Camp Cup 2014 = Young Paddlers Shredding


Seven years and counting…

The Alzar School returned to the Nantahala River this week to host the Camp Cup.  We first revived the event in 2008, and each year it has surpassed our expectations for fun and excitement.  This year was no different!  (Read about the 2013 event)

Before the Camp Cup, thanks to sponsorship from the American Canoe Association, USACK and World Kayak, the Alzar School offered our new PLUS Program to camps.  We paddled with Camp Green Cove and Camp Glen Arden before the event, giving campers some time in the gates.  The PLUS program was completely free in 2014, and we are hopeful about adding it again for 2015.

PLUS Program at Camp Glen ArdenPLUS Program at Camp Glen Arden








Efforts from alumna (and Advisory Committee member) Lizzy Hester brought in an amazing line-up of guest coaches to help campers learn more about whitewater paddling.  Colleen Hickey (US National Slalom team) and Wayne Dickert (former Head of Paddling at the NOC) coached paddlers in the gates, exploring different ways to approach course.

Wayner coaching campers in the lower gatesWayner coaching campers in the lower gates








Andrew Holcombe (Team Dagger) and Zach Fraysier (Team Jackson) helped other groups learn the lines through Nantahala Falls, while Brad Caldwell (NOC) coached freestyle paddlers as they worked on loops in the NOC play wave.  These guest coaches volunteered their time to help the kids get stoked about paddling and improve their skills.  How often do kids get the advice of world class kayakers?  This is why the Camp Cup is special!

Freestyle practice with BradFreestyle practice with Brad








Ice cream social at Endless River AdventuresIce cream social at Endless River Adventures








On Monday afternoon, the tradition of fun continued with an ice cream social at Endless River Adventures.  Juliet has been a part of the event since our first year, guest coaching, running the downriver race, and sponsoring the event.  The kids filled themselves up on great local icecream and enjoyed checking out all of the fancy equipment in the Endless River Adventures shop.  Importantly, kids from the various camps had a chance to mingle and make friends with kids from different camps, broadening their paddling network.  This is a key goal of the event.

Happy kids after ice cream at Endless River AdventuresHappy kids after ice cream at Endless River Adventures








Pre-event meeting at the Camp CupPre-event meeting at the Camp Cup








As always, Tuesday is the main event, with down river and slalom races.  The morning got off to a great start, with Sarah from the American Canoe Association leading the kids in a game of “Amoeba Tag” to break the ice.  Counselors from the camps signed up for safety positions in the courses and campers prepped their boats for their runs.

One of the most fun parts of the event is seeing all of the happy young paddlers interacting.  Whether it is scouting their lines through Nantahala Falls, consulting on whether it is faster to go right or left of the island in the slalom course, or enjoying the pizza lunch (provided by the NOC), kids are developing a sense of community centered around their love of paddling and rivers.  We know that this will help them participate in a healthy sport and become lifelong advocates for rivers.

Racers from Camp Green CoveRacers from Camp Green Cove








Put-in for slalom racePut-in for slalom race










The 2014 Camp Cup saw over 100 campers from 7 different camps.  We saw paddlers shredding in C1, OC1, OC2, kayak, and even tandem kayaks.  Campers dodged rafts as they went through the Falls and picked their lines through the gates.  In between runs, they had the chance to visit the Alzar School and American Canoe Association booths to learn more about our organizations.

A successful run through Nantahala FallsA successful run through Nantahala Falls








Canoe in the gatesCanoe in the gates








Happy campers from Camp IllaheeHappy campers from Camp Illahee








This event is made possible by our event sponsors.   Thanks so much to the American Canoe Association, Endless River Adventures, Nantahala Outdoor Center, World Kayak, USACK, Camp Glen Arden, Camp Merrie-Woode, Camps Kahdalea and Chosatonga.

Camp Cup Challenge 2013 – a big (water) success


The Southeast has been getting more than its fair share of rain this summer, forcing camps there to explore little used sections of river. With that in mind, and the forecast calling for 60% chance of rain before we left Idaho, the Alzar School team was anticipating a challenge at this year’s Camp Cup on the Nantahala River.

