History

The first Whitewater Symposium was held on October 3-5, 2003 at Zoar Outdoor on the Deerfield River in Charlemont, Massachusetts. It was a great first success and brought together key players from all aspects of the whitewater spectrum including freestyle, river running, racing, rescue and rodeo. In all, there were about 75 attendees and presenters participating.

From October 23-25, 2004, the second annual Symposium was hosted by the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City, North Carolina. There were over 70 attendees, including many of the country’s top instructors, club leaders, retailers, manufacturers, kayak schools and paddlesport organizations.

The 2005 Symposium took place in Glenwood Springs, Colorado from October 8-10, using the Glenwood Canyon Resort (Rock Gardens Rafting) as a base of operations. Attendance grew to almost 100 participants, noting that the first Whitewater Courses and Parks Conference was also held in Glenwood Springs just before the Symposium and there were a number of people who attended both.

Lotus, California was the site of the fourth Symposium, hosted by Current Adventures on October 14-16, 2006. While the total range of attendees reached just over 75, the number of industry leaders and top presenters remained significant, in keeping with previous Symposiums.

The fifth Symposium was hosted by the Adventure Sports Center International at their freshly constructed mountain-top recirculating whitewater course on October 19-22, 2007. There were over 90 attendees, almost half of whom were also presenters. A distinct enthusiasm among participants lead to a number of spin-off commitments and planning efforts that continued beyond the Symposium.

The sixth Symposium brought more than 70 attendees full circle back to Zoar Outdoor, where the event started in 2003.  The 2009 Symposium, tagged by many as the “one of the best”, brought a number of new presenters to the mix and included several new pieces, including a manufacturer’s exhibition area and a one-day “paddlerfest” – designed to attract local enthusiasts for a single day of activities. The event also premiered Kent Ford’s new film, “The Call of the River” … an engaging look back at the history of whitewater paddling in North America.

The seventh Whitewater Symposium was held at Nanthala Outdoor Center in Western North Carolina in October 2010. The trend to hold the Symposium in consecutive years was re-established at the request of many of the attendees who wanted to see the gathering happen more frequently. NOC stepped up to host the 2010 event, after having hosted it once before in 2004. Since 1972, NOC has been one of the country’s premier paddling destinations. There was strong attendance this time around, topping out around 80 participants and presenters in total. The collective morning gatherings at this Symposium were particularly popular.

In 2011, Jackson Kayak teamed with World Kayak to host another consecutive year, insisting that the Symposium is too vital to let an un-programmed year go by. This eighth version of the event was held October 12-14 in Rock Island, TN and, by all accounts from the 55 attendees , was very informative and inspirational. A new round table format was engaged to allow participants to attend more sessions in common and encourage better discussion for generating new initiatives. Take-aways from the event included summary snapshots of each session and a collation of idea threads that followed.