This past Labor Day, hundreds of kayakers from across the world gathered in our area for a week-long 2013 International Canoe Federation Freestyle World Championships in which over 500 freestyle kayakers from 45 different countries competed. The famous Nantahala River which is renowned for its consistent water levels and complex rapids was the competition’s venue. Freestyle kayaking is a not a race but a judged event where points are awarded for tricks and jumps as well as the choreography of the run. The competition’s three categories were: kayak, closed deck canoe, and open canoe. Each of those categories has four divisions: Men’s, Women’s, Junior Men’s and Junior Women’s. USA took the lead in almost every event, taking in six gold medals, four silver, and three bronze. Great Britain did second best with two gold and two bronze while third best, Japan, took home two silver and one bronze. One of the USA Gold winners was Western North Carolina’s very own 17-year-old, Rowan Stuart. Stuart, who is a native of Stecoah which is in Graham County won gold in the junior women’s ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships. According to the judges, Stuart was the best performer in aerial moves during the 2013 wave feature. Stuart scored a 233 on her first ride, a 423 on her second, and 396 on the final ride, with the 423 being the best of her freestyle career. The ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships are held every two years, with this year being the first time the event was held at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Rowan Stuart expressed that she will most likely stop freestyle kayaking for a little while and concentrate on her school career.