Payson Kennedy co-founded the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) in Wesser, NC in 1972 with Horace Holden and developed it to become a world-class facility recognized for its instruction in whitewater boating, competition, and safety as well as providing outfitting services around the world.
Initially purchased as a combination motel, restaurant, store and outfitting business, NOC is now a $15 million a year operation with 600 summertime employees who serve 200,000 outdoor enthusiasts. Under Payson’s leadership, NOC is not only the largest outdoor education/recreation center in the world but the “NOC experience” has supported overall whitewater advocacy through conservation and safety support and education.
• Supported racers by hiring them as guides and instructors and was the first (NOC) to hire women racers as guides and instructors
• With NOC, created the non-profit Nantahala Racing Club which has produced U.S. Olympic whitewater racers in 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004
• Starred in the movie Deliverance as a stunt double
• Six-time National Champion in OC-1 in US Open Boat National Championships (1974-1978)