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This spring we kicked off our Wild and Free Tour with our trip down south to Columbus Georgia. Columbus is an amazing little town on the boarder of Georgia and Alabama which is divided by the Chattahoochee River. The Paddle South event was held on the Chattahoochee River inside the amazing whitewater park.

The event was filled with both freestyle and several races. Paddle South kicked off with the downriver race though the infamous cut bait rapid. The race was a several minute sprint, and I was able to take third place just behind Pat Keller and local boy, Bennett Smith.

Next up was the biathlon race, with was a running race into Le Mans start kayak sprint. It was a head to head battle between myself, Bennett Smith and Hayden Voorhees. Hayden pulled off a risky move as he left his skirt off to save time, and worked hard to try to minimize the amount of water he took on while running the rapids, though this risk was enough to pull out a first place finish for him as I caught up with him right at the finish though not quite quick enough to take home 1st place.

Following the biathlon was the highlight freestyle event. We competed on a really good wave, which is properly named, ‘Good Wave.’ The wave was challenging to stay on, though also able to give up huge tricks and made for a really good event. There were huge tricks thrown down by many of the competitors including Hayden, Bennett, Pat, Stephen Wright, and myself. It was a true battle for first as Stephen and I battled it out as we cut on besting each others tops rides, though in the end Stephen was able to nudge me off the top spot and take home the big check, while I took second and Hayden also bumped out Bennett to take the third place podium.

The final event of the day was the crowd favorite Boater-X, where paddlers paddle each other like American Gladiators. This is usually one of my favorite events, and as I made my way into the finals I was feeling quite confident to make the podium in this event. Though things quickly made a change as I came into the opening turn and the first rapid. I was coming in just behind Hayden and as I rode up and got stuck on his boat, a fellow racers came in from behind and smashed me in the back of this head, just below my helmet and knocked me out for a quick second. I came to underwater and realized I couldn’t feel my face or tongue, though I knew that my priority should be to first roll up. After rolling up I simple paddled to shore and took myself out of the race, allowing Hayden, Pat and Garrett to continue battling for the podium.

We finished off the day with an awards presentation for all the events. Afterwards my head was still quite sensitive due to my concussion so we ended up packing up our trailer and heading out. Though regardless of my injury, it was amazing event filled with lots of fun for the whole family and I can’t wait to make it back to this event next year as the whitewater park, the weather and the town vibe are all super fun.

Photos by Chris Funk