Meet the 2016 Board of Directors Nominees

In addition to Executive Director Daniel Willis, Nantahala Racing Club is led by a volunteer Board of Directors. Board members are elected by the membership or appointed by the President of the Board.

The board consists at minimum of four officers and three at-large members. Additional members may be appointed by the President. At-large members serve a one-year term, while officers serve a two-year term.

With online elections ending December 5, please take a moment to meet the nominees for 2016 before casting your vote.

Cast your vote (link)

Nominees to the Board of Directors


Annabell Plush

Hometown:

Bryson City, NC

History with NRC:

I hail from Glenville, North Carolina (near Cashiers). I began living there part time when I was ten. I didn’t find kayaking until I was 19, at art school in Jackson Mississippi. I proceeded to move back to North Carolina where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Parks and Recreation Management. As part of my senior year project I wrote curriculum and planned an event for local Bryson City kids to spend a day at the NOC learning about the area and the opportunities at the river. My own childhood of growing up right next to kayaking yet never finding it has created a passion for getting kids in boats.

Current Involvement:

This year I’ve been able to teach at both the spring and fall Nantahala Kids Club sessions, as well as participate in a few of the slalom events.

2016 Goals and Long term Vision for NRC:

As a board member for the NRC, I’d like to work on developing a program that would help local kids bridge the gap between NKC sessions and the weekly slalom gate work outs. I’d like to work on getting kids into boats more regularly, matched with volunteers from the local community. Things like river running, play boating, and slalom will be included in these sessions, allowing kids to fully experience and realize the opportunities in kayaking.


Chris Hipgrave

Hometown:

Bryson City, NC

Long Term Vision for NRC:

A sustainable, multi-disciplinary paddle-sports club with a heavy focus on the introduction and development of new paddlers, especially youth.

* Chris is currently serving on the Board of Directors as Special Liason to NOC, and was appointed by the NRC President.


Eric Bartl


Juliet Jacobsen Kastorf

Hometown:

Bryson City, NC

History with NRC:

I worked to help with the founding of the Nantahala Kids Club in 2005. I have on the Board as an appointed member, and currently holds the office of Secretary. Though I was a bystander in the early days of NRC, I agreed to serve on the board because of my belief in the need for NRC and for slalom opportunities for paddlers of all skill levels.

Current Involvement:

I am a Team Leader for the Nantahala Kids Club, and have served on the board since 2010. I am an active volunteer and competitor at NRC slalom races.

2016 Goals:

I would like to improve perceived value of NRC membership through communication (primarily newsletters) and increased participation.

Long Term Vision for NRC:

To train and develop an entire “team” of youth slalom boaters who are also amazing river runners and freestyle boaters, but who’s roots are embedded in slalom and the NRC.

*Juliet is currently serving the second year of a two-year term as NRC Secretary. She will be up for re-election at the end of 2016. 


Lee Leibfarth

Hometown:

Bryson City, NC

History with NRC:

I have been a competitive whitewater slalom athlete and former Junior National slalom team coach. I first joined NRC in 1998, served as the Executive Director for two years, and still enjoy paddling regularly for fitness. My daughter, Evy, shares my passion for paddling and trains regularly with the NRC Youth Team.

Current Involvement:

I have served on the NRC Board of Directors for about 10 years and am one of the coaches for the NRC youth slalom team.

2016 Goals:

I would like to see NRC expand its programming to get more kids regularly on the water next year. To accomplish this, I think we need to increase our fundraising efforts in 2016. Also, I’d like to see an NRC athlete win an Olympic Medal again!!!!

Long Term Vision for NRC:

To create more sustainable programming that will allow us to hire a full-time coach and Executive Director. Work towards meeting the criteria to become a Community Olympic Development Program (COPD).

*Lee is currently serving the second of his two-year term as Vice President and is up for re-election.

 Matt Brandon

Hometown:

Fort Payne, Alabama

History with NRC:

We introduced the girls to paddling in 2012, then we were introduced to NRC in the spring of 2013. My daughter Lili and our family have been participating in camps, races and training sessions since our introduction to the club. In the past year, Lili has increased her interest in slalom and we attend a large majority of club functions. I believe the club has been instrumental in developing her love and passion for paddling.

