Sunday, July 14, 2013

NOC week 2 - Heavy rain

Big water on the Nantahala

Last week in just three days over seven inches of rain fell in the Nantahala valley making it feel more like a tropical rainforest than the Great Smokey Mountain Range. Every few hours the heavens opened and the rain begin to pour. Because of the super heavy rain the river rose loads and my training schedule had to change. Instead of my usual routine of two freestyle sessions each day I began to mix up my water time with some fun runs on the upper and main Nantahala. Some play sessions on what was left of the hole. A few classic big water creeking / river runs and even some big wave surf sessions on the new wave train that had formed on the Nantahala falls.

Passers by watch as experienced paddlers run the high water falls

As the weekend rolled in the rivers stayed super high and we managed to get in an interesting tree infested run down the Green River Dries and a couple of awesome fun boof filled laps of the Big Water Creek. Then on Saturday night we made a quick trip into Asheville. where we had chance to celebrate the 4th July with the local kids as they launched a very close up and definitely unofficial firework display, right next to us in the middle of town!!!

Crazy climb in to the Dries

Jez boofs the final drop on the Dries

Fun Boogie runs down Big Creek

As the week went on the weather began to calm and the levels settle on the Nanty. It dropped from its weekend peak high of 4,000 cfs back to a more normal ,but still high water, level of 800 cfs and the freestyle hole returned. The big water had moved a few rocks which changed the feature a bit but in a great way it seemed less pity and a lot more stable after the rain. I'm not 100% sure if its just because of the rocks moving or the water still being a little higher than normal or wether it was just that I was beginning to dial it in, but its super sweet at the moment.

The Worlds hole turns into a big wave

In between kayaking sessions I got to experience loads of other fun activities in the valley including mountain biking the Tsali trails, rafting the main Nantahala run and even zip lining 1.5 miles through the mountains. The Nantahala valley is turning into a truly awesome place to be based to train.

Mountain Biking

Super Fun Ziplining through the mountains

Everyday new people are turning up to paddle and everyones super positive and happy to be out on the water. I am surprised theres not more paddlers based here yet training for the worlds. That said... I don't mind at all its been great having this time to get to know the hole before it gets super busy. As the days roll on here at the NOC I am definitely beginning to figure out the feature and i'm getting more excited about the forthcoming worlds.

Monday, July 08, 2013

NOC week 1 - The training begins

After all the excitement of the Payette Rivers Games it was time to travel East to North Carolina and start training at the site of the forthcoming World Freestyle Championships. With my bags opting for a stop over in Denver on route to Greenville I arrived super light in Greenville with only my hand luggage (a laptop and 2 helmets) to see me through the next few days! Luckily the next part of my journey went super easy as I picked up my new car, a sweet Nissan Pathfinder, and set of on my way. Stopping on route to say hi to Australian team paddlers Jez and Lili at the fabulous Falling Creek Camp (FCC) I eventually made it to Almond, NC my home for the next few months.

The Great Smokey Mountains... the view from my room

Last year, when I was over in the USA competing at the ICF World Cups, I spoke to the event organiser Zuzana about possible accommodation options in the area. As I knew I would be coming to stay for an extended period of time and she arranged for me to stay who with a lovely local couple only a short drive away from the wave. Arriving late after a long journey I couldn't believe my new home. the 'Tribbles' live on a private mountain in an amazing house with one of the most amazing mountain views I have ever seen. From their porch, front room, bedrooms, kitchen, lounge; pretty much every room, all you can see is mountain after mountain intertwined by the beautiful blue Fontana Lake.

Water Wheel

One of only 5 houses on the mountain, their neighbours are beers, snakes, frogs and birds. It is natural beauty at its best. Sat looking out over the spectacular view all I can hear is the sound of water from the well and water wheel and the chirping and humming of the birds all around. To say that this place is perfect is an understatement. Lori and Arthur are some of the most lovely people I have met, and they have just welcomed me into their home and shared with me their stunning views.

