COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — RushSouth Whitewater Park in Columbus will host two International Canoe Federation (ICF) Freestyle Kayaking World Cup competitions next week on the Chattahoochee River, according to Stephanie Woodham of Yalla PR “on behalf of Uptown Columbus and RushSouth Whitewater Park.”

The first competition will take place from Monday, Oct. 3 through Wednesday, Oct. 5. The second will last from Friday, Oct. 7 through Sunday, Oct. 9. 

Tracey Green, director of communications and marketing for Uptown Columbus, said 98 athletes would be competing in these events. She said this will be the first time Columbus has held events of this caliber for kayaking.

“So it’s a really good first time opportunity for our community,” she said.

The competitions will not involve racing, Green said. Athletes will compete in seven categories.

“So it’s both men and women,” she said. “And then there’s categories for open canoe, open kayak, and then there’s men’s juniors and men’s seniors, and the same with women’s juniors, women’s seniors. And then there’s also an event category called squirt boat, and that is a really cool competition. It’s about how far they can go under the water. So it’s about distance, and it’s about doing stuff underneath the water.”

She explained the positive economic impact the competitions would provide to the area.

“We’re going to see an impact from all of our businesses in the community,” she said. “We have 16 countries that are here. Some have been here and will be here for two months total. So they’re staying here in Airbnbs, they’re staying in hotels. Some of them are camping, which means that they’re all eating and dining in all of our local restaurants and shopping in our businesses and grocery stores.”

Green said the ICF World Championship would take place in the same location in October 2023.

“For that, we’re expecting more than double the athlete participation and double the countries that are participating,” she said. “So in 2023, we’re looking to see 30 countries and around 300 athletes.”

Two kayakers participating in the competitions are Ottilie Robinson-Shaw, 20, of Great Britain and Mason Hargrove, 19, of Phenix City.

This will be Hargrove’s third ICF competition. He participated in a competition in Spain in 2019 and one in England earlier this year.

“This will be my first ever World Cup, though,” he said.

“I’ve done three world championships, now, and this will be my second World Cup series,” Robinson-Shaw said.

Hargrove said he hopes participating in the event will bring more awareness to freestyle kayaking.

“Being in the south, a lot of kids just play baseball or football,” he said. “Just to bring more awareness to extreme sports would be really cool.”

“For me, it’s just another opportunity to travel, kayak and hang out with my favorite people,” Robinson-Shaw said.

Hargrove said the water in the Chattahoochee River was warm.

“Columbus is known for having warm water all year long,” he said. “It’s the southernmost whitewater in the United States. It’s also the biggest in the Southeast.”

“It’s very warm,” agreed Robinson-Shaw. “In the U.K. right now, it would be cold.”