Freestyle Kayaking Event News and Updates • Nantahala Gorge, North Carolina

Bryson City, N.C. (September 12, 2013)—After the closing ceremonies of the 2013 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships on the Nantahala River, event organizers hailed the championships — which boasted 178 athletes from 30 different countries — as a triumphant success, predicting the event will bring more major outdoor events to Western North Carolina in the future. The event was hosted by a public/private partnership of small businesses, tourist attractions, destination marketing organizations, federal and state agencies and US Canoe and Kayak with support from a broad array of national, regional and local sponsors.  

Over the course of the week an estimated 30,000 spectators enjoyed the competition site, with 20,000 of the attendees visiting between Friday morning and Sunday evening. The main event was the Saturday night semi-final round, where 4,000 spectators crowded into bleachers and stood along the river banks to see the men’s and women’s professional kayak classes under the lights. The crowd created an electric atmosphere as the athletes strained to qualify for finals and a shot at a medal on Sunday. (shown in photo, Men's K1 Medalists (l-r). Silver: Peter Csonka, Slovakia. Gold: Dane Jackson, USA. Bronze: Tomasz Czaplicki, Poland.

“This event was an important coming-out party for Freestyle Kayaking and for Western North Carolina,” said NOC Chief Executive Officer Sutton Bacon. “We showed that freestyle competition can be as spectator-friendly as figure skating or snowboarding, and we demonstrated that there is support for large-scale outdoor lifestyle events here in Swain County.”

The event was a proving ground for the organizing committee, which had presented a 100-page bid to the International Canoe Federation in Budapest in 2011. The committee delivered on all of its promises to the ICF including the delivery of a brand-new instant scoring system designed to make freestyle paddling more television-friendly.  

Not only were spectators watching on-site, but the event also gathered a large online viewing audience with full live stream coverage of the competition surpassing 50,000 viewers. Recap videos of each day were also produced on-site at Nantahala Outdoor Center and published to the official event website as well as Facebook. Lluis Rabaneda Caselles, Chairman of the ICF Freestyle Committee commented on the event saying “The 2013 ICF freestyle World Championships held in the Nantahala Gorge, has been from an ICF Freestyle Committee perspective the biggest freestyle event ever held, including the media coverage with the live stream, the post competition TV production and the social media platform. In the future we are sure that organizers will look at this event to plan future ICF Freestyle events, and that is a great sign.”

Despite the success of the event week, the vast majority of event spectators have yet to see the event. An hour-long edited version of the competition will air on Fox Sports National in spring of 2014, reaching almost 80 million viewers across the United States before settling into syndication on regional television broadcasts.

Volunteers from surrounding towns and counties gave of their time to come out to NOC and help with the event. Because of this support, the event ran even more smoothly than organizers anticipated.



September 3, 2013 - Last night kicked off the 2013 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships with the parade of athletes and opening ceremonies in Bryson City, NC. Athletes marched through crowds of people sporting their nation’s flag and getting rousing cheers from the spectators. Speeches were made by ICF officials and event hosts to welcome all athletes and guests.

After the official opening, spectators enjoyed watching the Warriors of AniKituhwa perform a traditional Cherokee dance. Spectators also had the opportunity to watch the “Big Air Show,” where kayakers launched their boats off a custom-built ramp into the Tuckasegee River in downtown Bryson City.  Athletes and paddling enthusiast alike enjoyed taking on the challenge of the ramp and showing off their best moves to onlookers watching from the Everett Street Bridge. This was by far a crowd favorite, especially with local youngster Brody Miller. When asked what he liked most about the opening ceremonies he had no problem answering with an enthusiastic “Yes!” to the “Big Air Show.”

Being the first time this type of event has been held in the United States since the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, and the first time ever in this region of the states, the opening ceremonies were met with great excitement from Bryson City locals. The turnout was quite impressive as the spectators lined both sides of the street throughout downtown. “It was extremely exciting to see Bryson City come out for this event,” said Australian kayaker Jez Jezz. “This was our "Olympic opening ceremony' for freestyle kayaking and it was very cool to see all the local support.”