Monday was a beautiful, sunny day, and about half the camps got training in. A handful of campers participated in our second annual freestyle competition, modeled after World Kayak’s “Hometown Throwdowns.” Tosh, the Head of Instruction at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, was our guest judge for that event. He repeatedly said how impressed he was with the quality of the kids’ paddling. The Nantahala will be hosting the international World Championships in September, and these campers had the chance to show off on the same wave that all the pro boaters will be competing on.

After Monday’s training day, about 40 of the campers were able to attend a delicious ice cream social hosted
by Endless River Adventures. Flavor favorite? Something called “Superman Flavor” (it was blue, red, and yellow). Juliette Jacobsen-Kastorff welcomed all of the kids and kept us up to speed with the river flows, which was essential because…

That night, the dam operators decided to bump the release up to 1150 cfs (normal = 700). Needless to say, this called for a change to our slalom course, as some of the former eddies changed to holes and waves! Thankfully, slalom racer extraordinaire (and former Olympian) Pablo McCandless was there to tinker with it. He crafted a course that was tricky, but accessible to new boaters, with an optional set of gates at the bottom to challenge experienced boaters. In the end, today’s slalom runs went really well, and the campers once again demonstrated that their hard work paid off.



For the downriver event, campers launched at the Cement Beach and navigated through the Falls, which were extra fun with the additional water being released. We had our normal share of swamped canoes, flips, rolls and swims, but the awesome counselors that set safety helped everyone finish their runs.

Our liaison at the NOC, Zuzana Vahna, was on hand today to provide all of the kids with a pizza lunch, courtesy of the NOC. She also found a reporter from the Asheville Citizen Times wandering around and encouraged her to cover our event… So watch their paper for headlines!

The day finished with our traditional free raffle for the kids and volunteers. This year’s sponsors included Alzar School, World Kayak, Endless River Adventures, WRSI, Snapdragon, and
Performance Video. The energy of the kids, who were thrilled to win a prize, was awesome.

Our favorite part? Getting to connect with so many awesome people at this event. Including, this year, 11 alumni and 6 future students and 1 future Teaching Fellow. This event has meant a lot to many kids, and to the Alzar School.


Camp Cup Challenge 2011 – 120 kids and BIG BOOMING FUN


IMG_9592The Camp Cup Challenge 2011 was a huge success! Young people from across the U.S. and a few international youth attend summer camp in North Carolina every year. We invite camps to bring their whitewater-loving youth to a two day event on the Nantahala River. Day one is a training day, followed by delicious ice cream (Thank You Endless River Adventures). Day two, campers participate in two events, a downriver and slalom race, in their craft(s) of choice.

There were lots of big smiles, clean lines, and really impressive paddling. For many campers this was their first time at the Camp Cup, and I think they had a blast. We had a few participants who have attended the event four years in a row.

I interviewed a number of participants about their favorite part of the event, and the most common response was, “It’s really fun to meet so many people my age who love to paddle.” This is really what the event is about. Sure, the race day is a ton of fun, they get to challenge their skills and eat pizza (thank you Nantahala Outdoor Center), but really its a great way for young people to realize that there are a whole slew of people out there just like them who love to play outside, in whitewater.

A BIG thank you to all the camps and companies who made this event happen. Camps included: Falling Creek, Wayfarer, Merrie Woode, High Rocks, Illahee, Chosatonga/Kahdalea, Green Cove, and Mondamin. Thank you to the American Canoe Association for sponsoring the event, the NOC for hosting and pizza, ERA for providing coaching, volunteers, and support. WRSI provided a helmet for the raffle, and World Kayak for swag.

For more on this year’s event, check out:

Report from the Camp Cup Challenge – Record Numbers!!!


I’m excited to tell you that this year’s Camp Cup was an astounding success! Kristin and I departed Boise on Friday (July 16) after sending off our last student from our alumni program, “Plus,” and started the cross country drive to NC. Somewhere just outside Laramie, Wyoming, our beloved van decided it would go no further, leaving us with out transportation.

