COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Next week the best free-style kayak paddlers from across the globe will be in Columbus for the International Canoe Federation Free-Style World Championships.
Tuesday, a group of local volunteers were in the Chattahoochee River making sure that the competitors in one piece of the competition will be safe.
Squirt boats are longer flatter kayaks than you will see in the other competitions. And these guys do a lot of their routine underwater. The squirt boat competition will be held on the Alabama side of the Chattahoochee at the base of the river’s most famous rapid – Cut Bait.
The rapid is popular with rafters, kayakers — and fishermen.
“Over the years, all this fishing and even some of these nets when people lose them they get caught in the current over here,” said Jared Goertzen, co-owner of River City Scuba. “And the way it turns and pushes it and the rocks drop off and it pushes them under the rocks. So, years and years and years of that, that fishing line gets turned and eventually becomes giant cables.”
Goertzen and his buddies found the hazard a year ago during a river cleanup and came back this week with the tools to remove the debris.
“I dove my way out there to find this ball of mess out there,” Goertzen said. “It was going deeper and deeper and deeper. And eventually, I ran into a big rock wall. And it was big enough that when I stood up, I couldn’t touch the top of it. And then I came up above it and that’s when I ran into the big ball of this stuff.”
Why does it matter that the “big ball of mess is pulled out of the river? Ask Alex Edwards. He’s from Great Britain and is a world-class squirt boat competitor. And he’s going to be in that rapid.
“The thing is when we are underwater we can’t really see a lot,” Edwards said. “So, you are not going to see things until you get stuck in them. And if you get tangled, it wouldn’t be pleasant. Try not to think about it too much.”
The cleanup was organized by the Alabama Power Company Service Organization, Georgia Power, the East Alabama Chamber of Commerce, River City Scuba, the city of Phenix City, and the Russell County Sheriff’s Office, which provided some divers.
“It’s going to make it a much safer event,” Edwards said. “A much more fun event. You don’t have to worry so much.”
Athletes from throughout the world have been arriving in Columbus over the last several weeks. The competition starts on Monday.