Opinions on the NOC Intro to Whitewater course? Would this be a good place for a rec paddler with zero real whitewater experience to start?
Yep. Perfect way to introduce a rec paddler to WW, and NOC’s instruction program in general is excellent.
In past years, I have participated in quite a few whitewater clinics at NOC including intermediate and advanced kayak, intermediate and advanced open boat, a kayak play boating clinic, and private instruction with several NOC instructors. Things have changed at NOC over the years so my experience might not be exactly what one would experience these days, however.
NOC is an excellent setting for beginning whitewater instruction. The Nantahala River has dam release flow which is extremely consistent. This means reliable whitewater and rapids that do not change much day to day. This allows students to work on maneuvers at specific sites over the course of multiple days. It also allows the NOC instructors to get to know the river like the back of their hands. The Nantahala is relatively safe for a whitewater river with rapids mostly in the Class I-II range, but extending up to Class III. It is plenty challenging enough for beginning whitewater paddlers without being overwhelming. NOC is directly on the river which minimizes transportation times. The only disadvantage to the river is that the water is relatively cold (around 50 degrees F) which can drain energy for a paddler that takes multiple swims.
It used to be that NOC provided all lodging and meals for clinic students, as well as boats, gear, wetsuits, and transportation. Food was good and too abundant. The clinics were rather pricey, but basically everything was taken care of for the participants. I typically found that I had gained weight after a five day clinic, despite working pretty hard on the river. You can expect to work pretty hard during a clinic and 5 day clinics were too much for some people. The instructors who are much better paddlers and know the river intimately can carry out maneuvers with about 1/10th the energy expenditure of a student. Also, the typical student:instructor ratio was 5:1 so that after demoing a maneuver a couple of times, they got to rest in the eddy while watching 5 bumbling students attempt the same maneuver, often repeatedly. So they could really wear you out.
The success of a clinic depended in part on how well-matched the particular clinic participants were. A well-matched group could typically progress more rapidly without any of the participants becoming bored. A clinic participant that was particularly risk-adverse or became quickly tired out would sometimes tend to be a limiting factor for the progress of the group as a whole. NOC used to try to match the skill and experience level and the goals of clinic participants as closely as possible, but this was often not completely possible.
Has been awhile since we’ve been there, but every trip we made there was “great” for me, and my wife.
The instruction/instructors was great, and every NOC employee we met was friendly, and helpful.
My wife took her Intro to Whitewater class there.
She also did 2 days of private instruction there.
I took my Intermediate Level II class there.
My wife & I rafted there together twice.
I rafted there with paddling buddies once.
I paddled the Nantahala with buddies on perhaps 20 occasions.Loved playing around on that river; we’d do it twice a day.
I recertified as an Advanced Swiftwater Rescue Instructor there twice.
The water is most definitely COLD!!!
P.S . Anyone who takes a class there should end up being a better paddler for having done so.
Any paddler who doesn’t become a better paddler should probably consider another pastime.
Whiners, know it alls, prima donnas, emotional cripples, dimwits, and non motivated people should stay home, and not ruin a class full of motivated people.