Canoe slalom exceeds expectations for the community

This story was co-written with Keegan Wiggins

The seventh annual Cullowhee Canoe Slalom, held on Saturday, Sept. 10, encouraged camaraderie and gave beginner paddlers the chance to experience something new.

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Kayak competitor moments after crossing the finish line. Photo by Ashley Kairis

The goal of the event is to create a platform for an average person to enjoy paddling whether it be in a canoe with a partner or individually in a kayak or on a stand up paddle board.  The total proceeds went toward the scholarship fund for the Parks and Recreation Management program.

Located at the Locust Creek access point at the Jackson County Greenway Bridge, eight gates hung above the river for contestants to maneuver through as they paddled both upstream and downstream.

“The main reason we host this event is to build a community of people who are interested in going out on the river and doing things outside,” said WCU senior Eric Bartl, head student coordinator.

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Children of the community enjoyed partaking in the competition. Photo by Ashley Kairis

Students, faculty, and families of the area came out to have a good time and improve their boating skills on a calm section of the Tuckasegee River. Even children gave their best shot at the course, proving that this event really can be done by any age and at any level of experience.

The event was organized by the Cullowhee Revitalization Endeavor (CuRvE) and the on-campus outdoor program, Base Camp Cullowhee in the effort to get people outdoors and experiencing what a slalom is like. A slalom is an obstacle course on water where paddlers aim to navigate through the gates and finish in the fastest time possible.

“Some people may love this and then they can go further with it,” said Maurice Phipps, head faculty coordinator.

One by one, each boat crossed the starting gate, some going tremendous speeds while others opted for slow and steady. Regardless of whether the paddler perfectly executed the obstacle course or missed nearly every gate, spectators on the riverbank cheered them on.

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Husband and wife, Todd and Therese Murdock displayed teamwork from start to finish. Photo by Ashley Kairis

This year was the first time hosting the event at the Greenway Bridge location instead of its usual location on Old Cullowhee Road near the Cullowhee Dam. The new location allowed for the event to be brought to a larger scale, reaching more people than it ever has before.

“Next year we are going to try to push it to be even bigger than we already have,” said Bartl.

The Cullowhee Canoe slalom had its most successful year yet and both CuRvE and Base Camp Cullowhee look forward to the return of the slalom next September.

“My dorm had a poster of the event and I wanted to go do a water event to bond with my suitemate. We did terrible, but we did it together,” said freshman competitor Chloe Derosa.

The event is a great way to start off the school year for students who want to connect with the community. It allows for you to bond with a friend or roommate while getting a taste of what the outdoors are like in Cullowhee.