COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — The International Canoe Federation (ICF) is in Columbus as 106 world class athletes representing 18 countries are competing right here in the Chattahoochee River for the 2023 Kayaking World Championships.

Hundreds of people from across the globe gathered along the Chattahoochee River for an opening ceremony kicking off the week-long event. Some of the world’s best kayakers paraded their flags at the Phenix City Amphitheater as they were cheered on by family, friends and other spectators.

Phenix City natives, Mason and Makinley Kate Hargrove are representing Team USA. The sibling duo says they’ve always dreamt about competing in their hometown on the wave they love.

Growing up on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, it’s been special to see all my international friends just come here to compete on a wave that I surf almost every single day. It’s been really cool to see all the different styles from all over the world be thrown right here in my hometown.

Mason Hargrove, Team USA, Men’s Class K1

It’s definitely exciting. If I told MK when I started at nine years old that I’d be competing here on team USA, on the wave, it would be mind blowing. I’m super excited to show everyone the wave that I know and I absolutely love. Everyone’s already liking it and telling me how they’re excited to come back down here.

Makinley Kate Hargrove, Team USA, Junior Women’s K1

The competition kicks off with the squirt boaters on Monday, Oct. 9 and wraps up with the Men’s and Women’s Kayak Finals at the Waveshaper Island on Saturday Oct. 14. 

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson says the whitewater in the Chattahoochee River puts Columbus and Phenix City on the map.

Our entire region benefits from an economic standpoint, but I think the real value in this is more long term because as the kayakers and the whitewater enthusiasts learn how great our river is, they’ll come back. So I think the economic impact continues for quite some time.

Skip Henderson, Columbus Mayor

Here is a look at what’s on tap for competition week: