Chris Barlow and Adam Masters on the way the Nantahala Falls

Bellyak at the National Paddlesports Conference 2017

Last weekend was the National Paddlesports Conference at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Wesser, NC. What an honor it was to be there! In 2015, ‘Prone River Paddling’ was adopted under the leadership and guidance of Robin Pope, multi-discipline instructor and mentor. What does this mean? It means Bellyaking officially became a discipline with the American Canoe Association. We also now have standardized the instructional arc of bellyak so that others can follow in our footsteps. More prone river paddling love to be shared!

Who are the American Canoe Association?

The American Canoe Association has been around since 1880, and is the gold standard in paddlesports education. Their rigorous standards insure that quality, consistency and safety are at the forefront of paddlesports instruction. It had always been a goal of Bellyak to have it be adopted as an official discipline. Along with developing the designs, we’ve also been developing the curriculum for teaching: refining the order, the language, the best practices, etc.  To date, we’ve taught several hundred people how to bellyak. While it’s true bellyaks offer one of the quickest ways to learn how to successfully paddle whitewater, there are many skills that make the experience much more  awesome. This is what we’ve created with the American Canoe Association.

Prone River Paddling Updates

As part of the conference, we attended the Safety, Education and Instructional Committee (SEIC) meeting. Here, the chairs of each discipline committee ensure the details of each discipline are clearly identified and upheld. Even though this can be a tedious process, this oversight and attention to every detail helps maintain the ACA as the leader in paddlesports instruction and certification.

Hanging on on the shore with bellyaks

Bellyaking in Whitewater

On the Friday of the conference, we had a great “Bellyaking in Whitewater” clinic: we paddled a short section of the Nantahala, culminating in Class III Nantahala Falls. Everyone successfully made it through! Bill Wunderlich and Corey Topping attended as part of their instructor development program, and we met our two newest, most favorite people: Julie Munger and Abby Polsby, from Truckee, CA. Julie and Abby run Sierra Rescue, and are both avid riverboarders. They got the hang of bellyak right away, and loved to play in the water just as much as we do. Gene from PA rounded out our crew.

Bellyaking on the Nantahala River

We also held the first “Nantahala Falls Challenge” which was a mass start race of 7 laps of Nantahala Falls for time. Jamie MacLeod, Julie Munger and bellyak creator – Adam Masters – competed against each other. Adam won (shocker!) with a time of 23:06. But now we have a benchmark… who can beat it??!

Bill Masters International Hall of Fame award

Adam’s dad’s award for his many contributions to the world of paddlesports!

International Whitewater Hall of Fame

Saturday night was the International Whitewater Hall of Fame induction where individuals with outstanding contributions to paddlesports are honored. Adam’s dad – Bill Masters – was one of them, inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Pioneer for his contributions.  Bill founded the company Perception Kayaks. His list of accomplishments and contributions are way too long to list here, but to put it lightly, he is the trunk of the tree that all branches of paddlesports have grown out of. He wasn’t able to attend so Adam got to wear his sash and accept his award on his behalf.  Here at bellyak we’re all proud of his accomplishments! He is very deserving of the honor.

Paddling on the Ocoee River

On Sunday morning, we showed Abby and Julie (our new favorite friends), our favorite river – the Ocoee in Copperhill, TN. They were both total naturals (a further testament to how quickly the bellyak will yield it’s fun)! That afternoon, we also took Olympic sprint paddler Chris Barlow out. Within minutes he was running Nantahala Falls with grace and ease, inspiring us to train harder!

Chris Barlow and Adam Masters on the way the Nantahala Falls

Chris Barlow and Adam Masters on the way the Nantahala Falls


We love introducing Bellyak to other passionate paddlers and we are grateful to be part of such an awesome community that is the American Canoe Association! Contact us if you’d like to have a go yourself!