“I grew up paddling the Nantahala and the Ocoee in this part of the country,” Ryan said. “Everything is familiar here.”
Ryan was the 2011 World Champion in the Junior Women’s category, while competing in Germany.
“It was incredible,” Ryan said. “World Championship is like our highest competition.”
The competition is held every other year.
Ryan said she was excited about the competition being held in the United States this year.
“It’s nice to show everyone what we have here,” Ryan said.
Preparation for the event has included training with other kayakers representing the U.S.
“This year the Junior Women’s class has really kicked it up,” Ryan said.
She explained the Junior Women are completing more complex tricks than in 2011.
“There’s a new standard,” Ryan said.
She said even though they will be competing against each other, as well as competitors from other countries, the U.S. team has formed close friendships.
Freestyle kayaking gives athletes points for each trick they complete in a “feature,” a specific area of water.
“We have a 45 second ride and we have to do as many tricks as possible. They have to be done a certain way,” Ryan said.
Her favorite trick is a right McNasty — “a spin into a loop.”
“In the river, there are waves or holes that go in and out with the river levels,” Ryan said.
Ryan moved with her family to Cleveland “to paddle the Ocoee.” The family lived here for two or three years.
“I love the Ocoee. It’s one of my favorite runs,” Ryan said.
Ryan began kayaking at a young age with her father.
“It was really cool to have something like that we could both do together,” Ryan said.
Her first competition came at age 9.
Now at 17, the athlete said she likes the uniqueness of kayaking, saying ”it’s not very well known.”
“There are so many different ways you can go. You can go river running. You can go creeking. You can go playboating,” Ryan said. “It’s never boring.”
Kayaking has a smaller following than many other sports. Ryan said this creates a close community feel to the sort.
Ryan said she intends on kayaking always being a part of her life. She also hopes to get her husband involved in the sport.