The US Freestyle Committee has announced that the FIBArk Boat Races will host the 2008 National Freestyle Kayaking Championships, in conjunction with the 60th anniversary of the Blue Paddle FIBArk Whitewater Festival, June 12-15, 2008.

"We are thrilled to once again host the US National Freestyle Championships at FIBArk," states Rive Race Organizer & Past Board Member Chad Hixon. "The Salida whitewater park is one of the best locations for this event, both for the top freestyle kayaking competitors in the US and the thousands of spectators who can watch them duke it out for the number one spot. As we saw in 2006, hosting the Nationals will step up the already-great competition up a couple of notches."

"We appreciate and are excited about having the support and enthusiasm of the FIBArk team and the town of Salida," notes Risa Shimoda, Chair of the US Freestyle Committee. "Our newly-formed committee worked with the Adventure Sports Center International to pull off a well-run 2007 Nationals, and we look forward to reinforcing our commitment to high quality and consistent judging, scoring and awesome performances!"

"The US Nationals could not be a better addition to the 60th anniversary of FIBArk, the oldest whitewater festival in the United States," notes Hixon. "This will surely be a FIBArk to remember, both for competitors and spectators. We will see you there!"

The Boat Races that are called FIBArk (First in Boating on the Arkansas) got their start as a bet between two friends. Over coffee, two men challenged each other to a canoe race on the Arkansas River from Salida to Canon City through the famous Royal Gorge. The race would cover 56 miles. Word of the challenge went mouth to mouth and more people became interested and a parade and festival were organized. Two Swiss boys heard of the race while in this country running other rivers. Their boats were small folding boats. They announced they wanted to enter the competition and of the 23 entrants in the race that year, 1949, only the Swiss boys reached the finish line.

Boatsmen from France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Scotland, Israel, Italy, England, Switzerland, Austria, Mexico and the United States and Canada, all leaders in their countries, have pitted their skills against the roaring, boulder-strewn river that has given a challenge to all alike. Contestants from all nations competing have commented that this Arkansas River course challenges the skills of men in small boats against nature at its best.