Last night was a great introduction to the event for anyone wishing to come out and watch freestyle kayaking. The athletes gave onlookers a taste of what the competition will be like and the crowd loved it. As the week of competition gets underway, the athletes will certainly be showing off their best moves on the water and they hope to have as much fan support as possible.

Click here to learn more and here for the live stream coverage of the event.

One of the Southeast's Most Popular Vacation Destinations to Host World's Best Paddlers

For the first time since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, GA, world championship kayaking returns to the United States. The 2013 International Canoe Federation Freestyle World Championships will take place September 2-8 on the Nantahala River near Bryson City, NC. Over 300 of the world’s best paddling athletes will compete for the title of world champion in front of up to 10,000 spectators per day.

Like freestyle snowboarders, most famously Shaun White, freestyle kayakers perform tricks, spins, turns and flips to impress judges and spectators. The paddling competition is reminiscent of the freestyle skateboarding, skiing and surfing seen on ESPN’s X-Games. But instead of a half-pipe or a slope the kayaking competition will be take place on a new custom-built river wave at Nantahala Outdoor Center, one of the Southeast’s most popular tourist destinations.

Besides bringing world-renowned athletes and paddling enthusiasts from around the country to the Nantahala Gorge, the Championships will also showcase the cultural, recreational and natural features that make the North Carolina Smokies one of the Southeast’s most popular tourist destinations. Free demonstrations, instruction sessions and games will get spectators involved in the outdoors, and live music performances and on-site crafting exhibitions will engage guests in Western North Carolina arts, both traditional and modern.

The seven-day event will be free, though spectators should expect to park remotely and pay $5 per-car, per-day shuttle fee. Event spectators will also be able to purchase guided rafts trips, zip line tours, lake kayak tours, mountain bike rentals and other outdoor activities at the event site, making it easy to both watch and participate in outdoor sports.

Charles Conner, marketing director at Nantahala Outdoor Center — the host site of the event — commented, “Many of the classes in last year’s World Cup event featured spectacular, dramatic showdowns that ended on the last ride — freestyle’s equivalent of a walk-off home run or game-winning shot. We expect even more out of the athletes this year; they’ve had plenty of time to train on the feature, and I think the extra motivation of being crowned World Champion will result in record-setting point tallies. Both die-hard paddlers and general outdoor enthusiasts will really enjoy the performances provided by the freestyle athletes.”

The event begins at 6pm on September 2nd in Bryson City, NC with opening ceremonies, a dance performance by the Museum of the Cheorkee Indian’s Warriors of AniKituhwa dance company and a Big Air Show—where kayakers will slide down a large ramp, go airborne and perform an acrobatic trick. Daily competitions will be held at Nantahala Outdoor Center.

New Technology Brings All-New Spectator Appeal to Developing Discipline

For the first time ever, a completely paperless real-time scoring system will help determine the winners of the International Canoe Federation’s Freestyle World Championships. A new, custom-designed scoring system will debut in championship-level competition at the 2013 Freestyle Worlds, which begin September 2 on the Nantahala River in North Carolina. Designed by the event’s host Nantahala Outdoor Center, the system promises to take freestyle competition to the next level, informing spectators and athletes of competition status and results immediately after each run.

Until now all freestyle competitions — even international-caliber events — have been scored and tallied with pen and paper, a process that includes time-consuming compiling and review processes before scores can be published. Consequently, spectators could rarely be certain of the ongoing status of the competition, including basic information such as which paddler is in the lead and which tricks counted.

Thanks to Nantahala Outdoor Center’s IT System Administrator Raymond Brugger, the creator of the new scoring program, athletes at this year’s Worlds will know exactly how many points they need in order to earn a place on the podium before they begin their runs.

