Friday, January 7, 2011

NOC Special Events 2011: What to Expect

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2011 NOC Special Events Calendar

While working on the new 2011 special events calendar I took the opportunity to reflect on how NOC special events have changed over the past couple of years. If you're really just interested in the events, follow the link above see the schedule on for yourself. It features a good mix of participatory and spectator events, old standbys and new trial offerings.

Be sure to note the 2011 USA Canoe/Kayak Slalom Nationals will be on the Nantahala the weekend after GAF, so we'll likely get to see the 2012 Olympic paddlers here in Wesser even though the team won't be set until next year. If you are interested in how the NOC special events schedule has evolved, keep reading. You may find the following observations interesting.

Over the past couple of years NOC has tried to bring most special events “home” to the main Nantahala property. This meant handing off longtime NOC events like the Knobscorcher and the Tsali Challenge Triathlon to race promoter Gone Riding, but the upside of this transition has been the creation of very successful new events, and a plan for future on-property bike and foot races as the Flint Ridge trail system develops into an accessible, event-worthy venue in the next few years.

The stars of the new event calendar have been the NOC Freestyle Shootout and last year’s Canoe Club Challenge. The NOC Freestyle Shootout is part of the burgeoning eleven-event USA Freestyle Kayak Points Series which will determine the 2011 freestyle team and national champions. Also, the event helped the Nantahala Gorge win the 2013 ICF World Freestyle Championships, which will be the biggest paddling event ever held on the Nantahala or in the area, bringing in paddlers and spectators from over 25 different nations. Last year’s NOC Freestyle Shootout featured eight classes from open beginner to professional, giving boaters of all skill levels the chance to compete together. Thanks to its centralized location among NOC’s facilities the freestyle event is uniquely spectator-friendly, and it gives paddlers a shot-in-the arm heading into the summer boating season.

Friday night at the NOC Freestyle Shootout offers an illuminated practice session
giving traveling paddlers pre-event time in the feature.

The Canoe Club Challenge is a short gate race spanning the bridges on the Nantahala behind the Outfitter’s Store. While prizes are awarded for individual classes, the real competition in the Canoe Club Challenge is not speed, but participation. Paddling clubs compete for total “starts” and encourage members to get out and paddle together. The result was the largest paddling event in the United States last year, with over four hundred recorded starts. The short course and convenient location afford paddlers a fun, social event where they can work on technique and speed, as well as goof off and meet new paddling buddies. Non-club boaters are welcome at the event, and are actually heavily recruited by clubs looking for representatives to log some additional starts. The Canoe Club Challenge will again consist of three rounds throughout the summer.

Canoe Club Challenge paddlers waiting for the queue to start their runs
through the race gates.

Also new in 2010 was the Duck N’ Run race, a light-hearted “adventure race for everyone” consisting of a five-mile whitewater duckie paddle on the Nantahala (including Nantahala Falls), and a five-mile run on NOC’s Flint-Ridge Trail. This race and the new-for-2011 Nantahala River Raft Race give everyone, not just competitive athletes, opportunities to participate and win cool events. (By the way, our 2010 Duck N’ Run training videos were a big hit on the NOC Facebook page, and are worth a peek.) The new downriver raft race will present teams of four a chance to claim the official “fastest crew on the Nanthala” title.

Duck N' Run participants await the start signal at Ledges Rapid on the Nantahala River.

Another new event that established itself in 2010 is the Great Pumpkin Pursuit at NOCtoberfest. Our costumed race hosts chunked over 50 numbered pumpkins from rafts in Nantahala Falls for boaters to collect and redeem for prizes, including a new kayak. In 2011 we expect to toss over 100 pumpkins in the river from multiple rafts and to see the costume component of the event grow.

The 2010 Great Pumpkin Pursuit unfolds as paddlers chase pumpkins through
Nantahala Falls.

As for more serious events, NOC is working with the Smoky Mountain Relay to put on a 200+ mile relay running race extending from the Asheville area to Wesser. Teams of six and twelve runners will complete the course in just two days.

There’s also the
Blue Ridge Breakaway bike race sponsored and supported by NOC (but organized by our friends at the Haywood Chamber of Commerce), that offers riders 24, 40, 66 and 105 mile ride options. Last year over 300 riders rode in the inaugural Blue Ridge Breakaway, and with the ride’s stellar organization, location and routes there’s every reason to expect this one to grow. We do have plans to introduce a new NOC-run cycling event in 2011, but we haven't received required permits yet. More details to come as our planning pans out.

New in April 2011 is an Appalachian Trail celebration we’re calling the Founder’s Bridge Festival, recognizing the bridge where the AT bisects NOC and crosses the Nantahala River. Expect vendors from leading gear producers, representative from area hiking clubs, free workshops, survival skills courses, speakers, book signings and live music—all focused on celebrating the nation’s most beloved footpath.

NOC’s popular retail events—spring’s Demo Days and summer’s Sizzling Sales Days—will return offering the best deals on new gear and the best savings of the year—short of GAF, of course. GAF 2010 was widely hailed as the “best GAF ever” (click here to see why), but we’ll do our best to make GAF 2011 even better.

Throngs of outdoor enthusiasts swarm the Used Gear Marketplace at GAF 2010.

All of these events will be supported with nighttime entertainment at The Pourover beside the banks of the Nanthala—one of the coolest places to see live music and enjoy being away from workaday responsibilities. We'll be returning our “Rock and Raft” music series and rafting promotion, which offers discounted 4pm trips that end in time for dinner and featured bands from Asheville, NC—a hotbed of cool, funky music.

As we look beyond 2011 we plan to develop Flint Ridge into a trails system that will accommodate competitive events for athletes of all skill levels. To this end, we also will be holding a Spring and a Fall Trail Days (to be announced), where we'll invite guests to help us do some work on this trail system. Once finished, Flint Ridge will be accessible (and free!) to riders and runners year round, with all the conveniences of being located at NOC. (No permitting issues or closures either.)

So, that’s the deal with NOC special events moving forward. I hope you plan on joining us at some of these in 2011. We’re open to feedback and suggestions about the kinds of events our guests want to see, so feel free to comment here, on NOC's Facebook page or send an email to It’s never too late to add another event to the calendar—just keep in mind that there’s only so much we can do, especially in the summer!

Thanks for supporting NOC and best of luck in the new year.

Charles Conner
NOC Marketing

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