Wild Carolina: Ben goes to kayak school

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BRYSON CITY, NC (WSPA) – Kayaking is one of those outdoor activities that saw a lot of growth in the past year.

In fact, the limitations the pandemic brought made most outdoor activities even more popular.

As 7 News’ Ben Hoover learned, kayaking is more than a sport. It’s a way of life.

Suiting up and learning the ropes of kayaking happens on dry land first at Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) in Bryson City, N.C.

NOC is one of the first schools of its kind and is considered a model for whitewater centers across the U.S.

Master Guide and Lead Paddling Instructor Anne Sontheimer said there are a couple key pieces of gear.

A splash jacket helps to keep your warm air in while you’re out on the cold waters of the Nantahala River. Then there’s the life jacket, or personal floatation device, a spray skirt to protect your bottom half from water, and a helmet.

The final items are at the core of the sport: the paddle and the kayak.

According to Sontheimer, kayaking relies on the buddy system. That means everybody looks out for each other in a kayaking group.

But, before you’re ready for any whitewater rapids, beginners use the calmness of nearby Fontana Lake to get a feel for the kayak and learn a few techniques. Moves like edging come in handy when everything’s going smoothly but you also must know them when things go wrong, like when you end up under water while strapped in.

To get upright, you learn a technique called tucking and rolling.

Nantahala Outdoor Center has some upcoming courses for women and Sontheimer added the sport is looking to get more people of color involved in kayaking.   For more information on group prices at the NOC and other courses and activities offered there follow this link.

Here are some of the other places close to the Upstate and Western NC that offer kayak and paddling instruction:

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