Local river outfitters sponsors elite paddler

out nocThe Nantahala Outdoor Center has launched its own elite paddling team and signed whitewater slalom paddler Michal Smolen as its first member. The team was formed as a way to help in the training and sponsorship of paddling athletes. The team is expected to grow to include other disciplines of paddling sports and outdoor sports competition.


Smolen began his paddling career as a youth member of the local Nantahala Racing Club. At the age of 19, he has already been on the U.S. Canoe/Kayak National Slalom Team for two years running. Smolen won a gold medal at the early season race, the Glacier Breaker, which took place in the gorge in late February.

Smolen competes around the world and said the NOC sponsorship would help him maintain his strict whitewater regiment.

“(I am) very proud and grateful to have been chosen for the team,” Smolen said. “I have a long season ahead of me and this support will go towards my expenses from traveling to races.”

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