Unfiltered: Payson Kennedy

Almost four decades ago, Payson Kennedy, his wife Aurelia, and Horace Holden founded a whitewater rafting business in a small gas station-grocery on the banks of the Nantahala River in Western North Carolina. Since 1972, the Nantahala Outdoor Center has grown into one of the nation’s leading companies for outdoor instruction, adventure travel and recreation. At the time, Kennedy was fresh off a stunt-paddling gig for the film Deliverance, having walked away from a career in academia to settle in the Nantahala Gorge. He has served two stints as president of NOC, shaping the institution that helped birth America’s modern outdoor industry while simultaneously training thousands of river guides-many of whom have had immeasurable influence across the world of paddlesports.

Read: Unfiltered, Payson Kennedy | Canoe & Kayak