“Rafting is a means to an end. The end goal is to get you playing outside and rafting is simply one of the ways we hope to get you off the couch”, says Jeff Wise, Executive Director of the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Humans love to play outside. It’s that first day of summer, last day of school type of feeling. We are advocates that your free time is best spent by being outside and being active. ”
By providing unique and exciting ways that motivate people to get outside, the Center makes a nostalgic plea that beckons to one’s inner Scout, Jem, or Dill. Their take-it-outside sentiment is one that is
frequently lost in a world where the entertainment options are often as sedentary as they are sterile. The USNWC acts as a force to remind us that it’s okay to cut loose, to get dirty and to get into some good old-fashioned fun.
Just ask Rufio, one of the raft guides at the Center. “I love the people you meet on the river. Every trip starts with a raft full of strangers, and by the end, you’re all best friends.” Just over 90 miles north of Columbia, the Center is home to the world’s largest man-made whitewater river with Class II, III and IV whitewater. “My favorite spots on the river are both aptly named, there’s Biscuits n’ Gravy [think breakfast – or what you might lose on this section] and Sketch Wave (do we really need to explain this one?).”
Guests at the Center have their choice of over 10 different outdoor activities including zip-lines, ropes courses, rock climbing, flatwater and whitewater kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, mountain biking, and of course whitewater rafting. The Center offers all day access to these activities in the AllSport Pass.
With the AllSport Pass ($49/person), guests can play all day (or all season for $159/person) long at a fraction of what it would cost to experience any number of these activities individually.
The Center is designated a U.S. Olympic Training Site by the U.S. Olympic Committee, and played host to the 2008 Olympic Trials and the 2010 USA Canoe/Kayak National Team Trials. And while you may see an Olympian training while you are at the Center, you’re more likely to see families, groups of friends and kids. “Many of my rafters have never been in a raft or on a zip-line, but they are still out here enjoying all that the USNWC has to offer,” says Rufio.
“You don’t need to be an elite athlete to have a good time in my raft. It’s not about being elite, it’s about challenging yourself, working with a team and having fun while doing it.
He casually adds, “And it’s about getting wet, you’ve gotta be ready to get wet.”
Photos provided by the U. S. National Whitewater Center.