Paddling springs eternal
Whitewater fanatics wait in line for their chance to do tricks, flips, spins and somersaults with their play boats on the Tuckasegee River near last Saturday for annual Kayak Demo Day. The day was unseasonably sunny and warm. It featured a full lineup of freestyle practice sessions, kayak instruction and top-of-the-line equipment for anyone to use.
The range of skill sets was also apparent, from first-time freestyle kayakers struggling to stay upright to seasoned experts honing their skills. But the common denominator is connecting with the river, and reveling over the latest boats, said Jenna White, a graduate student at nearby Western Carolina University and one of the event’s organizers.
“It helps cultivate a strong paddling community and gives students a chance to try boats they wouldn’t normally get to use,” she said.
Team Pyranha member Mike Patterson charged toward “Eternity,” a standing wave on the East Fork of the Tuckasegee River. Patterson and several other members of Pyranha’s South East play-boating team known as the “DemShitz” came out to the demo day put on by WCU’s outdoor adventure organization, Basecamp Cullowhee. Team manager “Big D” said the demo event was a perfect chance to evaluate his team after a winter off-season, scout for new talent and hang with other local Western North Carolina paddlers.
“This is where the locals come to hang and play,” he said.
The “Nano,” a new play boat by Pyranha, was one of the new boat models being showed off at the freestyle demo event. Pyranha reps also showcased their new carbon fiber freestyle boat that hasn’t even hit shelves yet. The Nano typically cost about $1,100 and the carbon model carries a price tag of around $2,000. Those boats, along with six others donated for the day by Endless River Adventures rafting company in the Nantahala Gorge provided an arsenal typically unavailable to students on a budget.
“We bring them out every year to support the college and the students,” said Braden Henry, the store manager for the guide company.