Wednesday, August 1, 2012

ICF World Cup Preview

International Paddling Competition Comes to the Southeast this August and September

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) World Cup is almost here, and that means the best freestyle paddlers in the world are packing their bags for Tennessee and North Carolina. The World Cup consists of three individual three-day freestyle kayaking competitions in late August and early September, and it's a huge event for paddlesport enthusiasts.  "This is going to be a high energy event that will host some of the top whitewater athletes in the world," said Zuzana Vanha, NOC's Special Events Coordinator.

The ICF is the international governing body for nine paddlesport disciplines, including two disciplines that appear at the Olympics, canoe slalom and canoe sprint. This makes the ICF analogous to well-known organizations like FIFA (for soccer/football) and FIBA (for basketball).  Though freestyle canoeing like canoe marathon or wildwater racing, is not an Olympic discipline, it still has wide international participation and the ICF  sanctions and helps organize these events. For freestyle padding, the ICF holds a World Championships every odd year and a World Cup in the even years giving event organizers (like the Nantahala Gorge Organizing Committee) the chance to fine tune everything for the World Championships.

The 2012 ICF Freestyle Canoe World Cup will be the first international kayaking event held in the southeast since the 1996 Olympic Games, and it will be the first competitive event held here for an entire new generation of competitive paddlers. "This gives us an opportunity to really showcase and share a piece of Western North Carolina with people from around the world." explained Vanha.
A scene from the 2012 NOC Freestyle Shootout held in April on the Nantahala River.
Excitement Building Among Local Competitors

If you have been to NOCs Nantahala River Campus, you've probably seen the fleet of freestyle paddlers in the World Cup feature downstream of the Outfitter's Store. A majority of the time, that fleet contains some of the best paddlers in Western North Carolina, and nowadays paddlers from all over the Southeast are coming in to log time on the competition feature. Two local freestyler paddlers, Matt Anger and Pat Keller shared some insight on the competition.

Bryan Kirk throws a big "loop" in at the NOC Freestyle Shootout.
Anger, a fixture on Southeastern rivers and waves, is very familiar with the kayak lifestyle. "I'm looking forward to World Cup because this is going to be my first international event." Many other boaters in the southeast are also looking forward to testing themselves against the international competitors.  This year, Anger has been concentrating on advancing his freestyle skills, and he looks forward to meeting and learning from of the international paddlers participating in the event.

Keller, a legendary boater in the kayaking world due to expedition runs and impressive performances at the Green Narrows River Race, describes freestyle paddling as "doing a floor routine in gymnastics during an earthquake."  He is excited about the Caney Fork event (the first World Cup event) and looks forward to "taking his RPM max into the Rock Island hole and cartwheeling that 9 foot Goliath of a boat."  It's all about the fun for Keller, who says he'll bring his 'A' game for the competition.

"It's great to have an organization focused on bringing kayakers together on a set schedule. For a few years now the series of competitions set up has been nonexistent, it's great to see it back and expanding," voiced Keller.  The organizing committee is expecting around 200 athletes to compete in the World Cup events. The schedule for these events is as follows:

World Cup 1 - August 24-26
Sparta, TN
Caney Fork

World Cup 2 - August 28-30
Hartford, TN
Pigeon River

World Cup Final - Sept 7-9
Bryson City, NC
Nantahala River

Be Sure to Check Out One of the World Cup Events

Freestyle kayaking is impressive and easy to watch since it all takes place in one location. The World Cup Final will be at the wave just below the Outfitter's Store, so you can just park at NOC's Nantahala River Campus and see all the action from there. Bring your boat or reserve a raft trip, and you'll get to experience some whitewater yourself in addition to watching the pros. NOC will have live entertainment to keep the energy high all weekend long. So make some plans, round up some friends, and drop in for some world-class paddling!

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