Twenty to 30 kayakers are expected on the Chattahoochee River below the dam south of the 13th Street Bridge today to surf the rapids off Columbus' Riverwalk.
The fun should begin around 5 or 5:30 p.m., said Chuck Armentrout of Atlanta, who's inviting kayakers from Birmingham and Auburn, Ala., to come join in.
"It will be like a real informal competition," said Armentrout, whose nonprofit "Urban Currents" encourages kayaking among city youths. Armentrout, who grew up in Athens, Ga., also is an "ambassador" promoting the sport for World Kayak, online at www.worldkayak.com.
"I was a kayak instructor for about five years, all over the East Coast. That full-time was my job," he said. "I wanted to take a couple of different initiatives to grow the sport of whitewater kayaking. I think the marketing of the sport itself has just been horrendous, to say the least."
One initiative is Urban Currents, which offers whitewater paddling instruction to underprivileged kids, he said: "The other initiative is these free little afternoon surfing competitions. That way people can get to know each other and also learn a bunch of skills."
John Turner, who's leading Columbus' effort to breach two dams and build a whitewater course on the river, said such gatherings show the sport has a lot of promise here, because no marketing yet promotes Columbus as a whitewater destination.
"To me, it's amazing how many people come here, and there has been no organized effort to get them here — zero," he said.