Brugger, a whitewater kayaker himself, has worked for over a year developing and perfecting the system. Beyond the instant results, the system also provides a comprehensive solution to event organizers by handling athlete registration, and auto-generating competition heats. For judges, the system essentially removes the risk of human error by using an intuitive touch-screen scoring interface, and by using large, illustrated score cards that allow the head judge to quickly but accurately scan for glaring anomalies before issuing his/her final approval.

“Imagine watching a basketball game without a scoreboard,” Brugger said. “You would be able to see players score baskets, but you wouldn’t have a clue which team was winning. This is basically how the old scoring system worked. The new system gives instant feedback to the athletes and spectators allowing fans to invest more in the competition emotionally and follow their favorite athlete’s progress.”

Brugger explains that the system will also introduce a new dimension of strategy for the athletes. “Instead of feeling like you have to give your absolute best ride all three rounds, if you nail your first two rounds then you can relax and conserve energy on your third round since you will know what your scores look like going into the round.”

NOC’s goal for the project was to help make freestyle kayaking more spectator-friendly and more suitable for a live television broadcast. The project was a key component of NOC’s bid for the 2013 Freestyle Worlds, and it should remain a valuable contribution for many years to come.

The 2013 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships are coming to the Nantahala Gorge, and USA Canoe Kayak is preparing by hosting their National Team Trials on the same feature. Top paddlers from around the country will converge on Bryson City this April 26-28 to duke it out for their chance to compete at the World Championships this September. More info & schedule

In addition to the Team Trials, the Nantahala Outdoor Center will be hosting it's annual Spring Fling with lots of fun events. On April 26, Team River Runner will hold a competition; TRR gives wounded active duty service members and veterans the opportunity to learn water sports skills that engage them in an active lifestyle.

On Saturday, April 27, Endless River Adventures will host its annual Nantahala Open, a fun competition open to all boaters no matter the experience or ability, consisting of categories for every skill level – and the prizes that go along with them! The event takes place at Nantahala Falls, between 10am and 3pm. Team Wave Sport and Endless River Adventures staff will be at the staging area above the Falls.  Stop by the staging area above the Falls and confirm that you want to participate. It's as easy as that.

And to top off the weekend, there will be a water release on the Upper Nantahala River Cascades section to provide kayakers with an enhanced whitewater recreational experience. The is a repeat of the release event in September 2012.

Bryson City, NC (September 10, 2012) – The 2012 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Cup came to a spectacular conclusion on Sunday afternoon with down-to-the-wire victories in both the men’s and women’s K1 classes. Peter Csonka, SVK (pictured), Dane Jackson, USA, and Jason Craig, USA, the medalists in the men’s class, all traded positions several times as they battled for the gold. Jackson delighted the crowd with his final run, posting a score of 1316, and moving into first place. Only minutes later, Csonka, who was seeded last after his victory in the Quarter Final, responded with an unprecedented result of 1538, possibly the highest-scoring freestyle ride to be recorded in ICF competition to date. Csonka’s ride was greeted with gasps and cheers from the crowd, who were able to follow the competition more closely than ever before, thanks to the introduction of the new digital scoring system, which was debuted at the 2012 Freestyle World Cup series.

But the men’s class was not the only one to amaze the crowd with neck-and-neck rides. In the K1 Women’s final, Nina Csonkova, SVK, Emily Jackson, USA, and Claire O’Hara, USA, pushed the limit with each consecutive ride. Then, with her final ride, Canadian Ruth Gordon-Ebens posted an incredible 495, catapulting herself temporarily into first place, and knocking Csonkova out of the medals. Jackson fought hard to come back, but fell just short with a final score of 430. Great Britain’s Claire O’Hera, however, was able to rise to the challenge, and in the final women’s ride of the day, posted a score of 633, the highest scoring women’s ride from the 2012 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Cup Series.

O’Hera’s two first place medals were not enough to make her the K1 women’s World Cup champion in 2012. This distinction went to Emily Jackson, who was the women’s champion in Rock Island, TN, and finished in the medals at all three events, rewarding her consistency as well as her success at the individual events.  Sconka’s three consecutive wins sealed his victory of the 2012 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Cup Series.

