Tim Chitwood: Try our XXX-treme hardcore Cut Bait specials

June 1, 2013 

One weekend of whitewater rafting and already people are wimping out.

Whine whine whine: "Ooh, my raft turned over. Ooh, I swallowed two gallons of raw Chattahoochee River. Ooh, my guide got catapulted into Cut Bait like he was riding a Texas oil pump. Ooh, I thought I was going to die."

Cry me a river.

Last week outfitter Whitewater Express had to hold off on crowded high-water Cut Bait runs because a pileup went viral online and was on TV as far away as San Diego.

So we couldn't run Cut Bait at high water because all this great publicity made it look dangerous. Like we didn't know the river's dangerous. Or that any river's dangerous.

I've been rescued from whitewater, by rope. On my honeymoon in 1992, a guide on the Rio Grande below Taos, N.M., got our raft pinned on a rock, in the dead center of the river, and we had to evacuate.

After all the other guides stopped to get us out, one said to mine: "You have to respect the river."

You have to respect the river, no matter where you are. I've nearly drowned enough to know. And I still haven't learned to shut the hell up when I go in.

So my No. 1 safety tip for anyone ejected into the river remains: Close your mouth. Gasp in surprise and the current will fill your gut faster than a garden hose set to "jet."

Remember you are going swimming. Were you diving into a pool or backwater slough or the waves off Panama City Beach, you would close your mouth and blow out your nose. So, if thrown violently out of a raft, try not to gasp or gulp.

The last time I got dunked, the raft dump-trucked at Columbus' signature wave shaper rapid Heaven's Gate, which I call Powerhouse. We ran it, then paddled hard to go back and surf. And we did surf, for a few seconds.

After dumping us while he stayed in the raft, our guide Jeremy Rose told us that's how Cut Bait could be. Then we walked the rocks to scout Cut Bait, and my crew decided not to run it. Instead we again ran Powerhouse.

In the viral online Cut Bait pile up, Rose's raft is the second one through, and the only one that crests each wave's peak.

Maybe Whitewater Express should charge extra to run Cut Bait at its peak.

That booking could bear a trendy brand name like "eXXXtreme" or "HardCore," or whatever else could trigger more Internet buzz.

Tim Chitwood, tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.com, 706-571-8508.

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