Thursday, October 13, 2011

NOC River Leaders of the Month: 2011 Youth Paddling Team

For October we selected not one, but eight River Leaders of the Month. The 2011 NOC Youth Paddling Team members are recognized for their individual and team achievements, participation and development in paddlesports. So please help me give a big shout out and congrats to Zac Agnew, Wylder Cooper, Carter Davis, Bernie Engleman, Shelby Johnson, Julia Kendrick, David Perrin and, last but not least, Anne Marie Pilcher for becoming the first team recognized as NOC River Leaders.

The 2011 Youth Paddling Team

A Team in the Making

The NOC Youth Paddling Team, or "YPT" as the team members like to call it, was merely an idea back in 2009. NOC’s Paddling School Director Jon Clark had a goal: Start a program that will increase youth involvement in paddlesports while developing them to become the leaders, role models and ambassadors of the sport for generations to come. In October 2010, he achieved this goal and officially assembled the 2011 YPT. Jon spent many nights reviewing a stack of applications to select eight team members out of the dozens he received. Jon made his selection and the team was born.

A Year of Growth

The 2011 YPT consists of young, talented and motivated individuals. They arrived at the YPT season kickoff from all corners of the Southeast, ranging in age from 12-17 and all with differing skill levels on the water. Meeting at NOC, their first big adventure was to the Ocoee River in Tennessee. “The van ride there was very awkward,” says Jon. “But by the time they got to the third rapid on the Ocoee, they had quickly become best friends!”

Scouting a Rapid

The team continued the 2011 season with multiple river trips including a lot of firsts for some of the members on the Cheoah, Gauley and even a few made it to the Green Narrows. In addition to these fun weekend paddles, the team competed in multiple freestyle and citizen race events. Prior to these competitions the team joined together on multiple occasions for afternoon freestyle training sessions with Jon and NOC Instructor Andrew Koch. Their first competition as a team was in April at the NOC Shootout. It was high water on the Nanty that day, the hole was washed out and the air was frigid. Jon recalls team members “standing on the bridge shakin’ in their boots” that day. They continued to compete throughout the season at Hometown Throwdown’s on both the Nantahala and Nolichucky rivers.

Pre-Competition Coaching

Developing More than Paddlers

Jon’s vision was to develop the YPT to be more than excellent paddlers. He expected more out of them and provided opportunities to the team to become well-rounded and highly skilled leaders and role models for paddlesports. The team spent two weekends completing Swiftwater Rescue training and Wilderness First Aid certification. The intent of these programs was to further their skills and abilities developing a responsible and educated paddler. They also joined together for a weekend in Atlanta at the Outdoor Nation Summit as ambassadors of the sport. At Outdoor Nation they were awarded a $2500 grant to further a project they developed, participated in round-table decision-making and even led kayak demonstrations introducing the local community at Sweetwater Creek Park to the sport.
2011 YPT - Who We Are
Courtesy Wylder Cooper
The team has also done a great job representing themselves and the sport by creating team videos of their excursions (as seen above), documenting their experiences in blogs and being active members in their communities. So be on the lookout for these eight paddlers. They are a team of skill and determination. And don’t hesitate to say hello when you see them out paddling next season. They love what they are doing and want to get more youth involved in a sport that is changing their lives.

Do You Want to be a Part of the 2012 YPT?

The 2012 YPT team is now in the making. Due to the success of this year’s team, it is going to be even bigger in 2012. There will be two different tracks to accommodate more youth participants ranging from age 6-18 and all skill levels. The online application and details can be found here. Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity. Apply now!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

GAF 2011 Recap

GAF 2011 was a hit, featuring cool activities, tons of sale items and fun for the kids. But what really stole the spotlight this year was the weather. As you can see in the photo above, GAF Saturday was one of the five best weather days we've had so far in 2011. This was a welcomed change from the waterlogged events of the past three years.

What did this mean for festival goers? Life was just really pleasant, and many guests spent a good portion of their non-shopping time enjoying the activities occurring up and down the Nantahala. From River's End Restaurant to the driving bridge there were paddlers enjoying SUP demos, the beginner-friendly Surf School Wave, the citizen's slalom course and the Hometown Throwdown going on at the big wave.

The scene by the river was lively, but it began to resemble a three-ring circus when the folks from Durham, NC's King BMX Show started performing aerial BMX tricks on the bridge above the wave. The folks from RideGarden also supplied a pump track for the river-left bank, adding to the activity there.

Young festival goers were in hog-heaven too, with the BMX show, live snake and raptor shows, character-based storytelling, free rock climbing and the ever-popular bouncy castle. Next year we're going to do a raffle for the amount of folks that climb the rock wall; it must have offered up 1,000+ climbs in just one and a half days.

The live music line up was excellent, and all the performers had great shows. Blue Eyed Girl, the Freighthoppers and Chalwa gave especially energetic performances this year, and the tent/stage location was probably the best we've had yet.

The overall verdict from the organizer's point of view? It was the most solid, well-oiled GAF we've had in a few years; we didn't seem to have any major hiccups at all. Perhaps that's a signal that it's time to shake things up for next year...

My favorite part of GAF? The return of the popular GAF T-shirt. You can count on that re-establishing itself as a permanent fixture of the event for years to come.

What would you like to see at GAF next year? We've already got some fresh new ideas up our GAF t-shirt sleeves.