What a view!

However its not long before i'm back down the mountain at the Nantahala Outdoor Centre (NOC) and ready to hit the water. Jackson Kayaks have been kind enough to sort me out with a brand new boat that is already here ready for me to use to train and, with all my stuff still in Denver, I have managed to borrow everything I need from the NOC Outfitters store. The water is crisp and cold true to the Nantahala valley but the weathers amazing 80 degree +. As I paddle, I am joined by other local paddlers and watched and cheered on by lots of NOC guests. The hole is tricky and challenging, but super fun. Its feel great to be back here and exciting to be on the Worlds venue and training properly again. 

Training begins back at the NOC

Over the next few days I begin to fall into a routine of driving to Bryson City each morning (to sort out buying a car), followed by two boating sessions and then a chilled out evening eating home cooked food with Tribbles, back at their lovely home. The weekend quickly comes and its time for a bit of a break. There's a really cool bluegrass band 'Mipso Trio' playing in Asheville so I head back to town to meet up with the FCC crew who are friends with the band and we enjoy a fantastic evening of live music.

The Mipso Trio

Next up the plan is mountain biking. A day of active / alternative activity / rest!!! I head with Jez and The FCC mountain bike crew up to Beech Mountain and we spend the day riding the chair lift up the mountain and then blasting our way back down. This is a newly opened site for public riders and was previously only open as an exclusive training site for the US National team. Its an awesome mountain biking centre with only 1 green, no blue or red routes, 2 black diamonds and 1 double black diamond routes. Its super technical and 2 of our team take big crashed as they ride the trails fast. I ride super slow and manage to stay on the bike and remain intact. Its awesome being challenged by riding these trails but even more amazing watching the pro's and experienced riders as they fly past, literally flying as they jump, twist and turn of all the bumps, jumps and rocks.


Dwayne shows us how it should be done

Claire and Jez make there way down the technical terrain

Finishing the day with a classic American dish... Burritos! Its time to head back to the rivers. On Sunday, the official day of rest, I head over to the famous Ocoee river with Tracey 'Alabama' Hines. We play boat our way down this classic Class 3 run surfing every possible wave. Running loads of cracks and slots and enjoying paddling in the baking sun. Finishing the main section we jump in the truck and head to Dam Deli for some 'Southern food'. Alabama's goal for the day is to give me the true Ocoee experience so we delve into a plate of truly southern cuisine... fried green tomatoes, fried okra, fried catfish, fried southern country steak and sweet potato fries! It is a culinary experience and a half. Its a mini heart attack on a plate, but it tastes great. Full to bursting we head back to the river with Alabama's squirt boat and finish the day with an hour or so of park and sink at the Cats Pyjamas mystery seam.

Fried Green Tomatoes!!!

The fun doesn't stop there though as I head back to the Nantahala and join US team paddler Adrienne and we spend the evening at the NOC Outfitters Store meeting paddlers from the Carolina Canoe Club who are having a big week of paddling in the valley and a special launch night at the store. Monday comes and its time to get back into my NOC routine. I head to Bryson City this time I manage to register my car. I now officially have NC plates for my boating mobile. Then head back to the river again for 2 boating sessions. Followed by Homemade dinner, then chill time watching the hummingbirds with the Tribbles as the sunsets over the mountains...Life is good.

Check out my NC plates

Its Tuesday and I have now been here a week. The kids from FCC are running the river above the NOC and have offered to show me the lines down this class 2 fun run. So I join them for a fun river trip in the sun. After the river run I head to Robinnsville, a local town deep in the mountains with the Tribbles and their friend Andrew, for a lovely meal. Finishing the day and my first week in the valley with an open top cruise through the mountains back to the house in Arthurs convertible sports car. Unfortunately its now raining but with a rainbow overhead we're not going to let that spoil the fun. 
What a week!

2nd - 9th September 2013