photo courtesy of Rick Thompson

Hello there fellow paddlers! i just wanted to take a second a tell you about my awesome weekend at the Chattahoochee River Games.

Bryan Bonner gets ready for his turn in the freestyle event

It all started Thursday afternoon when I texted Rick Thompson to see if he knew anyone heading down to the games. He was planning on going as well, so we gathered our gear and took off Friday afternoon. I was already in Atlanta, so it really wasn’t that far of a trip down to Columbus.

Janice Kyle Camp gets the right spin points!

We arrived just as the sun was going down Friday night, to find a super cool set up with the registration table on the sidewalk at Outside World Columbus downtown. If you’ve never been to Columbus, I strongly suggest it. Not just because of the whitewater paradise that exists there, but also for the nightlife and entertainment and the refurbished factory feel! The Outside World is an awesome outfitter located right in downtown Columbus.

Klay Camp making it look easy!

As soon as we got to the water, Rick was ready to get in, dark or not. I followed him down there and to my surprise, someone had set up halogen work lamps shining down on the feature for some late-night practicing. We took turns ferrying out and catching the wave, then taking out and walking back up. After a few turns I was tired enough to give it up for the night. We dried off, got dressed and went to find camp.

Dan Allison killing it!

We made a parking spot in Woodruff Park our campsite, me stringing my hammock between a tree and a lightpole, and Rick making his truck home. That night we found that Bryan Bonner had brought his ultimate tailgating trailer and set it up there in the park serving hotdogs and hamburgers to folks arriving.

EJ Jackson surfs above Cutbait! Photo courtesy of Rick Thompson

I was pleased when I saw Clay Wright pulling up in his big diesel pickup. I knew that even though I didn’t really know anyone there, at least I had a couple friends around, although Ricky T disappeared after a short bit and went to play E-Pool on his Ipad in the truck, and never came back out that night.

Jimmy Dykes shreds it up!

I finally got to meet EJ Jackson for the first time ever. Our paths have just never crossed. I was surprised to find out he had heard of me and the things I was doing up in Tennessee in the wintertime. I thought that was pretty cool.

Dare O'Ravitz, local river tough guy,giving that wave a stern talking to! Watch out mean River!

About that time, a couple other guys and a girl asked us to head out and check out Broadway St. I’m always down for some nightlife, so I obliged. I asked Clay if he wanted to come along and grab a brew. He obliged as well, and off we went. I can’t remember the name of the place we went, but they had good beer and it hit the spot.

Clay Wright throws it down in Workout Hole. Photo courtesy of Rick Thompson

While we ate and drank, I learned that one of the guys we were with, Chris Serwan, worked for Shred Ready down in Auburn, AL. Him and Anna Campbell were up here in Columbus,  representing Shred Ready at the event.  These two turned out to be super cool people and I enjoyed being around them immensely. They cooked Jambalaya for EVERYONE at the event on Saturday! at the end of everything I even got a awesome New Shred Ready trucker cap, which I’ve been rocking everyday since i left! The other guy at the table turned out to be Jake Ament, who was the MC for the event. He said some really cool things about World Kayak on the microphone while i was racing, and later, before the SUP race, he interviewed me about my Nashville World Kayak winter event series! I thought that was super cool!

Emily Jackson styles it to win the Womens! Great job Emily!

Well, we all had to be up super early the next morning as the competition was starting up at 730am! The river runs on a schedule and is bigger in the morning than in the afternoon, so all the freestyle had to be done before noon. So we all said our goodnights and headed off to hit the sack.

Area local, Tyler Smith, gets in on the action!

As I settled in to my urban campsite between Rick’s truck and a big Oak tree I stopped to think about the beauty of this night, still relatively warm outside with a nice crisp breeze. I stretched out on my hammock and marvelled at how lucky I was to be able to take part in such a cool event.

Local competitor, Ryan Cornuet, steps up the competition!

Sleep came quick, and the morning came even quicker. 6am. Im up and out of the hammock, start up the day by packing up my gear and heading off into downtown Columbus to find a coffee shop open at this absurd hour. I found one place that hadn’t even opened yet. The barista was kind enough to let me in early. I had my typical Yerba Matte and headed back down to the water. People were already getting suited up! I geared up, grabbed my boat, and headed down to the island.

Bryan Bonner goes for the spin!

My shoulder was giving me a lot of trouble already this morning, so I wasn’t feeling the competition so early, so I found Kyle Katich, Event Manager, and asked him how I could help. I was assigned to work as a judges scribe. Ricky T would take photos of the event.

Tyler Smith again, working up the points!

I did my duty fully working as Kyle’s scribe, and even figured out a more efficient way to fill out the scoring sheets. I was so proud of myself! We moved so fast, we were able to get all the amateur runs in before lunch, all the while, Nich Troutman was upstream running the Pro competition at Workout Hole. Nich has been recovering from a minor shoulder injury, so he was sitting this one out.

Ryan Cornuet again, making all the other competitors jealous with his epic style!

Emily Jackson had come out and was competing Amateur Girls.  She had some really good runs out there. At one point, she’d come up and was talking to me while I was supposed to be working. Kyle turned to her and yelled “Stop distracting my Scribe!!!” We all had a good laugh on that one, but I realized right then, that Kyle Katich is not a man to be trifled with, and that I’d better get my mind back in the ballgame.

