Joe Paddler Chris Hipgrave
Where you were born and where you live now?
Born just south of London, England, but have lived in the USA since 1991. Home is now Bryson City, North Carolina
What is your occupation?
General Manager of Paddlesports, Outdoor Schools, Events and the Nantahala Racing Club, at the Nantahala Outdoor Center
Tell us about your charity
The Nantahala Racing Club is a non profit that was originally setup to support the training and racing of whitewater slalom Olympic paddlers working at the NOC. Today, the NRC is focused on youth engagment in the outdoors thru paddlesport exploration and competition. Our 23rd Olympian competed in Rio.
Where do you paddle the most?
Fontana Lake which is nestled in the mountains at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Do you have a favorite local paddle shop?
The Outfitters Store at the Nantahala Outdoor Center of course!
What paddleboard, surfski or OC do you ride most?
I’ve been racing an Epic V14 surfski for the last 3+ years, but just added a new V12.
Do you own any other paddleboards, surfskis or OCs and what kind?
Epic V14 & Epic V12 surfskis, Kick the Waves Cayenne wildwater kayak, a South African river K1 for marathon use and a Dagger Greenboat for class 5 creek races.
What paddle do you use?
Jantex Gamma for all surfski, wildwater and marathon use and a G’Power Twister for all whitewater creek races
Have you changed boards/paddles/equipment since you started? If so, why?
I’ve had so many race boats. Wildwater boats and paddles are essentially disposable given the environment we train and race in. I’ve not had that many surfskis and have owned my Epic V14 for longer than any other race boat which must be testament to its build quality and continued relevance.
If you could travel to anywhere in the world to paddle, where would you go?
South Africa, Australia and Hawaii
Best piece of paddling advice you’ve ever received?
It’s not how long you train or how hard your train, it’s how smart you train.
Weirdest thing that’s happened to you while paddling?
While training on Fontana Lake, I saw a large object moving thru the water. So I paddled over and it was a fully grown black bear swimming across the lake. I was able to get within 10ft of it and paddle along side it for 10 minutes before we hit land and it ran off. To be that close and look into those amazing eyes for that long was amazing. I also kayaked in Antarctica for 6 weeks this winter and got VERY close to whales, seals, penguins and more while in the kayak.
Favorite performance/paddling nutrition? (During races/ during a long haul)
Goals for this year?
Primary goals are in the Gorge Downwind Championships in July and the “Doctor” in Perth Australia later in the year.
Favorite post-paddle nosh (snack/beer/recovery drink)
Your favorite non-paddle thing to do.
Dream of paddling
What piece of paddling gear do you wish someone would invent?
Although already invented, I really want to try a hydrofoil kayak.
What’s your biggest challenge with paddling?
Too many destinations, events and races and not enough time.
What is your proudest moment in a race or event?
Representing the USA at my first Wildwater World Championships in 2000
Tell us about the best friend(s) you made through paddling.
The sport is full of amazing people. It’s a great tribe to be part of. But meeting my best friend, partner and wife, Trish thru paddling is the highlight.
What was your best paddling travel trip?
I’ve been to so many amazing places with my kayak, but this Winter I spent 6 weeks kayaking on South Georgia island and the Antarctica penninsula in some pretty extreme and challenging conditions.