Nantahala Outdoor Center Wrapping Up its 50th Year of Instruction and Innovation


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Just one year after opening, in 1973, the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) held its first ever whitewater rafting clinic, taking more than 70 participants on both the Chattahoochee River in Georgia and the Nantahala River in North Carolina. In March 1973, the first whitewater instructional clinic was conducted at Camp Chattahoochee near Roswell, Georgia and on the Nantahala.

Since then, NOC has developed one of the most renowned paddling schools in the country. Once called “The Harvard of kayak schools,” Nantahala Outdoor Center has been the learning ground for tens of thousands of kayakers, including top athletes and Olympians.

This is an iconic location and an incredible place to spend time on the river. NOC’s Paddling School has hosted numerous competitions, events and festivals, contributing to the exposure and popularity of paddlesports globally. NOC and its paddling school have also been involved in outdoor education and advocacy, working to preserve and protect the natural resources, river health and outdoor recreation.

NOC’s instruction program, which attracted excellent teachers and significantly advanced current-day paddling techniques, such as the C to C roll, forward stroke technique, and water reading, as well as boat outfitting, ergonomics and river rescue.

NOC instructors came from the 1972 Olympic Paddling Team, and also attracted world-class paddlers and athletes, in one of the only known early Paddling Schools in the U.S. Tandem Canoe was very popular at the time the school was founded, but kayaking quickly gained popularity after the Olympics. Many of the current day techniques came from the early days of instruction at NOC, including the C-to-C kayak roll.

Boat outfitting and development also came from the early instructors and paddlers that worked at NOC. In 1974, NOC conducted 10 whitewater instructional clinics and 50, three-day courses for the North Carolina Outward Bound School. For the 50th anniversary, the Paddling School is bringing back special programming to honor our roots with the launch of new Whitewater Canoe Instruction Courses, and Ocoee River Kayak Instruction, as well as inviting new and past guest to take an Introductory, Class II or Class III+ course this year.

In September 2021, NOC relaunched adventure travel trips including kayaking and paddling trips to destinations such as the Futaleufu River in Chile, a Chilko River Expedition in British Columbia, and a 14-day Grand Canyon kayaking and rafting trip.

According to Tosh Arwood, NOC Paddling School Manager & Instructor, NOC has been a leader and key part of the Paddlesports industry since they opened in 1972. “From rafting to our retail Outfitter’s Store to our Paddling School currently celebrating its 50th anniversary this year we are fully ingrained in the Paddlesports culture within the eastern United States. Our Paddling School prides itself on the level of professionalism, training and certifications that our instructors hold. We are committed to providing top-level instruction and equipment to conduct classes in a safe and positive environment using goal oriented and progression-based methods to help students become confident and proficient in whitewater Paddlesports.” He also said the NOC Paddling School is committed to providing high quality instruction to every type of paddler, from beginner to Class III+, even offering certifications for Swiftwater Rescue courses.

NOC has been instrumental in the Paddlesports world through the southeast, and nationally and it’s a beautiful location with a restaurant and lodging. They also offer Wilderness Survival courses, zip lining, and mountain biking. From instruction and boat design/development, to paddling techniques and safety protocol, NOC is a true pioneer. Arwood says, “Many professional paddlers, competitors and Olympians have worked and taught at NOC in the last five decades creating a culture and community that has made NOC’s main campus a hotspot for paddlers.”

Here are some highlights from the NOC Paddling School’s 50th anniversary this year:

// Leaders in Kayaking Innovation: The NOC Paddling School became a continuous innovator in new teachings, paddling techniques and safety protocols. In the 70s and 80s NOC instructors came up with now well-known techniques like the Stern Draw Ferry, Head Dink, Paddling in the Box and the C-to-C roll.

// Olympic-Level Teaching: The Paddling School attracted top-level instructors who played a key role in training the next generation of world class paddlers. Some of the very first NOC instructors were a part of the 1972 Olympic Paddling Team. Not to mention, other world racers such as John Burton, Les Bechdel, Angus Morrison, Carrie Ashton and Olympian Evy Leibfarth have called NOC home.

// Celebrating 50 Years of Instruction: White water canoeing was one of the first classes offered at the NOC Paddling School back in 1973. To celebrate 50 years, the Paddling School is honoring its roots with the launch of new whitewater canoe and Ocoee River kayak instruction courses, and inviting guests to take an Introductory, Class II or Class III+ course.


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