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Freestyle Kayaking World Championships Come to Bryson City

Who's it going to be this time around? Yep, it's freestyle kayaking's biggest stage in two years again, with the 2013 Freestyle Kayaking World Championships coming to Bryson City, N.C.'s NOC Sept. 2-8, drawing paddlers from around the globe. The question is, will the Brits prevail again, with 2011 World Champions James "Pringle" Bebbington and Clair O'Hara able to retain their coveted kayaking crowns?

The Reigning Champ: The UK's James "Pringle" Bebbington is the boat to beat at this year's World's...

"Our vision fis to raise the stature of freestyle kayaking for inclusion in the OlympicS, to inspire a new generation of paddlers from all disciplines, and to create a lasting event venue for paddlers to enjoy for years to come..."

With the support of the Golden Leaf Foundation, the Nantahala is going huge this September 2-8, as top international paddlers converge in the Gorge to compete in the 2013 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships, bringing the region its first major international competition in years. And a bonus water release on the Upper Nantahala River Cascades will up the game for everyone.

"Our vision for the World Championships is to raise the stature of freestyle kayaking for inclusion in the Olympic program, to inspire a new generation of paddling enthusiasts from all disciplines and to create a lasting event venue for paddlers to enjoy for years to come," says NOC CEO Sutton Bacon. "The Nantahala community eagerly welcomes the world."

The Worlds will bring nearly 300 of the world's top freestyle athletes to compete on the new 2013 Wave -- modified to create an optimal feature. A new digital scoring system, unveiled for the 2012 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Cup Series by NOC, will bring real-time results, athlete info and play-back potential, resulting in unprecedented spectator engagement.

In addition to watching the world's best freestylers duke it out on the new 2013 Wave, spectators will enjoy live music from regional bands, craft fair specializing in traditional appalachian handiworks, and a variety of interactive family activities. Other featured events will include a raft race, special rates on rentals and activities, Cherokee tribal dancing and cultural presentations and demos by top performers from across the southeast.

"The Nantahala Gorge has been home to several national slalom championships over the years, but this bid solidifies our area's status as a paddling destination," says Juliet Kastorff, owner of Endless River Adventures, a Nantahala-Gorge-based outfitter and paddling school. "Bringing the spotlight back to a place where thousands of paddlers learn will be critical to maintaining interest in the sport."

But the real question on everyone's minds: Will 2011 World Champion and Dagger-sponsored James "Pringle" Bebbington be able to hold off the Jackson contingent with his carbon Jitsu, especially in an event hosted in Jackson Kayaks' back yard? And will his cohort O'Hara be able fend off a fresh-from-baby-delivery Emily Jackson?

"Having won once, the pressure isn't there like it was in the past," Bebbington says in a Dagger team interview. "I have a clearer head going towards the Worlds, I feel unburdened and am really looking forward to the battle. But it will be even tougher this time. Everyone is really pushing their hardest. I'm going to enjoy every minute of it and just do my best, I feel strong and am kayaking better than I ever have, so I'll just have to wait and see if my best is good enough this time."

As for what you might see from the champ, expect smooth transitions. "I've been working on lots of links lately instead of combo's," he says. "And I hope to have a few new ones ready for Worlds."

Bebbington says he's been training all summer and competing as much as is possible Europe, including a big event in Spain, before heading to the NOC in mid-August to train at the event site.

As well as being able to watch the world's best freestyle paddlers, the event also offers a week of festivities, including:

Parade of Athletes and Opening Ceremonies
The week kicks off at 6 pm on Monday, September 2, with the parade of athletes and official welcome ceremony in downtown Bryson City. The ceremony will include a performance by the Warriors of AniKituhwa, a traditional Cherokee dance group.

Big Air Show
From a riverside ramp, kayakers are launched high into the air before splashing down into the Tuckasegee River.

Artisans' Village
Explore the Artisans' Village with a variety of traditional mountain arts and crafts on display and for sale. You may find handmade jewelry, recycled glass art, pottery, organic herb and spice mixes and more

Live Music
Look for live music every night of the week at the venue in the Gorge and in Bryson City, where musicians will be performing throughout the streets of town.

NOC Mini-Me Rodeo
Tuesday. Teams of up to four paddlers surf the 2013 Wave earning points for spins, stunts and spectacular carnage.

Wave Sport Wesser Falls Extreme Race
Wednesday. The race runs through the 2013 Wave and finishes in Fontana Lake. Top athletes negotiate the Class V Wesser Falls, striving to find the fastest line and stay upright and ahead of the competition

Bomber Gear SUP Race
Thursday. Stand-up Paddleboarders race head-to-head through the 2013 Wave

Dagger Dash Attainment Race
Thursday. 2013 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Champions competitors face off on the Nantahala River.

Bomber Gear Dress for Success Challenge
Friday. Open to paddlers of all ability, the challenge is a fun, approachable way to get involved.

US Wildwater Nationals Classic Race
Friday. The Race will begin at Ledge's Rapid and finish below the 2013 Wave. A variety of classes promote fair competition.

Dagger presents 8-Ball Competition
Friday. Paddlers race head-to-head negotiating gates, and trying not to get knocked off course

US Wildwater Nationals Sprint Race
Friday. The race will start below the Nantahala Falls and finish below the 2013 Wave. Top athletes will paddle Wildwater boars and vie for the title of US Champion, but the event is open to everyone and multiple rec. classes will be available.

Wilderness Systems Lake Demos
Saturday & Sunday. Free and available to paddlers and non-paddlers alike. Test out flat water boats and explore beautiful, tranquil Fontana Lake from NOC's flat-water access,

Wilderness Systems Challenge
Saturday. Teams of three maneuver flat water boats around a course on Fontana Lake. Winners receive a Wilderness Systems prize pack.

VIP Raft Race
Saturday. VIPs race through Nantahala Falls and the 2013 Wave.

Rubber Duckie Races
Friday, Saturday & Sunday. $5 buys you a duckie and a chance to win great prizes. Proceeds benefit Swain County & Robbinsville High School Athletic Programs, PAWS No-Kill Pet Shelter, and the Nantahala Racing Club.

AT Canoe Ball
Saturday. Like to kayak? Like to play basketball? Register in teams of 3 or let us help you find a team in this canoe/basketball mix.

Dagger Presents: The RPM Stern Squirt Session
Sunday. Dust off your long boats, pull on your neoprene, don't miss this retro rodeo on the Nantahala. Points are awarded for pirouettes, surfs and squirts, as well as style


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