In the K1 Women’s Junior class, Nutria Fontaine Macho of Spain will return home bearing the title of World Cup Champion, while Rowan Stuart, a young paddler from Stecoah, North Carolina, who finished third overall, will stay here to train for next year’s World Championship. Athletes from around the world are expected to return to Western North Carolina beginning next spring and summer to prepare for the 2013 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships, the biggest event in canoe freestyle, which takes place only once in two years.

September 1, 2012 - The 2012 Freestyle Kayaking World Cup Champion will be decided September 7-9 on the Nantahala River in the southeastern United States near Bryson City NC. FREE Admission.

Athletes from more than 17 countries and 5 continents have been participating in two World Cup preliminary rounds for the past week – on the Caney Fork River in Rock Island, TN, and on the Pigeon River in Hartford, TN – before proceeding to the Nantahala Gorge for this weekend’s Final.

The break between the first two rounds and the Final will allow athletes the opportunity to get in valuable training time on the Nantahala’s 2013 Wave freestyle feature.

Judges will be using the new NOC digital freestyle scoring system, which was unveiled for the 2012 World Cup Series, and real-time scores will be displayed at the venue. "The scoring system makes the sport truly accessible to spectators and enthusiasts," said designer Raymond Brugger of Bryson City, NC. Results are posted daily and live video streaming will be on this site for the Finals.

Competition will begin at 10 am each day and end around 7 pm. Spectators can expect shaded riverside seating, live DJ and event announcer. Southwestern Community College student volunteers will be hosting kids' activities riverside near Slow Joe's Cafe on Saturday afternoon from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. Activities will include face painting, coloring, and a variety of games for kids of all ages.

Competition will be followed by free live music on Friday and Saturday evening. On Sunday, following the conclusion of competition, the event winners as well as the overall World Cup Champions will be recognized at a riverside awards ceremony. Several local children will be assisting with the presentation of medals.

Event organizers do not anticipate traffic issues in the Nantahala Gorge, but through-traffic will be asked to slow down approaching the event site. The NC Highway patrol will be onsite to help keep traffic moving at a safe pace. Staff, volunteer, and spectator parking will be available in remote lots along Silvermine Rd, with free shuttles driving to and from the event site approximately every 10 minutes. Silvermine Road intersects Highway 19/74 in the Nantahala River Gorge across from the NOC Outfitters Store.

September 2, 2012 – The 2012 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Cup #2 finished September 1, on the Pigeon River in Hartford, TN. Peter Csonka, SVK, continued his domination of the 2012 Freestyle World Cup Series, finishing first with a final score of 1416. Csonka was first after both the preliminary and the quarterfinal rounds, but was seeded in second place behind USA’s Dane Jackson coming out of the semifinal. However, Dane Jackson, a resident of Rock Island, TN, couldn’t quite match Csonka’s score in the final round, finishing second with 1380 points. In third place was Joaquim Fontane, of Barcelona, ESP, with a score of 1160.

In the Women’s Kayak, Dane’s sister Emily Jackson, USA, also came in second with a score of 486. Great Britain’s Claire O’Hara (pictured) was the women’s champion at the Pigeon River, with an incredible 586 points, an impressive ride in the K1 Women’s Class. Nina Csonkova of Slovakia was third with 416 points.

Athletes credited the high scores to the impressive freestyle feature on the Pigeon River. “It’s pretty much your ideal freestyle hole, and it really enables athletes to deliver world-class performances,” said Australian coach and competitor Jez Jez. Jez finished 4th in the C1 (decked-canoe) class. Dane Jackson, Jordan Poffenberger, and Seth Chappelle, all of USA, finished first, second, and third, respectively.