Obviously, Lili has increased her love for slalom, but she has also attained the following: general paddling skills, opportunities to paddle with other kids and experienced adults, paddling trip opportunities, several lifelong paddling friends, a love for the river and paddling community, and exposure to several paddling disciplines. She attributes a lot of her abilities and confidence to her involvement in the club.

The club has been great for us and we believe it would benefit other families like us who are in search of a great paddling opportunity. I believe there are several opportunities to expand the reach, focus and funding to further our investment in the future of paddling and programs that make our club successful.

Current Involvement:

We attend most NRC functions through Lili’s participation and volunteer at events and promote when we have the opportunity.

2016 Goals and Long Term Vision for NRC:

Continue to be strong and passionate about slalom, but continue to expand in other paddling disciplines to expand our reach. There is a huge opportunity to recruit individuals and families looking for a club to support and expand their paddling. 

I realize we will need to increase funding, volunteer resources, and members/participation prior to developing too large a footprint or fixed resource structure, but I believe the opportunity is there. Our club could develop a strategy to round out our offering, increase involvement and support. Here are just some ideas from our family that need more discussion (not listed in order of priority):

  • Races and training centered around adults (big opportunity)
  • Recruit additional volunteers to help with other disciplines and intro-to-kayaking.
  • Collaborate with paddling clubs in the surrounding areas to promote NRC, provide slalom training/introduction to pull in additional youth and adults to participate and support our club (big opportunity)
  • Arrange for guest instructors in different disciplines for both youth and adults (for example, bring Michal Smolen to a club event in AL or GA to promote slalom).
  • Expand visibility at paddling events outside of the Nantahala
  • Create more exposure for slalom to make it more accessible, less elite, and reduce barriers to enry.
  • Create an initiative to focus on grants as well as public and private sponsors.
  • Weekend training sessions
  • Intro sessions at major rivers or cities nearby
  • Full-time staff
  • For beginners or families without paddling experience, we should promote slalm as an easy way into whitewater kayaking. (Our family became interested because slalom seems more controled and looks less risky/extreme. We realize there is a risk with any activity, but found other groups/disciplies to focus on big drops and harder runs.)
  • Recruit former members, participants, or supporters to assist with volunteering and growing the club.
  • Encourage young athletes to help with training and camps.
  • Attend most local races and festivals to promote NRC and recruit members.
  • Allocate time to give back to the environment and community (Clean Water Act, Waterkeeper Alliance, etc.)
  • Create more opportunities for kids to paddle together outside of training sessions, such as annual river trips as a larger group.

Maria Noakes

Hometown:

Bryson City, NC

History with NRC:

Personally, I am passionate about kayaking and have been involved with the NRC as a board member for the past four years. Sharing my passion of whitewater and the outdoors is a priority for me and the NRC is the vehicle to reach the kids of today. We have an amazing resource that has expanded and continues to grow.

Highlights of my involvement include conception of the Nantahala Kids Club with Juliet Jacobsen Kastorf and expansion of the club to include freestyle kayaking and involvement of the families. Inclusion of other whitewater genres in the club has been very important to me. One of my major objectives continues to be involving the growing portion of “active on whitewater” around us.

2016 Goals and Long Term Vision for NRC:

  • Improve and expand our kayak safety days.
  • Expand the Freestyle area of NRC – offer training weekends with bonafide, paid, quality instructors.
  • Encourage and expand NRC team to include other genres of paddling and continue to offer opportunities to compete in a friendly environment.
  • Improve communication channels to current NRC members.
  • Improve communication and marketing to the general public with the aim to increase membership.

I would love to continue on the Nantahala Racing Club board.

*Maria is currently serving a one-year term as an At-Large member, and is up for re-election.


Michael Montagne

Hometown:

Bryson City, NC

History of Involvement:

I grew up in Atlanta, GA, paddling with the Atlanta Center of Excellence, (ACE), racing against NRC at slalom events around the country and in Europe. After moving to the Nantahala Gorge in 2012, I began volunteering at NRC events and programs.

Current Involvement:

As a member of the Facilities Team, I help with course maintenance and construction, and since 2013 have held the role of Athlete Representative to the Board of Directors.

