2017 GAF – Bryson City (NC, Usa)
Words and Photography: Robert Giersch
Guest Appreciation Festival & Cascades, Sep 22-24, 2017
Every summer must come to an end, but before the leaves begin changing color and dry suits are dug out of the closet, The Nantahala Outdoor Center puts on a 3 day guest appreciation festival that has become a long-standing favorite amongst the Southeastern boating community.
The festival began as an end-of-the-season used gear sale and boat swap, but now it’s just an excuse to gather, paddle, and compare stories from the summer. Plenty of deals on boats, gear, & art; local food & music, and you just might see a paddling dragon. The BEST part of the weekend is a release of the Upper and Cascades sections of the Nantahala.
The Cascades is a stout run that flows into the Upper Nantahala located in Western, North Carolina. Less than a mile long, the four major rapids that make up this class IV & V classic would challenge any paddler regardless of their ability. Every rapid is a heart pounder with rock gardens littered in-between that leave no room for error and little chance of recovery.
Limited release runs like this bring out the masses, so imagine a never-ending chain of boaters, boofing and bouncing down a human pachinko machine. Amidst the chaos it is always inspiring to watch cream rise to the top as the true talent run multiple laps and thread the needle in their own unique style. Jeremy Nash and Holt Mcwhirt (both young gun paddlers for Team Pyranha) show the spectators how it’s done as they go for ever-increasing air on this carousel of carnage.
So if you find yourself to be a fair weather paddler; before you stuff the boat into the garage for its long winter nap, head to NOC and experience the GAF for yourself. Come for the deals, stay for the gnar.