Competitors have now absolved two of the three events of the 2012 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Cup Series. This week, they turn their attention to the Nantahala Gorge. “The Nantahala is the most important of the three,” said Csonka, who is in the lead for the men’s World Cup title, “because that is where the World Championships will be next year.” Csonka, along with many other international athletes, who have been training in the southeast for the past month in preparation for the world cup, plans to return to Western North Carolina in the spring of 2013 to complete his preparation for the upcoming World Championships.

For now, however, all are focused on the World Cup Final. “Each event, each ride, even, has to be taken as a single unit,” said competitor Kathleen Levitt, of Chattanooga, TN. “You have to put both the good and the bad ones behind you, and concentrate on the task at hand.” Levitt, who is an artist and metal-worker as well as an athlete, has been commissioned to make the awards for the World Cup overall champion. As she puts the past two events behind her, she will have one last shot for a result that will bring one of the trophies back home with her.

August 9, 2012 - Freestyle athletes from around the world are converging on the Nantahala Gorge in preparation for the 2012 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Cup Final, which will be held this September 7-9 at the newly modified “2013 Wave” on the Nantahala River. 100 top competitors from 17 countries and five continents will participate in the 2012 Freestyle World Cup. This series consists of three events, all of which will be held over the course of three weeks in the Southeastern United States. The winners of the coveted title “World Cup Champion” will be announced following the conclusion of last event, the Nantahala Gorge World Cup Final. Event Schedule

Countries represented in the 2012 event include: Australia, Austria, Canada, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, USA.

While the Japanese team is flying over 7000 miles to attend the event, others are driving in from just down the street, including Bryson City local Zachary Tomason and Sylva residents Scott and Aleta McCleskey. Aleta, a former US Freestyle Kayak Team Member, is excited that an event of this caliber will be held in her home-state. “One of the best parts about training for Freestyle is getting to travel around the world and seeing places you wouldn’t otherwise have had the opportunity to visit. It’s a treat to host this event here, and show off the beautiful place that we live in for a change.”

Bryson City resident Matt Anger will also be representing the United States at the upcoming World Cups. Anger has been training on the feature here at the Nantahala for the past several years; now, he is looking forward to matching his hard-earned skills with competitors from around the world. “This is going to be my first international event. It’s been fun getting a chance to train with the Germans and Slovakians over the past couple of days; and it's exciting to see more folks arriving every day.”

The Nantahala World Cup will offer FREE viewing access in a family-friendly riverside setting. Spectators can expect mounting excitement over the course of the three days of competition, as athletes are either eliminated or proceed to the next round. In addition, the event will feature free live music, kid’s activities, and a youth freestyle exposition. Competition will begin at 10:00 am Friday-Sunday.

April 17, 2012 - Excitement is growing in the Nantahala Gorge: engineers, construction crews, and a passel of locals have been in the water the last two days, moving boulders and concrete blocks, hoping to hit upon the magical combination that will turn this work-in-progress into a world-class play feature (photo taken 4/17). When the water came on this afternoon and paddlers replaced the heavy machinery in the river, the crowd, largely local boaters, were all smiles. "We have a couple more things to tweak when they turn the water off again," said Daniel Dutton, a local paddler and freestyle judge. "Two of the rocks moved when the current hit them, but we'll get them in place."

This is the first time that construction crews have been able to get back in the water, following a moratorium established to protect trout during a delicate time in their life-cycle, and the resulting delay has had many on the edge of their seat, wondering if the feature will be ready in time for the summer season. "They all seem positive about the direction that the fine-tuning is taking, and judging from the loops and cartwheels paddlers were throwing in the wave, it looks as though they're well on their way to finding the optimal configuration," said 2013 World Championships event manager Zuzana Vanha.

NOC is hosting an athlete feedback session with McLauglin engineers at 6pm at Slow Joe's Café on Friday, April 20th. The goal of the session is to gather input from locals and national team members alike that will help to guide the final round of fine-tuning. The event will be open to the public.

