published Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Nantahala hosting kayak freestyle worlds

  • photo
    The International Canoe Federation Freestyle World Championships will be held Sept. 2-8 on the Nantahala River in western North Carolina.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

For the first time since the 1996 Olympics on the Ocoee River, kayaking world championships will be held in the United States the first week of September, and again the competition will be in easy driving distance from Chattanooga.

And this will be the ultra-entertaining version known as “freestyle,” with spins, flips, rapid turns and trick maneuvers.

The 2013 International Canoe Federation Freestyle World Championships are set for Sept. 2-8 on the Nantahala River near Bryson City, N.C. More than 300 competitors and nearly 10,000 spectators are expected, according to a release from the Nantahala Outdoor Center. The ICF kayak and canoe events for men, women and junior paddlers will be held on the custom-created “2013 Wave” at the NOC.

“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,” NOC marketing director Charles Conner said. “We expect even more out of the athletes this year. They’ve had plenty of time to train on the feature.

“Both die-hard paddlers and general outdoor enthusiasts will really enjoy the performances provided by the freestyle athletes.”

They also can enjoy their own paddling adventures, with guided raft trips and lake kayaking along with zip-line fun and mountain bike rentals available for purchase. Set for 11 a.m. Friday and Saturday are the U.S. Wildwater Nationals Classic and Sprint races with a variety of classes, including recreational divisions. Entry for both costs $20.

There is no charge to watch the ICF Freestyle Worlds, except for a $5 parking fee at the lots closest to the competition site. The shuttle service as well as admission is free, and Friday through Sunday of that week the shuttles will go farther down Highway 19/74 and into Bryson City. The town lots will have no parking fee.

Demonstrations, instruction sessions, craft exhibits and live music will be part of the atmosphere.

The event officially will begin at 6 p.m. on Labor Day in Bryson City with the opening ceremony, a performance by the Warriors of AniKituhwa dance company from the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and a Big Air Show with kayakers sliding down a large ramp and performing acrobatics in the air.

The first competition at the NOC will involve junior kayakers from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. that Tuesday. The last competition is set for 3 p.m. Sept. 8 before the 5 p.m. closing ceremony.

Contact Ron Bush at rbush@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6291.

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