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A Preview of Next Year’s Freestyle Kayaking World Championships

Ever since Bryson City and the Nantahala Gorge were named hosts of the 2013 IFC Canoe Freestyle World Championships, there’s been a lot of buzz about an extreme sport that few of us have actually witnessed. Next weekend should change all that when the 2012 Freestyle Kayaking World Cup Championships come to the Nantahala Gorge.

While smaller than next year’s World Championships, the World Cup is attracting athletes from more than 17 countries and 5 continents. Preliminary events were held last week on the on the Caney Fork River in Rock Island, TN, and on the Pigeon River in Hartford, TN. The competition now moves to the Nantahala Gorge for next weekend’s Finals on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, September 7, 8 and 9.

Freestyle kayaking has been called the X-Games for whitewater. If you’re entertained by the spins, flips, turns and tricks of freestyle snowboarders, surfers and skaters, or the half-pipe freestyle event in skateboarding, you’ll love freestyle kayaking. Legendary kayaker, “Fearless” Pat Keller described it as “doing a floor routine in gymnastics during an earthquake.”

The event is free. Competition will begin at 10 am each day and end around 7 pm. Spectators can expect shaded riverside seating, live DJ and event announcer. On Saturday, there’ll be special riverside kids activities from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. Competition will be followed by free live music on Friday and Saturday evening. Parking will be available in remote lots along Silvermine Rd, with free shuttles driving to and from the event site approximately every 10 minutes.

You’ll find more information on the official website FreestyleKayaking2013.com

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This ‘Olympic’ Event Has Gone To The Dogs

Zoey, a seven year old ‘dock dog’ leaps more than 20 feet chasing a float toy thrown by owner Stephanie Prock of Canel Fulton, Ohio. Zoey was just one of the dozens of dogs of all breeds competing for trophies at this weekend’s ‘Cherokee Dock Warriors’ canine sporting event. The two day event is produced by Carolina Dock Dogs as part of the 11th annual Talking Trees Children’s Trout Derby.

Dockdogs is a fast growing dock jumping and dock diving sport for dogs that’s been featured on ESPN and The Outdoor Channel. The sport is comprised of the three disciplines: ‘Big Air’ (long jump); ‘Extreme Vertical’ (high jump); Speed Retrieve (jump, swim and retrieve); and ‘Iron Dog’, when a dog competes in all three disciplines.

By consistently jumping 22 foot distances Zoey is considered a ‘master’ in the Big Air event.

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The Nantahala’s New Wave Shaper Made Its Debut on Friday

A day of drizzle did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm for Friday’s grand opening of the new wave shaper on the Nantahala River. It was the first major event leading up to the 2013 ICF World Freestyle Kayaking Championships and the World Cup of Freestyle Kayaking less than a year away — two events that will place Bryson City and the Nantahala Gorge on kayaking’s center stage.

The playboaters above were demonstrating the wave for the grand opening crowd and will continue to practice their maneuvers over the coming weeks, providing feedback to the wave’s designers and engineers. The submerged high-tech structure has adjustable concrete components that allow fine-tuning of the wave’s flow pattern. The goal is to create a freestyle kayaking venue that will continue to attract the world’s top athletes for years to come.

For more information, visit FreestyleKayaking2013.com. And for even more reading, check out the Asheville Citizen-Times’s great article on the Nantahala wave shaper.

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Local Gridiron Heroes Headline Bryson City Christmas Parade

Yesterday’s 37th annual Christmas parade had everything you would expect — colorful floats, music, fire trucks, celebrities and, of course, Santa. Even the green ‘Grinch’ received applause. But the biggest cheer went up for the Swain High Maroon Devils football team – 2011 State 1AA football champions and Grand Marshals of the parade. Led by homecoming queen Mary Shell, our local heroes proudly held their trophy high throughout the parade. The entire county shares your pride, guys.

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It’s November and the Pool’s Open. No Water, No Problem.

The Smokies’ favorite pools are dry. And the area’s skateboarders and BMX freestyle sport cyclists wouldn’t have it any other way.

The ‘pools’ are features in the new $600,000, 13,000 square foot Action Sports Park in Cherokee — a 6’8″ peanut shaped bowl and a 3500 sq. ft. flow bowl (above). And that’s just half of it. The other half is a large street course with multiple levels and obstacles.

Designed by Pillar Design Studios and built by Artisan Skateparks, the state-of-the-art facility was funded by the Eastern Bank of Cherokee Indians to provide activities for area youth. It’s open daily from 8am to dusk and is free for all to enjoy.

Cherokee Action Sports Park
1036 Acquoni Road.
Cherokee, NC 28719

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When These Nice Ladies Put On The Skates, Watch Out!

By day they may be a doctor, a beekeeper, a beautician, a rafting guide or a bike shop owner. But give ’em a pair of skates and they’re suddenly transformed. With names like “Bletilla The Hun”, “White Crash”, Hopi wan Kenobi”, “Butternut Squash” and “Miss Guidance”, the newly formed Smoky Mountain Roller Girls are well on their way to forming a local roller derby league in Bryson City.

Smoky Mountain Roller Girls is open to women 18 and up, with skill building opportunities for all levels. The Roller Girls have extra skates and gear for those interested in trying, and are happy to help build skills. For more information, come to a practice (with or without skates and gear), join the group on Facebook, or send an email to smokymountainrollergirls@gmail.com.

The group practices four evenings a week from 6:30 to 9:00. On Tuesdays and Thursdays they’re at the Stecoah Valley Center gym; and on Wednesdays and Sundays they’re at the Swain County Indoor Recreation Center on West Deep Creek Road.