Curious about how water works, and the way that we can change its flow and characteristics? Find out at a demonstration of "The Science of Water Hydraulics," scheduled for Saturday, April 21 from 2-3 pm in the Nantahala Gorge. The event is part of the North Carolina Science Festival, a multi-day celebration showcasing science and technology through events across the state.

Using the Nantahala 2013 Wave as the example, engineers will discuss the science of water hydraulics and in-stream construction, which allows alteration of the shape of a river-bed in order to create or enhance river features for various uses.

You can also see the product of these engineering efforts in action since the Nantahala 2013 Wave feature will be utilized during this year's Freestyle Shootout Competition, April 20-22. The Shootout will be the first competition to take place at the 2013 Wave. Find out more about the Freestyle Shootout, and about the Nantahala Open, which will take place the same weekend just upstream at the Nantahala Falls!

For more information about the NC Science Festival, please visit:

In a little more than a year, the world's best freestyle kayakers will converge on the Nantahala Gorge for the 2013 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships. To acquaint area businesses and civic organizations with the potential impact of this event, the Bryson City - Swain County Chamber of Commerce is holding an open house Thursday, March 22 from 6 to 8 pm. Event Director Zuzana Vanha and members of the Nantahala Gorge Organizing Committee will be on hand to answer questions about the event, and provide information about volunteer and sponsorship opportunities.

"Even though the Nantahala Gorge and Bryson City are the official hosts, all seven Western North Carolina counties will benefit greatly from the increased traffic and international exposure," said Karen Wilmot, Executive Director of the Chamber. "It will significantly boost our region's excellent reputation as an outdoor recreation destination."

"Freestyle is an 'extreme' form of kayaking," explained Vanha, "comparable to half-pipe snowboarding in the way it pushes the envelope with extraordinary athletic moves."

The Bryson City - Swain County Chamber of Commerce is located at 210 Main Street, Bryson City,

Fine tuning of the 2013 Wave continues, as athletes and engineers strive to achieve the optimal configuration of the newly installed Wave Shaper. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” says Nantahala Gorge Organizing Committee Event Director, Zuzana Vanha. “The 2013 Wave is going to strengthen Freestyle Kayaking nationally as well as regionally, and it’s going to put on a great show next year, but it will take a little more work to get it optimized for competition. Right now, we have a good, retentive hole, which is great for some tricks, but will be hard on the junior classes. When we finish, the feature will look much more like a wave, and it will be deep and powerful enough for even the largest moves.

“We’re working with athletes and the engineers to ensure that we take everyone’s needs into account, and I am confident that when we finish, the 2013 Wave is going to be a draw for pro athletes, locals, beginners, and youth paddlers alike for years to come.”

Despite the rain, a good crowd turned out for the grand opening of the new 2013 Wave Shaper on Friday, December 16. Several professional kayakers were on hand to provide demonstrations. But if the truth be known, they most likely would have been there with or without the audience. Former U.S. Freestyle Kayak Team member Andrew Holcombe described the new wave feature as a "Christmas present" to the region and the kayaking community.


The Nantahala Gorge Organizing Committee ("NGOC") will celebrate the grand opening of the 2013 Wave on Friday, December 16 with a ceremony, reception and paddling exhibition starting at 12pm. The 2013 Wave is the competition site of the 2013 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships on the Nantahala River, an event expected to draw 500 international athletes and thousands of spectators.

During the 30-minute dedication ceremony NGOC representatives will explain how the wave works, how it may evolve over time and the current state of the event planning. Some of the world's best freestyle paddling athletes will be on hand to discuss their impressions of the 2013 Wave, and the ongoing preparations for the games. These same boaters will be available for a photo opportunity following the dedication ceremony as they paddle the new wave.

NGOC representatives will be soliciting paddler feedback so they can make adjustments benefiting the general public as well as advanced freestyle athletes. To facilitate the feedback, there will be an open paddling session after the meeting where boaters can paddle together to discuss their recommendations and impressions. Non-paddlers will be treated to light refreshments and will have the opportunity to watch the athletes surf the new wave.

