The Nantahala Race Club (NRC) ’s Glacier Breaker is an annual event held on the Nantahala River and is the opening slalom race of the season. The race always attracts many of the top slalom boaters who come out to shake off the winter rust, kick starting the race season. The Glacier Breaker is popular because it is open to the entire boating community. With a stout course laid out above and below the Nantahala Freestyle Wave (site of September’s 2013 International Freestyle Competition) 40+ participants gathered on a rainy, chilly day to test their slalom skills at the 2013 race.
At this Glacier Breaker, it was not the named slalom boaters who stood out with their smooth pivot turns, ease running a tough course, and lack of swimming–but the participation of a whole new group of boaters, many part of the Nantahala community. Local favorites Matt Anger and Brad Caldwell–both strong freestyle competitors, came out to try their hand at slalom boating for the first time. Hot shot Adrienne Levknecht—multiple time champion of the Green Race, was cheered on as she debuted in her first slalom race. Even more enthusiastic was the energy behind youth racers Devon Chasse and Evy Leibfarth, both members of the community’s own Nantahala Kids Club. Devon and Evy were not the only juniors, with the debut of some junior Asheville paddlers including young Bob Wiggins, as well as a strong showing of young slalom boaters from the Charlotte Whitewater Center out to test their skills. Veteran racers in sleek race boats, regional racers out in their plastic boats and junior boaters were all cheered on, as was the father-daughter team of Sam and Avery Davis in from Nashville for the event.
The Glacier Breaker is more than just the slalom competition. The event also included the season opener for wildwater boaters. The wildwater event brought out local favorites like Chris Hipgrave, as well as a host of regional competitors– including Team Popp from Chattanooga.
Like all slalom races, the success of the race was not just the result of the number of participants that came out, but the volunteers who worked behind the scene; volunteers such as organizer Zuzana Vanha, NRC president and race starter Steve Zarnowski; head judge Bunny Johns and her crew of judges (judges that included Olympic boaters John Burton and Pablo McCandless); score keepers Jean Folger and Carlyn Chasse – who adeptly kept up with the 40+ racers’ scores through eighteen gates, while holding their breath when their little ones Evy and Devon were on the course. And that only begins to list the volunteers who made the event successful—many whom gave up competing in the race to work behind the scenes with such responsibilities as hanging the gates before the race to cleaning up long after the boats were loaded up on vehicles headed home.
The Glacier Breaker is the season opener for a whole series of whitewater events that take place every year in the southeast. Up next on the Nantahala River is the US Open event on March 23 & 24. This race will up the ante and bring out even more of the big named slalom racers. If you missed out on the 2013 Glacier Breaker, make note of the US Open and come out and support another of the exciting events that is held right here in the Nantahala Community.