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With Their Eyes on Another Title, Swain Begins the Season With a Win

If you don’t think football is big in Bryson City and Swain County, you should have seen the turnout for Thursday’s Pep Rally and Parade. Despite the drizzle, Everett Street was lined with enthusiastic fans cheering for their home town heroes.

Favored to win the tough Smoky Mountain Conference, the Swain Maroon Devils began their season with 21–14 win at East Henderson Friday night. This week, they’ll face Smoky Mountain High for the first home game of the year.

Want to attend a Maroon Devils home game? Kickoff is at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $5. The stadium is on Fontana Road, just north of town.

08/26 Smoky Mountain (Sylva, NC)
09/24 Pikeville, KY
10/07 Cherokee, NC
10/14 Andrews, NC
10/28 Murphy, NC

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Championship Mountain Bike Racing at Tsali

The first wave of racers bursts off the starting line as the second wave moves into position. It’s the start of the annual ‘Knobscorcher’ mountain bike race at the Tsali recreation area near Bryson City.

On your mark... The Knobscorcher is one of four popular mountain bike events held at Tsali each year and one of 10 races in the South Eastern Regional Championship Series where racers throughout the southeastern US compete for cash, prizes, and the honor of being the best cyclist in this part of the country. Amateurs, experts, and professionals all hit the flowing, 15 mile cross country course. Amateur groups rode one loop and experts and professionals sprinted two for a total of 30 race miles. There was even a kids course.

The SERC series, 12 Hours of Tsali, Tsali Xterra, and Tsali Challenge are all organized by GoneRiding, a mountain bike event organizer out of Ocala Florida.

Thanks to Andy Zivinsky and Diane Cutler of Bryson City Bicycles for their assistance with this week’s Postcard.

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Competitive Kayaking Is No Casual Float Trip

Best known for whitewater rafting, the Nantahala River is now the focus of a different group of paddlers — the world-class athletes who will compete in two upcoming international events to be held in the Nantahala Gorge. In 2012, a Junior World Cup Freestyle Kayaking competition will be held on the river. And that’s merely a warm-up for the World Freestyle Kayaking Championships, which will focus worldwide attention on Bryson City and the Nantahala River Gorge in 2013.

This week’s postcard, a photo entitled “Cartwheeling” by Erin Worley of Bryson City, captures a paddler performing an acrobatic maneuver  typical of freestyle kayaking. It also captured the third place in the Marianna Black Library’s “Life in Swain” photo contest.

To learn more about freestyle kayaking, visit the International Canoe Federation’s website.

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Mountain Golf is a Year-round Activity in the Smokies


On just about any nice day throughout the fall and winter, you can play a round of golf at the 18-hole Smoky Mountain Country Club near Bryson City. It’s a true mountain course with elevation changes of 400 feet; and at the top, the views are spectacular. The 6000 yard, par 70 public course is open daily until the Christmas holidays; and through the winter months they’ll be open any day when the temperature is 50 and above.

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Smokies’ Summer Stillwater Fishing Season Starts Saturday


With Fontana Lake filling up right on schedule, the season’s first big fishing event gets underway at 7 a.m Saturday May 2 at the Almond Boat and RV Park near Bryson City, NC. The 16th Annual Bass Tournament and Barbecue will feature music, food, raffle prizes, and huge cash prizes for the tournament winners! All proceeds benefit the West Swain Volunteer Fire Department. To register, contact Jim at Almond Boat and RV Park 828-488-6423; Casey at Smoky Mountain Lakes and Marine 828-488-2424; or stop by Clampitt Ace Hardware in downtown Bryson City 828-488-2782.

Fontana Lake boasts one of the most diverse fish populations anywhere in the country, including Large and Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, Crappie, Bream, Muskie, Catfish, Steelhead Trout and White Bass. The website GreatSmokies.com has more information about Fontana Lake and fishing in the NC Smokies.

Photo by J.R. vanLienden

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The Deal’s Gap Dragon — An Adventure on Asphalt


The Dragon — the curvy stretch of US Highway 129 connecting North Carolina and Tennessee at Deal’s Gap — elicits contrasting responses from visitors to the Smoky Mountains. “Flatlanders”, unaccustomed to serpentine roads, have been known to turn several shades of green after negotiating the road’s 318 continuous curves in just eleven miles. But motorcyclists love it, and consider it one of the best motorcycling and sports car roads in the world.

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Friday Nights in Bryson City – The Only Game in Town

Swain County High School football stadium, Bryson City, NC

If Bryson City appears deserted on some Friday nights in the Fall, it’s because almost everyone’s attending “the game” at Swain County High School. Having won seven state football championships over the years, the Maroon Devils enjoy a loyal and passionate hometown following. The passion peaked in the late ’80s when the team won three consecutive state championships led by former University of Tennessee and NFL quarterback and current U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler. The team’s most recent state title was in 2004.

Want to see what all the fuss is about? Attend one of the Maroon Devils’ remaining home games. Kickoff is at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $5. The stadium is on Fontana Road, just north of town.

August 22 — Swain County 6 – Polk County 14 (above photo)
September 5 — Asheville School
September 12 — Franklin
September 26 — Robbinsville (homecoming)
October 10 — Hayesville
October 31 — Rosman

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They Came to Slay the Dragon. And the Dragon Won.

The Tree of Shame at the Dragon, Deals Gap NC/TN

Motorcyclists from all over the world come to the Smokies to “slay the Dragon”, the infamous stretch of US Highway 129 at Deal’s Gap in western Swain County, NC. With 318 curves in just eleven miles, the Dragon is considered by many as one of the best motorcycling and sports car roads in the world.

At the Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort, the “Tree of Shame” is covered with broken parts and pieces of the bikes that crashed on the Dragon — a makeshift shrine to those who faced the beast …and lost.

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