At that point the action migrated out to Cutbait Rapid, where the downriver freestyle contest was to take place. I made it out there too late to work as a scribe, but at least I got to see how a real downriver freestyle event was scored. And I got to watch the CARNAGE that was about to ensue.


Justin Durden gets worked for the Best Camel Ride of the day Award! Photo courtesy of Rick Thompson

I literally saw Cutbait hole throw Justin Durden out of his kayak. When he surfaced he was sitting on top of his boat with his legs thrown out over the front, skirt imploded. Ricky T caught this one on camera, it should be below! Justin came up and surfed there for a good 3-4 more seconds before it finally worked him again, then he took a camel ride.

Our champion, Hunter Katich.

I watched a couple more amateurs  rock it and a couple more get worked pretty bad, one in particular, Dare O’Ravitz, took a beating several times, riding a couple different camels, but just kept doing it. Thats a tough sucker right there folks. Great Job Dare!

the Chatahoochee River Games Competitors!

Next up was the pro-comp. I got to watch Clay, EJ, and Adam Chappell make Cutbait submiss to THEM.

The Paddle Monkey Crew!

The Paddle Monkey Crew!

After the Cutbait Freestyle event, we all took lunch, and like I said before, Shred Ready represented with some true southern hospitality and cooked us Jambalaya for lunch! I donated some Hebrew national beef franks that I stole from my mother-in-law’s fridge and a brocolli crown to the pot. Lunch was delicious. Thanks guys!

The Katich's

After lunch, the water had gone back down to minimum flow, so it was time for the boater X event. The Outside World had brought in big inflatable buoys to sink in the water for “gates”. So you had to race from the start, down and catch first eddy right below wave shaper, then go around buoy, and head back out across the current, down to the next buoy, and so on. There were 4 buoys in all I believe.

As I was hanging and watching the boater X heats, I noticed the awesome pro-quality bose sound system they had rented was spouting off some Kenny G or something. Representing Music City, USA, I couldn’t let it go on anymore. I ran up to the registration table and said, ” I’m hijacking the tunes! Let’s turn this thing around!”  I ran to the mixer, found an auxillery input, hooked up, silenced Kenny Loggins, and qued up The Black Keys, Live from Manchester, TN! As the good tunes spilled from the speakers, I heard my name over the loudspeaker to come and boat up for my boater X heat. I grabbed  my Jackson Superstar and ran to the water’s edge where I was pleased to find that Ricky T was already there. Rick was in a Stinger, so I knew I didnt stand a chance. But the other two guys were in playboats. So I knew if I could just keep up with Rick, then everything’d be cool. And I might actually win. So the whistle went off, and off we went. I peeled into the first eddy just behind Rick, and was hot on his heels almost overtaking him as we rounded the second buoy. But he pulled off during the next two. As I looked back I noticed we’d burned those guys. So Rick took first, and I took second, sending us both to the semifinals.

Sorry, I don’t have any more pics!

So went back to playing DJ for the event while I waited for my next go. While I waited I noticed there was an orange and blue Large Jackson Karma on demo from The Outside World. I am a HUGE Auburn University fan and have always wanted an orange and blue boat. I asked if I could use it for my next race, they said no problem. I was stoked! Now. I used to own a Large Karma, but it must’ve slipped my mind how big that darn boat is.  My next heat started out with me in the Karma. We all started out facing upstream. First thing I noticed, I couldn’t turn around because the other racers were so close on me, and they’d already managed to turn around. I knew at that moment that my best offense was my defense, so right before we hit the fast moving water I pitched my boat sideways in a half attempt to turn around/ block the other racers. At that point I became a human speed bump as the entire heat boofed me causing me to flip over. I set up for my roll, executed, kept my head down, bam!, i came back down . I went for another, skulling my paddle, keeping my head down, bam!, back down again. I went for another, and same result. “NOOOO!!!” I thought, “I can’t be taking any camel rides. Not here. Not today!” I cleared my mind, set up, and went for a fourth time. I was almost up, skulling my paddle to get it up, all of a sudden something in my shoulder started hurting bad. But then  I looked up to a hand outstretched to me. It was Clay Wright. He looked at me and said, “Go man!” I took off, but my shoulder was killing me. I missed the first eddy. I could hear them talking about me on the loud speaker, about my series, about Nashville World Kayak, as I missed buoy after buoy. I was done.  I headed straight for the finish line, straight down washout lane.  I was pretty embarrassed as well. Just then a fellow yelled to me for me to bring back the Karma, and so I did!

I played DJ a little while longer and finally shut it down and gave someone else a turn. The competition was over. They had their winner’s ceremonies and picture time. After the festivities, Rick and I went to the other side of the river to walk upstream and look at Tie Snake Rapid, which looks gnarly by the way. This whitewater park, I believe, is just what the small city of Columbus Ga needed to bolster tourism dollars. I wish it could be done in Nashville, TN. Maybe we’ll get there one day! Big thanks to The Outside World and the Paddle Monkey crew for all the hospitality. And a big thank you and WAR EAGLE! to the Katich Family, who were so gracious to put this whole thing together! I will definitely be back in May to help you guys do it again!


Philip Byard

Nashville World Kayak Ambassador


Here is a link to the story our Champion, Hunter Katich wrote for Jackson Kayak blog page.



The Chattahoochee River Games