LiveBIG Adventures | No. 02
Nantahala Outdoor Center
5-Day WHITE WATER Kayaking Clinic
At Windy City Strength & Conditioning, we believe the quality of our health determines the quality of our lives—and nothing is more important than that. We believe real fitness is about strengthening and conditioning your body and mind in the gym so you can get out of the gym, explore the world, seek new adventures and be the person you were meant to be. That's why we started LiveBIG Adventures. Windy City coaches and members travel the globe, seeking the most adventurous ways to get out there and use their fitness—then show you how to do it too. Come join us!
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Outfitter: Nantahala Outdoor Center
What: 5-Day Kayaking Clinic
Duration: 5 Days
Where: Bryson City, North Carolina map it
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) offers several different courses from beginner paddling to wilderness survival. According to the NOC website, the 5-day clinic is the best way to improve your kayaking or canoeing quickly. Instructors have time to teach basics, identify issues and solidify good paddling habits throughout the week. Students are grouped by similar abilities to create a supportive paddling group. And having other students nearby creates a fun learning environment, where you can learn from the instructor, from the other students and from practicing skills as a group. Clinics are based at their Nantahala River campus near Bryson City, NC and visit different area lakes and rivers to practice.
Windy City members, Patrick, Kyle and owner, Justin, chose the 5-Day Kayaking Clinic because they wanted to fully immerse themselves in something they had no experience with (and even some fears about) so they could come out on the other end with a new set of skills and have fun along the way.
"Nantahala Outdoor Center's kayaking clinic was on the list of top 100 adventures in America by National Geographic."
What made you guys want to do this adventure?
Patrick: It is my goal to live a very active and healthy life. In working to achieve this objective, I have found myself falling into a daily routine, which works well for my general work/life balance. As a means to keep things exciting and break out of my comfort zone, however, I want to go on at least one physically demanding but memorable adventure a year. When given the opportunity to join Justin and Kyle on a week-long whitewater kayaking trip, I jumped at the opportunity.
Kyle: I own a couple businesses, which is very stressful and time-consuming. I really wanted to take a trip to get away from the busy life and into nature, so when Justin told me about Nantahala, I was 100% in. I'd never white water kayaked before, and honestly, I was kind of afraid of rolling under water and kayaking in white water, which was exhilarating at the same time. I loved the thought of overcoming my fears and doing something new with a good group of people by my side.
Justin: Nantahala Outdoor Center kayaking clinic was on the list of top 100 adventures in America by National Geographic. As well, it presented a challenge in that I'm not super comfortable being in the water. Wouldn't say I'm terrified or anything, but more along the lines of having a healthy respect for the power of water (river, ocean, lake). This was an adventure that took me well outside of my comfort zone. Another thing that made this adventure appealing to me is that it was a learning experience. We were to spend 5 days immersed in learning HOW to paddle; how to read the river, pick lines, spot eddies, eskimo roll, bail out of the kayak, and stay safe in the river (feet up) if you found yourself out of the kayak.
"I've found that general fitness training at Windy City allows me to live a very active lifestyle outside the gym, and I was more than ready to take on the fresh gnar of the mighty Nantahala."
How did you train for this adventure?
Patrick: I have been active in the CrossFit community for many years. I began at Windy City in 2010 and, after moving to the east coast in 2013, I have been a remote training client of Justin’s. What I wasn’t prepared for was completely disconnecting from my phone, iPad and laptop to be completely immersed in the week of nature. There is no training for a complete addiction to electronics, but it was necessary to truly appreciate the experience.
Kyle: I've been a Windy City member since 2008, which has kept me in the best shape of my life. Leading up to the trip, I worked out at the gym 2-3 times per week, as my schedule allowed. I've found that general fitness training at Windy City allows me to live a very active lifestyle outside the gym, and I was more than ready to take on the fresh gnar of the mighty Nantahala River.
Justin: I had grand plans to train in a specific manner for this trip; and that's still something I would like to experiment with in the future. For this trip, however, the wind was kind of taken out of my sails when I learned that I would have to go right into shoulder surgery and face six months of rehab as soon as I returned from the trip. So, my mind was a bit preoccupied. I did continue to train with a mix of squatting, olympic weightlifting, plyos, bike sprints, and as much gymnastics as I could handle. Next time, I would love to put a specific program in place to prepare.
"I found a new sport that I'm passionate about. I didn't expect to fall that hard for paddling...but I did."
What did you get out of this adventure?
Patrick: It was amazing experience that I will remember for a lifetime. I have always been a fan of getting outdoors and enjoying nature. Experiencing nature on a series of rivers surrounded by the Smokey Mountains was more than I expected.
Kyle: Simply put, I fell in love with kayaking. What I loved about the instructors, Dan and Ethan, is that they didn't just tell you what to do and guide you the whole way—they explained all the different things that you need to think about on the water—how to read the water, what to look for, when to take risks and when to play it safe. They let you think for yourself and make mistakes, knowing that they won't always be there. I left with a new skill set, a new love for the sport of kayaking, and new bonds with Patrick and Justin.
Justin: Like Kyle, I found a new sport that I'm passionate about. I didn't expect to fall that hard for paddling...but I did. I can't wait to have a healthy shoulder, then get back out there practicing rolls, strokes, and reading the river. I think we all mentioned during the trip that we'll never look at a river the same way again. I learned so much more than just technical skills. I learned how to read the river(s), identify lines, spot eddies and stay safe in the water.
"If you are considering a whitewater kayaking trip, don’t hesitate and book the trip. Nantahala Outdoor Center is one if the best places to learn whitewater kayaking..."
What's your advice to others who want to do it too?
Patrick: If you are considering a whitewater kayaking trip, don’t hesitate and book the trip. Nantahala Outdoor Center is one if the best places to learn whitewater kayaking and they have been instructing beginners for many years. The staff is extremely attentive and ensures your adventure is safe and enjoyable. It will be an experience you will remember for a lifetime.
Kyle: My advice would be check out the cabins located on the campus. We stayed one night in the bunk houses, but they're set up more for backpackers and hikers. It would've been hard on me to stay there for 4 nights. We ended up getting into cabin E, which was quite an upgrade and well worth the extra money. Get a group of people together and do this clinic! You won't regret it.
Justin: To others, I would say... Get out there. Do something new; something that's out of your comfort zone; something that scares you a little bit. Challenge yourself. You may very well emerge from your experience with a whole new mindset.
Where We Stayed:
We stayed one night in the bunk houses, but they're set up more for backpackers and hikers. We ended up staying in cabin E, which was quite an upgrade and well worth the extra money.
Where We Ate:
There are 2 restaurants on the NOC campus: River's End Restaurant and Big Wesser BBQ & Brew. We ate at both, and both are fantastic. We also got groceries at nearby grocery store.
What NOC Provides:
• Hydroskin (neoprene) pants
• Paddling jacket
• Lunch daily
What To Bring:
• Synthetic clothing (like UnderArmor that dries quickly)
• Bathing suite that dries quickly
• Fleece top (to help if you get cold after getting off water)
• Sunglasses (preferably not polarized to help read water)
• Water bottle with carabiner
• Change of clothing each day
• Nose plugs (these can be purchased in the outfitter store)
• Bug Spray
• Rain gear