Top Kayak Tricksters Duke It Out to Join Team USA

This weekend, NC's Nantahala River hosts the US Freestyle Kayaking Team Trials
Staff Writer

Steven McBride

Top freestyle kayakers—aka playboaters—from around the country are converging upon western North Carolina's Nantahala River (one of our top spring river trips) tomorrow to compete in the US Freestyle Kayaking Team Trials, which run Apr. 26 to 28.

For the unfamiliar, freestyle kayaking is the competitive side of playboating, a whitewater discipline where paddlers perform technical moves and tricks—spins, cartwheels, blunts, flips and loops—in one place on the river, usually while surfing standing waves, or playing in 'holes', hydraulics, eddy lines or other water features. Those paddlers who perform the most technically challenging, cleanest tricks will join Team USA for the Freestyle World Championships, which are set to take place at the same location in September.

“This is the most important national-level freestyle event of the year,” said Event Manager Zuzana Vanha, in a statement. “For some athletes it's more stressful than the World Championships, because their very hope of competing at the Worlds hinges on their performance at Team Trials. Last year’s World Cup held here had down-to-the-wire finishes; we expect the Team Trials to be just as exciting."

In addition to three days of competition, the famed Nantahala Outdoor Center, the host venue, is holding its annual Spring Fling, which includes a paddling gear sale, artisans’ fair, SUP & 8-Ball races, Dagger Squirt Competition and live music. There will also be water skills clinics and opportunities for paddlers to get some fun runs in on the Upper Nantahala River Cascades, where a scheduled water release will enhance the whitewater experience.

For a complete schedule of the weekend's events, click here.


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