2016 Goals:

I believe that NRC is missing a big opportunity by neglecting our adult members and potential members. In the coming year, I will introduce the ABC (Adult Benefits Committee), which will focus on paddling and consuming in Dionysian fashion. Specific goals for the ABC will be:

  • Consistent paddling opportunities for adult members, including river trips and increased coaching
  • Outreach to potential members
  • Scheduled adult-friendly events

Long Term Vision for NRC:

I would like to see NRC hosting events on the Ocoee, Chattooga, and other area rivers. We are working towards a diverse membership that is friendly and engaged, and paddles together even outside of official events.

*Michael is currently serving as the Athelte Representative, which is a position appointed by the NRC President.


Sam Davis

Hometown:

Brentwood, TN

Long Term Vision for NRC:

My three-year vision for the club is to create a center of excellence, where young people of all skill levels can come to learn how to become elite-level paddlers. Additionally, it is my dream that through the use of technology we create a more interactive experience between the athlete and the person sitting at home, who currently has little access to watch elite level training and competing in the whitewater sport. In so doing, I believe we can drive a sustained revenue source for the club, while promoting a vibrant community for people to come and enjoy the Nantahala River and surrounding areas.

*Sam is currently serving a one-year term as an At-Large member, and is up for re-election.


Steve Zarnowski

Hometown:

Asheville, NC

History of Involvement:

I first became involved with NRC with encouragement from Wayne Dickert, Horace Holden Jr, and Chuck Hines in 1996, during which time I was involved in the construction of the Ledges River Park in Asheville. At that time I began to lead the Asheville chapter of the NRC, introducing kids to paddling.

Current Involvement:

I have served on the NRC Board of Directors since 1998, and have served as the President since 1999, with the exception of several years during which I served as the Vice President.

I volunteer at NRC programs and events as an instructor. Those of you who have competed on the Nantahala may recognize me as The Starter.

2016 Goals:

In 2016, I plan to continue to build up NRC’s junior and development programs so that we continue to be a feeder for adult athletes training for competitive disciplines within USA Canoe/Kayak.

I would like to encourage NRC to strengthen its identity as a steward of our waterways, increasing the club’s involvement in conservation efforts, and especially taking an active role in caring for and cleaning the rivers where we play.

Long Term Vision for NRC:

I see NRC as continuing to promote safe paddling, family paddling, and development of athletes at all levels. Reinvigorating individual, community, and corporate support for NRC will be key to strengthening our club and allowing us to provide quality programming to our members. I have never wanted to see NRC be the biggest, but I have always wanted to see us be the best.

*Steve is currently serving the second year of a two-year term as NRC President. He will be up for re-election at the end of 2016. 


Todd Kaderabek

Hometown:

Asheville, NC

History of Involvement:

I got involved with NRC when my son became interested in whitewater slalom canoe and kayak. That initial interest has blossomed into many lifelong friendships for both of us.

Current Involvement:

I am currently the NRC Treasurer and volunteer at various events.

2016 Goals:

For 2016, I’d like to see the club continue to build on the incredible growth we experienced in 2015. The club has become very dynamic and as Treasurer, I’d like to be able to more accurately forecast how we balance the current budget with our future goals, hopes and dreams.

Long Term Vision for NRC:

My long term goal is for NRC to provide a framework of support and training that consistently leads to podium positions for NRC athletes.

*Todd is currently serving as the NRC Treasurer and is up for re-election.


Todd McGinnis

Hometown:

Alpharetta, GA

History of Involvement:

I have been participating in NRC events over the past several years. Much of that involvement was born out of my position with the GCA and also having my daughter get involved with several of the Slalom and Paddling events that NRC put on.

Current Involvement:

Volunteer and promote NRC events.

2016 Goals:

My vision would be for NRC to continue its good work on the slalom side of the coin but start to include other aspects of paddlesports to include events such as freestyle, downriver, specialty clinics, etc. It would be nice to see these offered as competitions as well. Many of the disciplines are currently an afterthought as opposed to a focus.

Long Term Vision for NRC:

My long term goals would be to help NRC continue to build strong paddlers of all ages and all disciplines and continue to use venues on the Nantahala to bring in more national-level competitions. There is no reason that with the Falls and the Freestyle Wave, cannot continue to be a draw for events both small and large.

Additionally, we need to explore clinics for adults. These help build their skills but also helps them learn about NRC and could promote long-term support.


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