Running Needle Falls (Kayaker’s Ledge) on the French Broad River section 9 at 1600 cfs.
Video by Zak Foy. Board: Bounce Sup 10’6″
If you live in the North Carolina mountains and you paddle at all, you’ve paddled the French Broad River. I grew up here but only discovered whitewater SUP two years ago. Since then I’ve paddled on the French Broad more times than I can count.
The third oldest river in the world has its headwaters near Brevard and flows north through downtown Asheville where it’s packed with tubers and flat water enthusiasts.
As you continue north out of the city the grade increases, the crowd thins, and a small but thriving crew of whitewater SUP enthusiasts have found a wild flowing river home on Section 9. Most of the time we paddle the first 4 miles of class II and III rapids from Barnard to Stackhouse. You can paddle this section relatively quickly and in most all river conditions. It’s our after work run; our whitewater playground. You get to know every rock and every eddy.
It’s a great place to bring your beginner friends who are interested in this crazy sport you’ve become obsessed with and talk about constantly. But lately the afternoon rains have been generous and the river is on the rise making the additional 4 miles to Hot Springs through the shallow shoals of Windy Flats and down to the bigger final rapids more feasible.
Needle Falls or Kayaker’s Ledge is the first big class III drop you come to after the Windy Flats and is both challenging and very fun. I love the Bounce 10’6” for rivers like this one. Fast, maneuverable, and stable, the bounce slices through waves with precision and allows you to pick your way down the tight lines of this rocky and ancient river.
Fingers crossed the rains continue and we can return to this lower section soon to session this ledge and the larger class IV Frank Bell’s rapid just down river. The possibilities are almost endless.