As the competitive season winds down, there is often a period of reflection about the state of canoe/kayak events on the international stage. My Facebook stream is loaded with posts and links to blogs and articles about taking our competitive events to the next level.
In September, I had the opportunity to attend three International Canoe Federation (ICF) World Championships in a three week period. With "behind-the-scenes" access, I saw each host organizing committee taking different paths to producing premiere ICF events. Two of these events, Canoe Slalom and Canoe Marathon World Championships, come to the U.S. next year.
But the other event was the Freestyle Kayaking World Championships held in Wesser, North Carolina, adjacent to the iconic Nantahala Outdoor Center, leaders in whitewater and outdoor adventure and strong supporters of Olympic paddlesports with 22 Canoe/Kayak Olympians having worked for the company through its 41 year-old history.
Huge crowd under the lights at the Freestyle Worlds on the Nantahala River
The organizers of the World Championships on the Nantahala River produced an outstanding event that struck a powerful chord with the target audience. The "event experience" for spectators, sponsors, VIPs and media in attendance seamlessly wove together a platform of technology, hospitality, retail, entertainment and high performance that fully engaged all the senses of competitive paddlesports.
On the broadcast platform, the live-streaming event coverage, functioned beautifully and attracted over 70,000 unique views. And what is emerging as an excellent traditional television alternative for paddlesports here in the U.S., a post-produced broadcast of the Freestyle World Championships is being prepped for distribution to more than 80 million households via Fox Sports Network. Such post-produced shows allow the sport to develop the memorable storylines and target the broadcast times for more effective calls-to-action.
Teaser for the Freestyle Worlds broadcast production coming in Spring, 2014
Over the past several years, the ICF has significantly raised the standard of hosting events requiring a huge investment of people, time and resources. The desire to meet this standard here in the U.S. must be purposeful, professionally-driven and aligned with USA Canoe/Kayak's mission and strategic goals.
We thank our partners at the Nantahala River for hosting an exceptional World Championships that reinforced our passion and capabilities for welcoming international competitions to the U.S. And to the leadership of the Nantahala Outdoor Center, thank you for including USA Canoe/Kayak and ICF events in the vision for the future.