"We completed the installation within the required time frame, clearing the biggest hurdle we faced in the entire planning process—I'm very relieved and excited," says Lee Leibfarth, board member for the Nantahala Racing Club and member of the organizing committee. "We've still got work to do on the competition site though. The feature needs refinement and adjustments that can only be made through experimentation. As the Nantahala goes through its usual winter release schedule we'll be tweaking the features that produce the wave to make it optimal for most paddlers."

Now that the competition site is constructed, event organizers will move on to new challenges like scheduling, ticketing and other logistics. As that process gets underway minor work will continue on the 2013 Wave preparing it for its first big test: the 2012 World Cup event in September.

The feature installation phase of the wave shaper was completed on November 29, 2011. The second phase of testing and fine-tuning of the feature has begun.

View live webcam of the Nantahala wave shaper

Payson Kennedy, NOC co-founder (second from left), joined organizing committee members (l-r) Sutton Bacon, Juliet Kastorff, Lee Leibfarth, Monica Brown and Karen Wilmot on November 1, 2011, for the groundbreaking as construction began on the new Wave Shaper, the apparatus that will create a world-class kayaking wave with a safe and user-friendly eddy immediately below it. The Wave Shaper is located down river of the existing commercial and private take-outs for rafting. The site will be free and available to all boaters when not in use for scheduled competitions. The first planned event for the new feature is the April 20-22, 2012 NOC Freestyle Shootout.

A $195,000 grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation was awarded to the Swain County Tourism Development Authority to fund construction of the wave feature.

Construction is now taking place with an expected completion date of November 30. In the first phase (see below), workers created a dry working environment by enclosing the site with water-tight, concrete barriers. Duke Power, which controls the water flow on the Nantahala is keeping the levels low during construction. Concrete shapers (left), which form the structure of the wave feature, have been made in a variety of interchangeable sizes to allow for fine-tuning. Construction schematic / details (pdf).

April 15, 2010 - The International Canoe Federation—the sanctioning body for all world championship and Olympic canoe and kayak events—announced Saturday the selection of the Nantahala River Gorge as the site of the 2013 Freestyle World Championships. The Nantahala Gorge was selected alongside other international metropolitan centers like Moscow, Prague and Toronto for events in eight other paddling disciplines. The World Championship is expected to draw up to 500 paddlers from forty to fifty countries and spectators in the thousands to western North Carolina, and is tentatively scheduled for mid-September 2013.

To participate in the bid process, NOC CEO Sutton Bacon submitted an 87-page presentation on behalf of the Nantahala Gorge community of outfitters and local businesses. The bid received public support from Duke Energy and government representatives at the city, county and state level, including endorsements from the Chief of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians Michell Hicks, US Congressman Heath Shuler and North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue.

"The tremendous growth of the outdoor adventure community in western North Carolina has created an ideal foundation to host high-profile events such as the World Freestyle Championships. I have no doubt [the] event would be a perfect match for our region," wrote Congressman Shuler.

The only time the World Freestyle Championships were held in the US was in 1993, on the Ocoee River in Tennessee. The Nantahala will also host a World Cup Freestyle event in 2012 as a test event for the World Championships in 2013. To compliment the 2012 World Cup on the Nantahala, two other World Cup Freestyle events will occur in the Southeastern United States during 2012.

"The Nantahala Gorge has been home to several national slalom championships over the years, but this bid solidifies our area's status as a paddling destination," says Juliet Kastorff, owner of Endless River Adventures, a Nantahala-Gorge-based outfitter and paddling school. "Bringing the spotlight back to a place where thousands of paddlers learn will be critical to maintaining interest in the sport."

"Our vision for the World Championships is to raise the stature of freestyle kayaking for inclusion in the Olympic program, to inspire a new generation of paddling enthusiasts from all disciplines and to create a lasting event venue for paddlers to enjoy for years to come," says NOC CEO Sutton Bacon. "The Nantahala community eagerly welcomes the world."