Japan’s Kazuya Matsunaga attempts to land a “loop” during the 2012 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Cup Final. Water sprays off his bow as it surges out of the water. Photo by NOC.

Though the Southeast is known for many things – BBQ, drawls, and good ol’ boys being the most blatant – but water is not one that usually jumps to the top of the list. There is water everywhere in this region of the country, heck it even makes up one half of our perimeter. While fly fishing is rapidly gaining the reputation it deserves, when it comes to talking water down south, it usually has to do with the white variety – as in whitewater (try to keep up people). Yes, the whitewater kayaking, rafting, and canoeing is all time here in the Blue Ridge. Steep creeks, big water, Class V, waves, eddies, falls, we have it all, and that’s why paddlers from across the nation either make their home in the Southern Appalachians or make the pilgrimage here on a regular basis. That is also why the U.S. Freestyle Kayaking Team Trials will be held on the Nantahala River this weekend.

The best boaters in the world will converge on Bryson City April 26-28 for a shot at competing in the World Championships this fall. For some, this event will be an even bigger deal than the World Championships since they have to compete just to make the team. This chance to see the best freestylers in the U.S. compete on the biggest stage is sure to draw a crowd of boating enthusiasts, and the atmosphere will be electric, but watching the competitors flip and spin is only half the fun of the weekend.

Along with the Team Trials, the Nantahala Outdoor Center, located conveniently on the banks of the Nantahala, will be hosting their annual Spring Fling. If there was ever an opportunity to take your paddling game to the next level or just get into the game, this is it. Upgrade on the cheap at the demo and gear sale, test your skills at the SUP, 8-Ball and Dagger Squirt Competitions, enter the casual Nantahala Open, or just sit back, enjoy some live music and study the pros as they do their thing. As if it couldn’t get any better, there will be water release on the Upper Nantahala River Cascades. Whoa.

Needless to say, this is a big weekend on the Natty, so grab a lawn chair, some sunscreen, and your best board shorts and hit the river.


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