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Outdoors New Wave Shaper completed at the Nantahala Outdoor Centerpiece

New Wave Shaper completed at the Nantahala Outdoor Centerpiece

After a monthlong construction process, Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) has finally completed installation of a world class wave shaper into the river. The river’s newest addition was created for the Kayaking World Championship which will come to Nantahala in September 2013.

On Nov. 1, the President and CEO of NOC, Sutton Bacon, teamed up with NOC Founder Payson Kennedy, Endless River Adventures Founder Juliet Kastorff, Nantahala Racing Club President Lee Leibfarth, Swain County TDA Chair Monica Brown and Swain County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Karen Wilmot, to be the first group to break ground on the 2013 World Championship competition site. After countless hours of construction, and a monthlong project, all of which was streamed live on the internet through a webcam, water was directed to the new site last Thursday.

According to NOC Marketing Director, Melissa Pennscott, the wave will provide a competition venue for the 2013 International Canoe Federation’s World Freestyle Kayaking Championships bringing 500 paddlers from 45 countries and 10,000 spectators to the Gorge. “The competition concentrates on play-boating, or what used to be called “rodeoing,” said Pennscott. “The wave will allow kayakers to turn tricks and focus on more freestyle-type moves, kind of inline with what you see in the x-games.” The wave will also be available when the Nantahala hosts the Freestyle Kayaking World Cup Finals in September 2012. In the meantime, the river’s new feature is available for the general public to take enjoy.

During the monthlong construction process, Swain County contractor BIll Baxter and his crew drained a portion of the riverbed to make way for a wave shaper in order to prepare for the 2013 Freestyle World Championships.“The wave shaper is open up to anyone 24/7,” said Pennscott. “As long as water is in the river ... since it is a dam released river that varies, but as long as there is water, anyone can use it.”

To prepare for the wave shaper’s construction, in early November the water level on the Nantahala was dropped in order to allow machinery to work on the river basin to begin installing a wave shaper. The wave shaper is being implemented to heighten the level of expertise that the Kayak World Championships will attract. The wave shaper creates different size waves for all different skill levels of kayakers.

Pennscott noted that a temporary dam was installed into the river to naturally redirect the water’s direction. “The river had already been modified years earlier to adjust to the railroad, where the wave generator was built is not the original river basin,” said Pennscott. “When building the dam we took extra precaution in routing the water and using temporary sandbags to be able to remove the dam without doing any harm to the riverbed. Since the portion of the river we are using was already in place, the water won’t disrupt the area and we have taken extra measures to prevent any sediment from washing away into the lake,” explained Pennscott.

The Army Corps of Engineers and the Forest Service approved the feature, which was trimmed out with natural rock and rests between two to three feet below the surface of the river. The wave may bring an economic boost to the area by appealing to more play-boaters. The spectator appreciation the new addition provides will likely be extremely beneficial for the sport, and consequently good for public awareness and conservation of natural resources.

NOC President & CEO Sutton Bacon, NOC Founder Payson Kennedy, Endless River Adventures Found Juliet Kastorff, Nantahala Racing Club President Lee Leibfarth, Swain County TDA Chair Monica Brown and Swain County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Karen Wilmot break ground.Local contractor Bill Baxter of Swain County was contracted to build the wave shaper. Baxter, who can often be found paddling down the Nantahala, was excited for the opportunity to combine his professional work with his love of the river. The apparatus now available at Nantahala is a custom design developed by a McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group of Colorado and was developed specifically to utilize the water flow and unique properties of the Nantahala river.

In order for the river’s addition to reach its maximum potential and provide the safest wave experience for paddlers, rock barriers were placed upstream to allow water to be concentrated directly to the wave shaper, producing a larger wave.

In order to build the structure, Baxter and his crew excavated the riverbed by digging out a four feet area before filling it with a concrete slab to give a stable structure to construct the wave shaper on. Carpenters were charged with the task of developing the wooden model of the wave shaper, which was eventually filled with concrete before removing the wooden frame.

The structure will be tested and modifications will be made accordingly over the next few weeks. A Grand Opening celebration will be held on Friday, Dec. 16, at 12 noon to show off the wave shaper. Kayakers will be on hand to give demonstrations of how the new apparatus works. The NOC is hosting the event to thank all of the individuals involved in making the creation of the wave shaper possible.

For more information visit NOC’s website at

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