 19 will be from the Virginia shore in Great Falls Park, if the water drops below present high levels.If it stays high, the race will be run on the Maryland side very close to the towpath, starting just below Great Falls Tavern, and you'll have a good view along the towpath and the Billy Goat Trail. To find out which side is best for viewing, call 656-2586.

As an invitational, the race is limited to those U.S. racers who have the potential and the apiration to compete in international races.

Whitewater slalom requires that the racers go through gates strung a few inches above the water in a designated order.

The course will be set up in the main channel from just below the falls to the foot of the Rockly Islands, unless the river level is quite high. According to race organizer George Strickland, the toughest gates will probably be set up at the end of Rockly Island, which has one of the meanest pieces of water on the river.

Of the 30 or so gates, about a dozen will require paddling upstream, against the current. Another eight or so will have to be run rear end first.

Judges watch gates and report penalties by phone to the scorer -- 50 for missing a gate, five for each touch of a pole.

They also will hold up cards so that spectators can keep track of the penalties. The race result will be posted near the observation deck on the Virginia side.

The races start at 9 each day.On Saturday, individual classes in C-1, C-2s, and men's and women's kayaks will be held. Each boat runs the course twice.

On Sunday, team races -- three boats running through the course together -- will be first, followed by a Grand Prix race, which will be for time only, no penalties.

The finale, given the right water levels, will be the hotdogging show in the afternoon. In that, as the name implies, the racers show off: standing their boats on end, juggling balls or twirling paddles while surfing a wave, rolling over and catching their paddles and the like.

Race organizers suggest that spectators share rides and arrive early, because parking in the park is limited.