Fortunately, our broad network of supporters came in handy. Katie Hawkins, past Alzar instructor and current member of our Advisory Committee, lives in Denver (about 2.5 hours from where we broke down) and was able to drive up to rescue us and Pebbles. Because we were transitioning from a 15-passenger van to a small economy car, we had to condense our belongings. That meant leaving behind our playboats, AIRE landing pads, and other luxuries.

As we headed to Denver, we discussed as many options as we could. The only option not on the table: canceling the Camp Cup. We knew that we had to get to NC by Monday morning so we could put on this incredible event. In the end, the best option proved for us to fly from Denver to Charlotte, where more supporters were able to shuttle us over to the Nantahala. The biggest bummer of the whole breakdown: having to board Pebbles, the official Alzar School mascot, in Denver because the airlines would not let dogs on (it’s too hot outside for the dogs to wait in their kennel’s during plane changes). The shame is that I had been training her all spring to respond to commands that come with a Southern accent, in preparation for our Southeastern debut. Alas, it was not to be in 2010.

Anyway, going into Monday of the Camp Cup (a training day for all interested camps), we were not sure how many participants we would have. In 2008, when we first revitalized the event, we were excited to have 88 kids. Last year, we had 122 and we doubted we’d be able to top that. On the training day, camps were coming in late, with small groups (initially), so we mentally prepared ourselves for a slightly smaller turnout. Our guest coaches, Pablo McCandless (former Olympian), Wayne Dickert (Ambassador from NOC), and Juliet Jacobsen Kastorff (Endless River Adventures kayak guru), were great about helping the kids improve their paddling in anticipation of the big event.

On Tuesday, van after van of kids arrived at the Nantahala Outdoor Center for the official race day. We ended up with 141 kids, a new record for the event!

Thanks to the growing number of kids and volunteers who have been to the event the past two years and know its traditions, the event was smoother, even with the extra folks around. Some of the great changes this year, to continue to tweak the event even better: pizza at lunch (instead of sandwiches, which the kids LOVED), more t-shirts (though we still underestimated the numbers, so some volunteers sacrificed theirs for the kiddos), and the additional sponsorship of, which significantly boosted our free raffle for the kids.

I had some great conversations with folks about the purpose of the event this year, and here again I want to stress how pleased we are with the Camp Cup and the role it plays. Instead of a competitive atmosphere, young paddlers are brought together to mingle and meet other paddlers. The camps’ staff have the opportunity to share ideas and make professional connections. It reunites some of the legends of paddling from the area (like David Jones, Lecky Haller, and Fritz Orr).

Obviously, we have to thank the many sponsors of the event, who generously provide money and prizes. They are a big reason the event is possible. Thanks to: the NOCACA Dixie DivisionAlzar SchoolSnapdragonWRSI Helmets,World Kayak, and Endless River Adventures. And, especially, thanks to the camps that make this community event possible: Camp Mondamin/Green CoveCamp High RocksCamps Chosatonga/KahdaleaCamp Merrie-Wood,Camp Glen ArdenCamp CarolinaCamp Gwynn Valley,Camp IllaheeCamp WayfarerCamp Falling Creek.

But, the biggest reason the event is a huge success are the kids. They come together with the right frame of mind and positive attitude. They cheer each other as they make runs through the slalom gates or down the Falls. They scream and laugh during the Counselor Cup event at lunch and volunteer to help take-down everything at the end of the day. Seeing how awesome these young people are definitely makes coming from Idaho to NC each summer worth it, even if the van breaks down in the process.

Check out photos at our Facebook page:

- Sean Bierle

Kelly’s Whitewater Park


This past weekend, Kristin and I headed to Cascade, Idaho to meet with some of the folks leading the development of the new whitewater park there. This park, which will be known as Kelly’s Whitewater Park (KWP) and looks like it will be SWEET.

