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Appalachian Paddling Enthusiasts: Local club with a heart for the water 

Updated: Apr 4

Founded over thirty years ago in 1986, the local club dubbed the Appalachian Paddling Enthusiasts (APEs) strive for paddling connections, education and conservation.

Courtesy of Appalachian Paddling Enthusiasts

From flatwater canoeing to whitewater kayaking, APEs has something special for wilderness and water lovers alike.

The club works to establish a sense of community among paddlers to ensure that everyone always has the resources and knowledge they may need before heading out on the water.  


One of the first rules of paddling, before making it to the water, is to never go alone. Many dangers come with watersports, and they can happen suddenly. This is why it is important to always paddle with a group of people.

APEs helps beginners to establish connections with people to paddle with one another through classes, events and their Facebook group with over 6,000 members

“You can always pay for instruction, but then when the class is done, what do you do? You still need people to paddle with,” said Brad Eldridge, club president of APEs. “APEs is the regional focus for that.” 

The club offers events such as roll clinics at public pools and whitewater-specific classes from ACA (American Canoe Association) certified instructors for members to not only gain paddling knowledge, but network with one another. 


Paddling is a dance with nature, one in which paddlers must know as much as possible about technique, water levels and possible hazards before going out on the river. 

“Information is key in any subject, especially paddling,” said Wesley Bradley, advanced paddling cruise director for APEs. “When you are dealing with a force of nature that is exponentially more powerful than you could ever comprehend, you’re never going to overcome it. You just learn to dance with it.” 

Courtesy of Appalachian Paddling Enthusiasts

The club makes sure that members are educated on every level possible to alleviate and mitigate risk. This is why APEs promotes classes and meetings that work to educate the paddling community on everything from what to wear before going on the water to what mentality is needed before paddling larger rapids. 

“Kayaking is 60% mental and 40% physical,” said Bradley. “You’ve really got to train up your brain not just for dealing with the risk factors that are with kayaking, but for overcoming fear.”  


APEs makes special efforts in providing conservation to the natural resources that provide paddlers with an outlet for their sport. There are no sanctions or specific ordinances for cleaning up trash in rivers and lakes, so paddlers have taken it upon themselves to spearhead the effort. 

APEs organizes regular cleanups that center around local rivers and lakes such as Nolichucky River, Watauga River, Boone Lake and several others.

Courtesy of Appalachian Paddling Enthusiasts

Members will bring as many people and boats as possible to assist in picking up any trash or large debris that has found its way into the water and surrounding banks. Paddlers have the advantage of being able to pick up trash in tighter or more dangerous areas of the river. 

APEs aims to make stewardship contributions part of their appreciation to this natural resource and the surrounding community by making these areas cleaner than when they arrived.

“We want to maintain the resource that we value so much,” said Eldridge.  

Visit here for more information about APEs.


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