Southern Agenda

The Chattahoochee River Might Be the South’s Strangest Spot to Surf. But It’s Happening.

An illustration of a paddler and surfer on a river

Illustration: Tim Bower

From the Outer Banks to Cocoa Beach, the Southern coastline boasts some notable surf breaks. Now there’s another bucket-list entry, and it’s conspicuously inland: Columbus, Georgia. 

Situated three hours from the nearest beach, the state’s second-largest city is known for its nearby army base and its world-record two-and-a-half-mile-long urban whitewater rafting course. Those rapids, formed by steel wave shapers installed in the Chattahoochee River in 2012, have provided a springboard here for the rare pastime of river surfing. A ragtag band of local adrenaline seekers, many of whom work at local whitewater rafting companies, have paddled their shortboards off Waveshaper Island at Columbus’s popular RiverWalk to attack the face of the region’s least likely surfing destination. 

The river has two surfable waves—dubbed Good Wave and Ambush—report brothers Hugh and Hudson Carney, employees at Whitewater Express. Videos on YouTube show these two and other surfers elegantly cutting across roaring waves that seem to crest eternally and never crash. But the best view might just be from a raft, leaving from Woodruff Riverfront Park, floating by, and cheering on the river shredders.

Nick Allen