Thanks to the mayor of Cascade, we were given a tour of the site and the visitor’s center which is under construction. The in-stream features look really promising, though it will be hard to tell what they’re like until the water comes up this spring. What’s probably the most amazing part of the whole place is the visitor’s center. They’ve decided to go all out for this thing, with rough log finishing and stone floors. There will even be fancy granite counters in the restrooms. Plus, there is an amazing, huge viewing room. This room has giant glass walls with 180 degree views of the features. There’s a fireplace for you to warm up around after surfing, and a committee is working on museum of the history of Cascade. Pretty impressive.

Along with the new facility, the Friends of KWP are planning several key events this summer. First, there will be 4 Hometown Throwdowns for local paddlers to participate in. And, on the 4th of July there will be a giant concert.

But what we’re probably most excited about is the group’s plan to provide 5 free lessons to all kids from 9-18 in Valley County. This is a huge opportunity for the youth of that area, exposing them to a lifetime sport that they can access in their backyard. We’re trying to help them with this mission, and know that it will be wildly successful.

Our trip to Cascade reaffirmed our desire to permanently settle our campus in that area. We were able to stay with a wonderful local family who gave us lots of beta on potential sites for the school. We’re hopeful that our dream of a basecamp will be realized in the very near future!

Rivers of Chile 2010 Trip Report in Numbers


2 flat tires
9 bags of mintitas (Kristin’s consumption only)
10 different sections of river
2 swings
1 chalkboard
100 lbs of orphanage supplies donated
= amounts of butt and hockey puck bread
15 pots of beans
11 new friends
3,000+km traveling in country
4 consecutive days of chocolate cereal for breakfast
7 packets of mayo
1 pair of lost tennis shoes
5 volcanoes
2 tarantulas
2,078 photos (coming soon to the website album section)
7 teacups
2 birthdays
2 asados
1 broken paddle
1 polite discussion with the Chilean police about drivers license qualifications
10 elements of leadership
70+ packages of SPRIM
1 time pulling the trailer when Hakuna Matata just couldn’t make it
3 dozen churros
4 golden retrievers

EQUALS ONE BACAN (Chilean slang for awesome) TRIP

Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible…and keep an eye on the blog and website for the photos.

Un nuevo desafio


Al transcurrir la semana los instructores, nos propusieron un nuevo desafio poder ser lideres por un dia, en un comienzo pensamos que era facil, pero luego nos percatamos que el trabajo era en parejas siendo asi un poco mas complicado, ya que la responsabilidad era compartida, y tambien la toma de decisiones.

Pasando los dias llego el momento de ser lider junto a Olivia y presentar el plan, en ese momento comprendi que ser un lider, requeria organizacion y dispocicion para que todos los planes propuestas fueran realizados en la hora acordada con orden, eficacia, y finalmente obtener resulatdos positivos.

Pero como siempre hay cosas inesperadas se nos presentaron algunos promblemas en la realizacion de las tareas, pero los cauales pudimos enfrentar correctamente, gracias al apoyo de los instructores, de el grupo en general, y de aquillas constituidas clases de liderazgo, con un exitos plan B y un poco de flexibilidad. Asi fue como pudimos concluir positivamente el dia y finalmente con opiniones contructivas en el “debriefing.”

Considero que para mi Alzar School ha sido poco a poco un aporte para aprender cosas nuevas como enfrentar problemas contionamos, desarrolar mas el espiritu de lider, el trabajo en equipo y asi muchas cosas mas…

surfing in pichilemu


here we are in cabanas Santa Irene , in front of one of the best surfing spots in the Chilean coast , enjoying our last days of Rivers of Chile .
today we had a good surfing session in the morning then we start cleaning up group gear getting ready to leave to Santiago. also we had a great dinner at a local restaurant and shared our best moments of this trip , for sure cross feeling finishing this course , i happy that i got to know a lot of new friends and cool people and for the other side a little sad that the trip is almost over .


At CONIN, the Chilean orphanage we work with. This year Alzar students painted an old swing-set (previously without swings), built swings, and painted a mural that has a portion that is a chalkboard. We spent a lot of time with the little kids, giving hugs and playing games. Lots of smiles, lots of giggles, good day.


Rosario and Titi giving us a concert at our Asado