Monday, January 9, 2012

2012 Special Events: What’s New and What’s Back

First of all, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Zuzana Vanha, and I’m the new Events Manager here at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. I’m in an interesting position at the NOC. I’m new, but I’m also back: six years ago I worked as a waitress at River’s End Restaurant, and over 24 years ago, I first visited the NOC as a wide-eyed little girl, fresh off the boat from Czechoslovakia, coming with my family to live with our uncle Vladimir, who, unbeknownst to us, had become a living local legend in the Nantahala Gorge (thanks as much to his eccentricities as to his revolutionary kayak manufacturing company, Noah Kayaks). So I’ve seen the NOC through various metamorphoses, and I have to say I’m excited about the coming year, which is shaping up to be the biggest for events in recent history, and maybe ever.

First, let me take you through the highlights: In May, NOC is hosting the Adventure Travel Film Festival. The ATFF is definitely something new—3 days and 16 films, ranging thematically from the first descent of the Yenisey River through Mongolia, Siberia, and into the Arctic Ocean, to “The Himalayan Adventure,” the 1958 story of three English housewives who bought a Land Rover and drove it from London to Zanskar (then a part of Tibet). In short: inspiring, audacious, and beautifully filmed adventures that will leave you itching to get out and see the world. That’s why we’re also hosting speakers, photography clinics, and survival skills workshops throughout the weekend. The only danger is that when it’s time to leave on Sunday, you might just want to keep driving…

Exciting, gritty, real: The Adventure Travel Film Festival has something to whet every whistle.

But don’t go yet, there’s more to come throughout the summer. NOC is turning 40 this June, and we’re having a party for all of you who have been our family and friends over the years. In the afternoon, we’re hosting the first annual Nantahala River Raft Race, followed by,speakers, contests, and live music into the wee hours. Join us. We’d love to have the chance to thank you for a great 40 years.

Recognize me? NOC's Outfitter's Store, in its early days.

And then in September, there’s the World Cup. That’s right, the 2012 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Cup is coming to the Nantahala River. Top freestyle athletes from around the world will compete at the newly constructed 2013 Wave, built this winter with a generous grant from The Golden Leaf Foundation to accommodate next year’s Freestyle World Championships.

Top international freestyle athletes will compete on the Nantahala in 2012 & 2013.

Our high-profile events continue into October, when we’re hosting the 2012 ACA Open Canoe Nationals. The best open boaters from across the US and Canada will compete for three days in a variety of classes, and you can come out to give them a run for their money, because this event is open to everyone. (Juniors 16 and under will race for free in tandem disciplines when accompanied by a paying adult.)

So, as you can see, there are a lot of new things going on at the NOC this summer to get excited about, but that’s not to say that our returning events are old hat. Many of these events have been growing in popularity for the last several years, and will be bigger and better this coming season. In its second year, NOC’s Appalachian Trail celebration, the Founder’s Bridge Festival will feature local and national hiking/backpacking personalities, speaking on topics such as AT history and conducting free wilderness skills clinics. We’ll also be hosting a trail maintenance hike on a section of AT adjacent to the NOC campus.

We’re also happy to welcome back our annual high-level competitions, including the Bank of America Whitewater US Open. This March, Top level slalom athletes will race on the Nantahala before making their way to Charlotte for the 2012 Olympic Team Trials. Don’t miss this chance to cheer on our future Team USA before they head for London later this summer. The Freestyle Shootout is also coming back to the NOC this April—pro freestylers, enthusiasts, and juniors are invited to participate in the inaugural freestyle event at the 2013 Wave.

Some events that everyone can get involved in this year will be the Canoe Club Challenge and World Kayak Hometown Throwdown, two beginner-friendly competitions that encourage boaters to improve their skills in a friendly, unintimidating setting. Check out these events on the third weekend of June, July, and August.

Come one, come all! Everyone is welcome at this beginner friendly slalom event!

The Duck n’ Run, in its third year this May, is NOC’s seriously silly biathlon. Paddle the Nantahala in an inflatable ducky, then test your lungs (and quads) up Flint Ridge trail: what’s not to love? Boaters and non-boaters, runners and non-runners are welcome!

Devoted fans cheer along competitors at the 2011 Duck n' Run.

And towards the end of the season, come out again for the Great Pumpkin Pursuit, a free-for-all canoe/kayak scramble for hundreds of numbered pumpkins floating through the Nantahala Falls. A beloved component of our annual NOCtoberfest, the Pumpkin Pursuit will take place on the 27th of October. NOCtoberfest itself will be significantly bigger this year.

Autumnal Foliage at the 2011 Great Pumpkin Pursuit.

In addition to our tried-and-true autumn festivities, guests can enjoy a traditional Bavarian-style Beer Garden, set in along the riverbank under the tall maples near Slow Joe’s Café: beer, brats, schnitzels galore, as well as dumplings, sauerkraut, and cider for the kids. Hayrides and haunted houses are also in the works, as well as the Flint Ridge Fall Flight, a multi-option running race along NOC’s trail system.

To sum up, NOC’s mix of high-profile events, returning festivals, fun challenges and community races will make 2012 a year to remember. Come out and join in the fun, and stay afterwards to enjoy live music, refreshments, and good company at the Pourover Pub. We’re sure you’ll find something you like to do this year at the Nantahala, and we’d love to hear your thoughts on NOC events past, present, and future. Your input is what helps us make these events better every year. Please feel free to comment here, on NOC’s Facebook page, or by sending an email to

I am looking forward to the coming year, and I hope you’ll be a part of it.

Zuzana Vanha
NOC Events

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