Best of NRS, 2023


This is the year we did less, but we did it better—at least with products. While we released some exciting new gear, we savored the buzz for another huge year of innovation still to come. On the big screen, we turned introspective, sharing hard-to-tell stories and truths, but left room for celebrating the paddlers and organizations putting in the hard work to break down barriers to the outdoors. Our stories span six continents, highlighting extreme expeditions and backyard jaunts. And we stepped into the modern era of digital maps and guides with the launch of our first-ever app, PaddleWays.

As we look back on 2023, we invite you to grab a bevvy, a snack and get cozy while you catch up on the last 365 days of hard work and stoke.


Chicas al Agua Despite growing up next to one of the world’s most famous rivers, many of the young women in Futaleufú never learned how to swim. Deep in Patagonia, where gauchos still ride horses down dirt roads, an undertone of machismo lingers. Kayaking, like any “rough” sport associated with adrenaline and risk, hasn’t really been an option. By foreigners and men, sure, but teenage Chilenas? Almost never. Chicas al Agua changed everything.

The Coast Mountain Chronicles | In partnership with B.C. Whitewater, Coast Mountain Chronicles offers a visual narrative spanning three years of whitewater adventure through the seldom explored watersheds of the Pacific and Boundary Mountain Ranges in British Columbia. From the Bishop River to the Kowatua and Klinaklini, experience these rivers through the eyes of Todd Wells and a rotating crew of expedition kayakers.

Light Beams for Helena | For some, the silence that accompanies being underwater is deafening, the pressure that builds as you descend deeper is overwhelming. As Helena pushes the limits of a single breath, the noise of the world fades away, revealing a life worth living—her life. Light Beams for Helena is a stunning visual representation of Helena Bourdillon’s mental health journey that takes viewers to the depths of her depression and how freediving set her free.

Something is Changing | Glacial fed from high up in the Pyrenees, the Río Ara is Spain’s last free-flowing river. And it’s drying up. Mikel Sarasola and Jan Larrue have reunited each spring in the Pyrenees, brought together by a common passion and shared dreams to explore the rivers of their homeland. In 2022, they rushed to attempt a top-to-bottom descent of the Río Ara, starting with the rarely-run Upper Ara and ending with the uber-classic Lower Ara before the water dropped out from under them. With the season growing increasingly shorter, they worry that the community will disappear, too.

LEADing the Way | “Leading the Way” is a film series that celebrates and promotes NRS ambassadors, organizations and projects fostering inclusivity and positive change in the outdoors. In 2023, we highlighted Naomi Elyard and the Columbia Gorge Junior Kayak Club. With weekly summer paddles on the Lower White Salmon and pool sessions throughout the year, the CGJKC aims to do more than introduce kids to the local rivers; it is using kayaking as a tool to break socio-economic barriers to the outdoors and build respect for our wild spaces. We also highlighted Galen Volckhausen and the White Salmon Boat Library. Much like a traditional library, the White Salmon Boat Library is more than a gear shed, it’s a community center for newcomers to cultivate a love for kayaking and a love for the outdoors.


The Grand Salmon Journals | Throughout the spring and summer of 2022, The Grand Salmon team skied, whitewater kayaked and sea kayaked from the headwaters of the Salmon River in central Idaho to the Pacific Ocean. The women completed this 1,000+ mile source-to-sea expedition as a conservation project, promoting the removal of the four lower Snake River dams and a moratorium on the Stibnite Gold Project, in order to save the rapidly dwindling Snake River Basin salmon populations from extinction. The Grand Salmon Journals is a collaboration of journal entries, art, and reflection by the three core paddlers: Hailey Thompson, Libby Tobey, and Brooke Hess.

“Embracing a Fickle Future on the Middle Fork” | Fire, drought and extreme flows constantly change the Middle Fork’s landscape, but don’t let that prevent you from experiencing its grandeur. As a guide, kayaker and angler, Jonas Seiler reflects on the Middle Fork’s recent history and shares his insight on how a flexible approach and proper planning can create a spectacular Middle Fork experience despite the increasingly fickle nature of the river.

“The Future of Class V Whitewater Races and the Legacy of the NFC” | The Gore Canyon Race has been around for more than thirty years. The Green River Narrows Race came about not long after in 1996. But it wasn’t until 2012 that one of the most iconic and well-loved Class V races officially came into existence. Since then, the North Fork Championship [NFC] has remained one of the most well-loved, well-attended, and well-covered by mainstream media whitewater races in the sport, until this year. As more Class V races are canceled, Izzy Lidsky examines the fate of these beloved events.

“Awestruck: The Healing Power of the River” | It’s easy to take for granted the transformative power of rivers when the wilderness becomes routine. But guides hold a rare power—the ability to share nature’s grandeur with others and the significant effects that can have on mental and physical health. And it’s each guide’s job to make that trip the best of their clients’ lives. In this story, Emmie Gocke reflects on how awe—and time on the river—can lead to a happier, healthier life.

“The Real and Mythical Challenges of a Kunene River Expedition” | Ben Orkin knew of four other attempted descents on the Kunene River below Epupa Falls. One team portaged almost everything. One ended tragically due to a missed eddy. The other two sparked stories of serious whitewater, difficult portages and vicious wildlife. Remote, intimidating, and unpredictable. Ben found himself drawn to the Kunene for the very reasons it scared him. He knew he wouldn’t let go of this obsession until he had seen the river for himself.


Chaco X NRS Straps Collab | In 2018, we shattered the paddling world when we paired two river trip icons: the classic Chaco Sandal and the legendary NRS Strap. In 2023, we brought them back. This time, a portion of the sales from the Limited Edition NRS x Chaco sandal benefited Diversify Whitewater, a nonprofit that works to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in paddlesports.

PaddleWays Expert guidance for modern paddlers. PaddleWays is a collaboration between NRS, onWater, and American Whitewater to be your all-in-one tool for knowing how, where, and when to go paddling. It’s an app for river runners, made by river runners.

Ninja PFD | Whether you SUP, guide or kayak, the Ninja PFD has been a favorite for paddlers of all persuasions. The Ninja combines a smaller surface area and floating PVC foam panels to deliver maximum athletic performance and comfort. In 2023, we introduced new colors to the iconic line.

Slipstream Rafts | Any day with a flyrod in hand is a good day. But what if you could float waters few boats have access to? Wade streams few anglers have stepped in. Present flies to unsuspecting fish. Picture it. Purpose-built for adventure anglers, Slipstream Rafts feature a streamlined design to eliminate catch points and high-pressure drop-stitch floors with EVA foam decking for stable footing whether you’re sighting, casting or netting a fish. The sleek fishing frame has an internally routed anchor system and optional rod-holder tubes, enhancing your on-the-water experience. In a Slipstream raft you don’t have to picture it, you can fish it.

Raven Pro | Paddlers looking for a playful performance inflatable kayaking for river running fun were stoked on the Raven Pro. But when we first released it, the post-pandemic shipping delays stymied our stock. This year, we had inventory and the IK flew out of our warehouse. The pronounced rocker rides easily over waves and the included foot braces and thigh straps make the Raven Pro easy to charge more challenging whitewater.

From the entire NRS family, we say: All Forward, into 2024.